Israel just began construction of a high cement wall on its northern border between the Israeli town of Metulla and the Lebanese town of Kfar Kila. The wall will only be a kilometer long, so it’s clearly not being placed there to prevent anyone from crossing the border per se. It’s being placed there to prevent anyone from crossing the border—or shooting across the border—at that specific location.
In 2005, I drove down there from Beirut with a Lebanese woman who grew up in the area. I was thunderstruck when we arrived at Kfar Kila. Israeli houses were mere feet from the border fence. Some of those homes are so close to it that a person could walk right up to an Israeli backyard and, while remaining inside Lebanese territory, throw a hand grenade through somebody’s window. And remember, this is the part of Lebanon that’s controlled by Hezbollah.
If you’re an American, how would you feel if the Taliban set up shop a few feet from your yard? Comfy?
The border here used to be open. Until the Israeli army withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000, Lebanese who passed security clearances could cross through Fatima Gate to visit Israel as workers or even tourists. The mayor of Rmeich, one of the handful of Christian towns near the border, told me that nearly every single person who lives there has been to Israel.
Fatima Gate is now shuttered and wrapped with cyclone fencing. No one has been through it for years. Furious tourists like to go down there, though, and throw rocks into Israel.
Frankly, it’s amazing that aside from the war in 2006, rocks are the only projectiles so far to go over that fence. Hezbollah hasn’t picked anyone off in Metulla with sniper rifles, nor has anyone else. It wouldn’t be hard.
I don’t know the precise reason the Israelis have decided to erect a wall now, but I can guess. According to Beirut-based correspondent and author Nicholas Blanford, Hezbollah hopes the next war will be fought more in Israel than in Lebanon.
He quotes its secretary general Hassan Nasrallah in his most recent book, Warriors of God. “The resistance leadership might ask you to lead the resistance to liberate Galilee [in Northern Israel].” “God willing,” a Hezbollah fighter told Blanford, “we will go into Palestine next.” “Next time,” said another, “maybe the UN will ask us to withdraw from Northern Israel rather than Israel withdraw from South Lebanon.”
There’s no chance Hezbollah can seize and hold ground for long without getting smashed, but its fighters can still inflict a considerable amount of damage while martyring themselves on the bayonets of the Israel Defense Forces. If they try, they’ll almost certainly do so in Metulla.
The Israelis are lucky it has not happened yet and should have built the wall a long time ago.