Four years ago this week Hezbollah launched a cross-border attack from Lebanon into Israel. Eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two reservists kidnapped. This attack ignited a month-long war. Israel responded with an air, sea and ground campaign, while Hezbollah launched some 4,000 rockets and missiles into Israel. Nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon and 160 in Israel died.
That war in the summer of 2006 ended with a UN resolution that imposed a blockade on weapons intended for Hezbollah and banned it from operating near the Israeli border.
"Hezbollah has worked to develop its readiness to rise to the challenge should it arise, and we can safely say that in the past four years we have prepared ourselves far more than Israel has," the group's number two, Naim Qassem, said in an interview published this week.
Last week Israel embarked on an extraordinary form of deterrence against the possibility of a second Hezbollah war against Israel within the next few months. Instead of a display of a pre-emptive military attack against Hezbollah, the Israeli military widely disseminated and broadcast on television its highly detailed intelligence maps and aerial photographs showing exactly where Hezbollah is maintaining substantial arms caches of missiles, rockets and other weapons, as well as its command centers.
These maps show Hezbollah's weapons and military centers to be located in villages in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border (in violation of the UN ban on operating near the border), in very close proximity to schools and hospitals, and aimed at Israeli cities and many civilian targets. If these missiles were to be launched, Israel would be required to defend its population by destroying the missile emplacements and depots.
The Hezbollah plan of deployment means that any Israeli military response to a massive missile attack on its civilian population will involve inevitable civilian casualties in Lebanon. Hezbollah, because of its placement of these weapons, is condemning its own Shiite villages to destruction.
The United Nations now faces the test of whether it will do anything to assure that its resolution about the Lebanese-Israeli border is worth anything at all. If the UN does not act against Hezbollah's now-exposed weapons caches, this resolution will be shown to be only a stick with which to beat Israel, and not the means to enforce the cease-fire with which the UN insisted Israel comply in order to end the 2006 war.
Arab governments also face a critical test. By making its deterrence transparent, Israel is offering the governments of Syria, Lebanon and their Arab supporters, as well as world policy-makers, an opportunity to protect civilian Arab lives instead of blaming Israel after the fact for what can be prevented now. The Israeli military is demonstrating that it can utilize its superior intelligence capabilities not only to wage war, but also before hostilities to try to avert war.
Now that Israel has taken the rare step of revealing its valuable intelligence, will the UN enforce its own resolution to prevent war? Will the Arab governments in the region act to save Arab lives?
Stephen P. Cohen is the author of "Beyond America's Grasp: A Century of Failed Diplomacy in the Middle East" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) and president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development.