For 7 years now, the border area between Israel and Lebanon has witnessed calm and stability. At first sight, this has all the appearances of a paradox. The 2006 war between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Lebanese organization, Hezbollah, was followed neither by a peace agreement nor by a mere diplomatic process. Both sides prepared their forces to wage the next war and additionally have been confronted in past years to major changes in the distribution of power in the Middle East in the midst of the so-called “Arab Spring.”
Against all odds, the area comprising north Israel and south Lebanon remained very quiet these last months. This monograph argues that the key to understand this paradox is the game of deterrence played by both Israel and Hezbollah. Specifically, an informal deterrence dialogue has been developing between Israel and Hezbollah and that strategic stability prevailed because of this indirect exchange.
Because both sides understood that a next round would be devastating and that each could not entirely eliminate the threat of retaliation in a first wave the solution has been to bargain deterrence, meaning to deter the other party from attacking its homeland by pledging a full-scale retaliation.
But to say that stability has been preserved between Israel and Hezbollah thanks to deterrence does not mean that this is a perennial state. This monograph also stresses the precariousness of such deterrence system. The stand-off between Israel and Hezbollah reached this level only through specific measures and conditions that can be reversed in the future. In particular, exogenous factors such as the unraveling of the Syrian civil war or the developments of the Iranian nuclear issue can jeopardize the equilibrium. Moreover, the study of Lebanese politics emphasizes the uncertainties related to the logic of deterrence with a nonstate actor like Hezbollah. This is why this analysis offers a cautious look at deterrence theories in the Middle East and reminds that such situations are neither naturally engendered nor eternally established.