Sept. 4, 2019
- Israel’s alleged attack in Dahiye, the Beirut Shi’ite neighborhood where Hizbullah is headquartered, was met with a very limited Hizbullah response, sending a signal, acknowledged by the Israeli side, that Hizbullah wanted to avoid escalation that could lead to all-out war.
- There are several reasons why Hizbullah is restrained, but probably the most important has to do with its demographic predicament. Hizbullah’s recruitment pool is strictly limited to the Shi’ite community in Lebanon which numbers 1-1.5 million souls.
- The community is suffering from a rapidly declining birth rate similar to the declining fertility rate in Iran – less than is needed to maintain the existing population. Moreover, small families are reluctant to sacrifice what is all too often their only son in a society where the two-child family becomes the norm.
- Hizbullah has been sacrificing Shi’ite blood for the last 37 years. The ardor to sacrifice is hard to maintain.
- It’s also a problem Hizbullah hardly can counter. Declining birth rates are the result of urbanization. Most Lebanese Shi’ites live in the multi-storied apartment buildings of Dahiye as opposed to the small villages and towns in the past.
- In the city, children can no longer help on the farm, becoming consumers rather than producers. The parents want them educated, and many want to see them in Canada and Australia rather than fighting Iran’s wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
- The balance between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Lebanon has grown in favor of the former as hundreds of thousands of Syrian Sunnis found refuge there. Shi’ite Hizbullah, then, faces a more uncertain future in Lebanon itself as a result.
The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.