Ayoub is a new name in the Arab political lexicon. It is the name of Hezbollah’s spy plane, which was named after one of its own “martyrs.” The speech by Nasrallah intended to take responsibility for the plane that was downed by Israeli fighter jets. Israel, typical of its propaganda, did not tell the truth. It was embarrassed to admit its failure to detect the plane, and Israeli media are very cautious in probing the failures and shortcomings of the Israeli military-intelligence apparatus. The Israeli government later claimed that it detected the plane over the sea but that it allowed it to enter “Israeli airspace” in order to down over an unpopulated area. But Israel did not explain why it did not down the plane over the unpopulated sea. This is quite typical of Israel.
The plane in itself does not change the strategic balance of the Middle East but it has great symbolism which Nasrallah capitalized on in his speech. He meant to contrast the abilities and success of the party in its war against Israel with the abysmal behavior of Arab regimes – all of which have pretty much abandoned any claim of commitment to the liberation of Palestine; any part of Palestine. But Nasrallah is aware that the Saudi camp in Lebanon has no qualms about its services to all facets of Saudi propaganda. Nasrallah was talking about Palestine, and the sectarian-obsessed rank-and-file of March 14 was thinking about Syria: March 14 (and its sponsors) intervene with arms, money and politics in Syrian affairs but is aghast that Hezbollah may be intervening in Syrian affairs.
Ayoub is now famous: there were tributes written in Arabic about Ayoub – about a plane that was sent by an Arab party to fly over occupied Palestine. Ayoub represents a victory over the accumulated failures of Arab regimes. It basically sends the message that Israel won’t be able to enjoy absolute superiority in all facets of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ayoub alerted Israel that there are Arabs who don’t stick to the Saudi peace plan and who have their own agenda, which can’t be dictated by the US administration.
But Hezbollah is now in a different position: it is not only bogged down in Lebanese political turmoil – its political behavior in Lebanon is nothing short of foolish and failing. Its management of the last parliamentary election was nothing short of disastrous – from its own political perspective. But the military branch of the party seems to operate independent of the political branch which has never been impressive and which is inferior in skills to the rival party.
Ayoub should not be a big story: Israel has managed to violate the Lebanese airspace more than 20,000 since UN Resolution 1701 was passed in 2006. Yet, one violation of “Israel airspace” occupied space in the Arab and Western media. It is high time that Lebanon and all Arab countries violate Israeli sovereignty to the same degree as Israeli violations – and they should aspire to exceed those violations. Israeli threatens war on a daily basis against Arabs and Iranians, and Arabs should at least mimic Israel by at least invoking their right to “preemptive strikes.” Ayoub is a first step to slap Israeli air arrogance straight in the face, but more – much more – is required in this regard.