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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Crossroads

Israel is at a crossroads in this war. Either go for a ceasefire or for an escalation.

After almost a month and little to show for it, the army is requesting a large operation that practically means the re-invasion of Lebanon. Olmert knows that if he agrees, hundreds of soldiers will die, with guarantee of a decisive victory and the risk of regional conflict. Hence his inclination to stop. On the other hand, if he does not agree and the war ends soon, he will be blamed for not having what it takes to be PM. In the eyes of both the enemy and, increasingly, the Israeli public, Israel has lost this war by squandering the opportunity to make a difference in the first round of fighting.

I don't envy him. We'll see what the cabinet comes up with today.

UPDATE: The cabinet approved a short while ago the larger operation. Today's high toll for the IDF in Lebanon is only a precursor to what we can expect in coming weeks.

6 comments:

Lady of Georgetown said...

However, do you agree with the bigger invasion and it should have been done that way at the start?

I live in the United States and it is hard to imagine living in a country that has been at war its whole life and still be as patriotic as Israelis. I admire the faith that you have in your government and your determination to see it through to the end.

I am Jewish and a survivor of incest, so I understand how hope is sometimes the only thing to hold on to and faith that G-D had a much bigger purpose for you then trouble.

I don't, however, have faith in my government to do the right thing and live by the oath officials took when they were elected. You seem to believe your government is faithful to their obligation as elected.

Sharvul said...

Rhonda:

I have mixed feelings. I believe that from the start Israel should have planned a larger and stronger response to deal not only with the Hezbollah problem but also with the real problem: Syria and Iran. I fear it is too late in the game now.

Anonymous said...

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "more than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to US and other diplomats, journalists and thinktanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail". The attack, he said, would last for three weeks. It would begin with bombing and culminate in a ground invasion. Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University, told the paper that "of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared ... By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board".

A "senior Israeli official" told the Washington Post that the raid by Hizbullah provided Israel with a "unique moment" for wiping out the organisation. The New Statesman's editor, John Kampfner, says he was told by more than one official source that the US government knew in advance of Israel's intention to take military action in Lebanon. The Bush administration told the British government.

Israel's assault, then, was premeditated: it was simply waiting for an appropriate excuse. It was also unnecessary. It is true that Hizbullah had been building up munitions close to the border, as its current rocket attacks show. But so had Israel. Just as Israel could assert that it was seeking to deter incursions by Hizbullah, Hizbullah could claim - also with justification - that it was trying to deter incursions by Israel. The Lebanese army is certainly incapable of doing so. Yes, Hizbullah should have been pulled back from the Israeli border by the Lebanese government and disarmed. Yes, the raid and the rocket attack on July 12 were unjustified, stupid and provocative, like just about everything that has taken place around the border for the past six years. But the suggestion that Hizbullah could launch an invasion of Israel or that it constitutes an existential threat to the state is preposterous. Since the occupation ended, all its acts of war have been minor ones, and nearly all of them reactive.

So it is not hard to answer the question of what we would have done. First, stop recruiting enemies, by withdrawing from the occupied territories in Palestine and Syria. Second, stop provoking the armed groups in Lebanon with violations of the blue line - in particular the persistent flights across the border. Third, release the prisoners of war who remain unlawfully incarcerated in Israel. Fourth, continue to defend the border, while maintaining the diplomatic pressure on Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah (as anyone can see, this would be much more feasible if the occupations were to end). Here then is my challenge to the supporters of the Israeli government: do you dare to contend that this programme would have caused more death and destruction than the current adventure has done?

Sharvul said...

Anonymous:

I don't think anyone needs "convincing" that Israel had a plan and decided to execute on it on July 12 (God forbid if it didn't have such a plan...).

I diasgree with your statement that executing on this plan was unnecessary. I don't know whether your alternate plan would have worked; fact is we reached a point where doing something was inevitable.

Hezbollah, in and of itself, poses indeed no existential threat to Israel (as if sending a third of the country to live in shelters for weeks is something a sovereign country is prepared to live with). However, letting Hezbollah build itself into an Iranian army division on Israel's border could become in the future such a threat. As with cancer, the earlier one starts fighting it, the better.

I would also remind you that Israel withdrew from all of Lebanon six years ago (Shebaa farms belongs to Syria) and from most of "Palestine" over the past decade. It even offered in 2000 to withdraw, more or less, to 1967 lines. The problem is that the particular brand of fanatics we are dealing with - Hamas on one side, Hezbollah on the other, plus their mentors - still view Israel itself as occupied land. Only today Nasrallah called the citizens of the cities he's targeting "settlers". For him, Haifa is unlawfully occupied by Israel.

Let's not mislead ourselves, lest we find ourselves in an even deeper quagmire in the future.

Anonymous said...

There are signs–in the Financial Times–that the Bush administration is unwilling to back regime change in Iran:
And here’s another kink in the theory: the admnistration disappointed Iranian exile activists last week during a meeting focusing on Iran’s nuclear capability. Not only did Elliot Abrams, deputy national security adviser, and Nicholas Burns, a State Department official in charge of the Iran portfolio, tell the Iranian exiles that the US had no intention of broadening the conflict to Syria and Iran, they even “argued against regime change,” according to one of the attendees. And this at a “gathering of 30 Iranians, including analysts, academics and members of religious and ethnic minorities, was billed by the White House as a ‘historic first step in promoting personal freedom and liberty in Iran.’”
Washington Post column from Friday (”Israel’s Lost Moment“):
There is fierce debate in the United States about whether, in the post-Sept. 11 world, Israel is a net asset or liability. Hezbollah’s attack on July 12 provided Israel the extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate its utility by making a major contribution to America’s war on terrorism…
The United States… has counted on Israel’s ability to do the job. It has been disappointed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has provided unsteady and uncertain leadership. Foolishly relying on air power alone, he denied his generals the ground offensive they wanted, only to reverse himself later.

Anonymous said...

Racists Amongs Us? Are you one?
http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/yglesias/2006/aug/08/racists_among_us