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Israel concerned about possible fallout from Lebanon government split

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Israel unsure how to respond

The political maneuvering between Mr. Hariri, a Sunni politician backed by Saudi Arabia, and the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah is seen as highly combustible, because it is in effect a proxy battle between the allies of Western powers and those of Iran.

Israelis, still scarred by the toll of invading Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, see the sectarian tensions of its northern neighbor as a powder keg that could be exploited by Hezbollah and draw Israel into conflict again. Israeli leaders have portrayed the Iranian-backed Hezbollah as a forward command for Tehran, which could use the militia to fight a proxy war against its "Zionist enemy."

Israel is so worried about being drawn into the conflict that government spokespeople have remained uncharacteristically tight-lipped when asked to comment on their view of the situation in Lebanon. "We are following developments very closely,’’ says Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor, who declined to comment further.

That didn’t stop Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, who called the Hezbollah resignations an example of "threats and extortion’’ to prevent the publication of an inquiry into the assassination, according to the Israeli news website Walla.

Would Hezbollah take aim at Israel again?

Some suggest that the Lebanese conflict could spin out of control, with some militant groups taking aim southward.

Other political commentators believe that a border clash with Israel would help Hezbollah persuade Lebanese that they remain their best defense against the Jewish state.) It could also help Hezbollah deter possible intervention by Western military forces, according to Alex Fishman, a military commentator for Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

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