On the Second anniversary of the Second Lebanon War
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Zionism & Israel Center http://zionism-israel.comThe Second Lebanon War was certainly not a success from the Israeli point of view. Few of its objectives were achieved, and most of those that were achieved, could have been achieved about a week into the fighting, since the agreement that was reached in August, was essentially on offer not long after the fighting broke out.
This dismal performance, however, which wasted the the lives of about 150 Israelis and hundreds of Lebanese (not counting the Hezbollah) seems to have led some to unwarranted conclusions. Eitan Haber speaks for many when he claims that the war was "unnecessary." The war as implemented was certainly unnecessary, since it didn't accomplish much and may even have weakened us a bit. The long-coveted goal of getting the Lebanese army to move into the south of Lebanon, reinforced by an expanded UNIFIL, was obtained, but it seems probable that the Hezbollah does pretty much what it wants in southern Lebanon anyhow, and that if they want to launch another kidnapping or attack on Israel from the south, they will simply push the Lebanese army and UNIFIL to one side. But the war was only "unnecessary" because it didn't succeed. If the war had rid Lebanon of the Hezbollah, very few in Israel or the West would be saying the war was unnecessary and at least some Arab states would be cheering more or less quietly.
Nor should we accept at face value the claim that it is impossible in principle to defeat an enemy like the Hezbollah. There are no "ultimate weapons" and no "unbeatable armies." No group and no regime lasts forever. In the fullness of time, the Hezbollah and their Iranian and Syrian masters will get their comeuppance, if not from Israel than from another enemy, or they will fall into decay. The government and the IDF should have known that the army was unready for a ground war, and that intelligence was insufficient. They should have either prepared accordingly, or lacking such preparation, they should not have announced such ambitious aims for the war.
The government and the IDF should have understood after a few days that it was not in their power to defeat the Hezbollah by air war alone, as they had proposed. In fact, earlier contingency plans that were scrapped had called for an invasion by three divisions. The obtuseness of Chief of Staff Halutz, the negligence of PM Olmert and the inexperience of Defense Minster Amir Peretz somehow hid from them, for a very long time, what was obvious to many private citizens, and what was evident from common sense: Israel kept bombing, but the rockets kept falling on Israel. The war was going noplace. The government and the IDF were also fooled because they were privy to a bit of information that was withheld from the rest of us. In the first two days of the war, the Israel Air Force, relying on excellent intelligence and accurate bombing, had managed to wipe out the greater part of the medium and long range rockets of the Hezbollah. A single long range Iranian Zil-Zal rocket was fired from the vicinity of Beirut. It was apparently damaged and came down somewhere over Beirut. Most of the medium range rockets were wiped out as well. This success encouraged the false hope that it would be possible to eliminate the more mobile and more numerous short range rockets carried on pickup trucks or hidden in underground launchers and civilian locations in south Lebanon.
The war was also undertaken under an impossible constraint. The government of Fuad Seniora included cabinet members and members of parliament from the Hezbollah and representing the interests of the Hezbollah. Seniora nonetheless claimed that the Lebanese government did not support the Hezbollah and was not responsible for its actions, while at the same time Seniora's government took the side of the Hezbollah in all negotiations. The Americans and the French, along with other Western governments, willingly accepted this charade, and warned Israel not to bring down the "democratic" government of Fuad Seniora.
Given the stand of Seniora and his government, there was no way to bring down the Hezbollah without occupying Beirut and bringing down the government that included the Hezbollah and supported them, along with the Hezbollah, and then hunting down the remainder of this organization throughout Lebanon. If such a plan was too ambitious or adventurous, and it might well be so, Israel should never have started the war in the first place.
The war, in a way, has been lost in installments. Had the agreement embodied in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 been implemented, the Hezbollah would have been disarmed, or at least, they would not have been allowed to rearm. Instead the Hezbollah have rearmed, and the UNIFIL forces simply ignore the facts. The significance of this farce should not be lost either on those who trust to international arrangements, nor to those who trust to US guarantees. The United States, in the conduct of its foreign policy, has the attention span of a lightning bolt. It doesn't occur to the State Department or the US administration that they have damaged themselves and the UN enormously in Lebanon, by committing themselves to a policy they are unwilling or unable to enforce, leaving both Israel and the Lebanese March 14 movement out in the cold. However, this only tends to degrade our faith in diplomacy. It doesn't prove the war was unnecessary. If Israel had won a decisive victory and disarmed the Hezbollah, things would look a lot different. The problem was not too much war and not enough diplomacy, but a war executed poorly, that didn't give the diplomats the necessary conditions for peace.
The next round in "proving the war unnecessary" was provided by the Olmert government itself, for reasons that are anyone's guess. One of the reasons the war was fought, ostensibly, was to return the hostages, because, it was announced, Israel would not succumb to the blackmail of kidnappers. But now the Olmert government showed itself perfectly willing to succumb to the blackmail of kidnappers, making the same deal that they could have made two years ago, before over 150 Israelis died, to return the kidnapped soldiers Goldwasser and Regev, or the remains thereof. The conclusion of this deal was certainly an admission that the war was "unnecessary" for retrieving the hostages.
Dov Weisglass, on the other hand, insists that Israel has lost the deterrent that it had in the 50s, when a small and disciplined army, with few resources, carried out daring retaliatory raids. Weisglass forgot that until 1967, Israel's "deterrent" was such, that Gamal Nasser of Egypt confidently challenged Israel to a war in which he hoped to reverse the results of the 1948 Israel-Arab War. The resulting Six Day War, the height of Israel's military performance, did not not deter Egypt from trying again in the Yom Kippur War. The Yom Kippur war, in which the Arabs took an objective beating, was declared by them to be a great success. The Israeli victory in the War of Independence did not deter the Arabs from trying again. The lightning Suez Campaign victory did not stop them either, nor did the "brilliant" retaliatory raids of Ariel Sharon. But the Arab "victory" of 1973 put a stop to their war making activities. Paradoxically, after the Yom Kippur war "victory" of the Arabs, there were no more attempts to "reverse the results of 1948." The Arabs understood that they could not withstand another "victory" like that one.
It remains to be determined what Mr. Nasrallah and the Hezbollah, and their Iranian masters, learned from their "victory" in the Second Lebanon War.
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