by Dan Margalit
Israel's response to the death of Master Sgt. Shlomi Cohen on the northern border showed that it believed the Lebanese government's explanation that the killing was carried out by an individual Lebanese soldier acting on his own accord. Immediately after the shooting, the Lebanese government gave the U.N. all the information on the soldier (who surprisingly was Sunni, not Shiite) and arrested him. By its quick actions, the Lebanese government earned the benefit of the doubt.
It is safe to assume that Hezbollah is not interested in heating up the border. Hezbollah fighters are mired in the muck of the Syrian civil war. The unrest in Syria has spread into Lebanon, prompting internal Lebanese criticism of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has never shied away from entangling Lebanon in problems that are not its own.
It may be that Sunni groups involved in the fighting in Syria, some of which are identified with al-Qaida, are seeking to drag Hezbollah into a confrontation with Israel. Some of these groups in the Bekaa Valley are fighting a dual battle with Hezbollah in both Syria and Lebanon.
Since the start of the fighting in Syria and the advance of Islamist rebels into the Golan Heights region, there have been small signs of an intensification of fire directed toward Israel. These usually comprise stray bullets and mortar shells, but the growing number of such incidents, along with the recent planting of a roadside bomb on the border, have prompted alarm in Israel that we are slowly reaching the point at which the fire will be aimed at us intentionally.
Between the 1949 cease-fire and the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, there was something known as the "crazy soldier" syndrome. Most of the time, this was a Jordanian Legionnaire who, as King Hussein would claim afterward, would take his gun and decide on his own to shoot at Israelis near the border. We must not allow this syndrome to resurface. How can Israel know whether a soldier is truly crazy or if he is in fact secretly acting on behalf of a neighboring Arab state? The quantity of such incidents determines the answer to that question.
If the frequency of such attacks increases, it will no longer be possible to buy the "crazy soldier" explanation, although Israel will certainly conduct a careful investigation before launching a retaliatory attack on a neighboring country.
The problem is that, in light of the civil war in Syria, the Arab Spring and the Iran nuclear issue, there is an air of growing ambiguity in the regions bordering Israel. There is no one to hold responsible. And even if there is, he or she does not have a mailing address, Twitter account or Facebook page. This leads to scenarios such as the one that took place in August, when, in response to rocket fire from Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force bombed Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, even though it was believed that the group played no role in the rocket fire. Sometimes there is no choice, sometimes there are no alternative targets and sometimes you have to take advantage of a situation to settle a score with a terrorist group for past events.
Logic says that the Arab Spring warriors in Syria and Lebanon have no interest in opening a front with Israel at this time, but history has many examples of illogical moves dictating the fate of the map of the Middle East.
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