Monday, July 31, 2006

"Hullo, this is the IDF..."

Is it the number, the sheer large number of people killed in Lebanon that warrants such an international furor? No, it can't be because there were only 60 killed, not 600 or 6,000. Does this warrant a UN Security Council resolution? And this number was a "Lebanese estimate" as Secty Gen of the UN Kofi Annan announced in his speech at the Security Council. Now, who does that mean made the estimates, not the Lebanese Government, or the Red Cross, but local Lebanese Shi'ites, who are totally loyal to Hizbollah. So we are being conned again. Certainly seeing dead children is depressing, but considering how ruthless Hizbollah and most fundamentalist Muslims are in treating their women and children (remember the Taliban), how does anyone really know how many people were killed in that attack in Lebanon, or whether or not the IAF or Hizbollah were responsible.
Did the Security Council meet when NATO killed hundreds of Serbs in their attacks on Serbia over the Kossovo crisis? Did the Security Council meet and criticize Russia when they caused thousands of civilian casualties in Grozny that was directly bombarded twice? No, this attention is only warranted by Israel, that's the reason. Of course, in WWII the British tried to kill German civilains, but that was a long time ago, before they became so sensitive. Did you know that the RAF attempted to bomb the Gestapo HQ in Copenhagen at the beginning of the war because the resistance were imprisoned there, and instead hit the school next door (this was before precision guided bombs), too bad they killed a hundred children, but they got over it.
Remember the shooting of Mohammed al Dura, the boy who was supposed to have been shot by the IDF in Gaza in 2000, at the beginning of the intifada. It received incredible international coverage lambasting Israel for such brutality, and yet it was a set up, perpetrated by one Palestinian TV cameraman working for a French network. And remember the explosion on the beach in Gaza a few months ago that killed a family of 7 people, that was supposed to have resulted from an Israeli naval bombardment, except that the navy had not fired, and neither had the IAF at the time of the explosion. Further investigation revealed that it was probably a shell being used as a mine by Hamas that an unfortunate family has stumbled on. But the damage was already done, it was blamed on Israel.
How many countries have dropped leaflets to warn civilians to leave dangerous areas of conflict, does anyone know of any other apart form Israel? Not only that, the IDF have recently been telephoning homes in Gaza and Lebanon that they want to hit, in order to avoid civilian casualties. If someone answers they warn them to get out of the house, and they only fire when they have positive confirmation that they have left. If there is no answer they do not hit the building. Can you imagine the surprise of a Hizbollah member who receives such a call, "Hullo, this is the IDF, we are warning you to get out of your house because its going to be blasted in 5 minutes." What other armed forces would go to such extremes to avoid civilian casualties. So, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Hizbollah set up this "incident" knowing how the western press would respond, having had lot's of experience in media manipulation.
All this nonsense about the incident in Kana in deliberately intended to take the focus away from the bigger issue, namely the ceasefire that everyone is supposed to want. The media is once again making a big mistake in asking what is Hizbollah's conditions for the ceasefire. Neither Israel nor the UN is considering directly involving Hizbollah in the establishing of a ceasefire. No terrorist organization gets to set the agenda. If the UN SC decides on a ceasefire, and this includes the formation of an international force that will police southern Lebanon and will disarm Hizbollah, then they are highly unlikely to agree to that. It can only be accomplished if they are already so diminished that they are unable to put up any significant resistance. That is what Israel and the US are aiming for. Only in this way can Lebanon be saved, can Iran be defeated, and can Israel have peace on its northern border.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unfortunate consequences of war

The death of 50 Lebanese, including 21 children, in a single building destroyed by IAF rockets in Kana, south Lebanon, is an unfortunate consequence of war. These things unfortunately happen, hence prudent people in a war zone take precautions. For example, in Israel most buildings built since the 1980s have a "safe room" in each apartment or on every floor. Older buildings have a concrete reinforced basement. Hizbollah have fired an average of 100 rockets into northern Israel EVERY DAY for the past 18 days of the conflict, that started you may remember with the attack by Hizbollah across the Israeli border on July 12 and the accompanying bombardment of northern Israel with Katyushas. Although there have been 20 people killed in Israel by these rockets so far, all the casualties have been people who have been outside in the street, or in open buildings, such as a post office in Haifa, or in cars or buses. Even rockets have penetrated through the roofs of houses or apartments and killed people, such as the 15 year old Druse girl in a village in Galilee. But, so far no-one has even been injured who has taken shelter in a basement or safe room. People in Israel generally obey the rules given by the Home front command. Apart from that ca. one third or 300,000 people or more have moved south out of range of the current rockets, although Nasrallah keeps warning that he is going to up the ante and extend the range and hit central Israel.
About the building in Kana, no-one knows or is saying why this was chosen as a place to room over 100 people in a war zone in an unprotected building, where clearly the IAF could not have known that they had recently been moved there. On the IAF intelligence maps this building was apparently listed as a Hizbollah "asset." After dropping leaflets and given that this is a war zone, what is the IAF to do? They were firing rockets into Israel from the vicinity of that building. Knowing the brutality and lack of concern for human life, it would not surprise me if Hizbollah knew that these people, apparently mostly disabled children, had been moved into a likely Hizbollah target for the IAF. After all the PR value alone is worth it to them!
The statements of the Lebanese PM Seniora, that labeled Israeli actions as "war crimes," and his alignment with Hizbollah only serve to underline the cooperation that some elements of the Lebanese Army and Government have with Hizbollah. Until now we might have excused this because we were told they wanted to avoid another civil war, but the lack of cooperation, now by refusing to allow Sectry. of State Rice to go to Beirut to negotiate with him, is both disturbing and self-defeating. If they now claim they want an "immediate" ceasefire, then the surest way to prevent this is not to talk to the best intermediary there is. Israel is not going to take any other intermediary seriously, not France that identifies with Lebanon (although not Hizbollah), not the UN (that reflects the Arab position) and not the EU, that is hopelessly compromised.
I have taken an informal (non-scientific) poll of my friends and family and have found unanimity on one topic, in agreement with an article by Prof. Asa Kasher in the J'sam Post ('IDF may be morally justified in flattening terror strongholds' 28/7/06), all of us Israelis would prefer that the fortified villages of south Lebanon be pounded into the ground by aerial or artillery bombardment rather than send our boys in to risk their lives at night in the narrow alleyways.
We regard the action, in which 8 IDF soldiers died in an ambush in Bint Jbail, partly due to the IDF ethic of trying to save civilian lives, as being self-defeating. There are several reasons for this: 1. If it's "them or us," we prefer for it to be "them" who pay the ultimate price rather that our precious soldiers; 2. Even though the IDF tries to save civilian lives, none of our enemies or western observers give us any credit for that, on the contrary they lambaste us for the civilian casualties that do occur, so why go to such extremes (this does not mean that we should not avoid civilian casualties if our soldiers are not at risk!); 3. The IDF has dropped leaflets warning civilians to leave these villages several times and anyone with any sense knows that they shouldn't be there; 4. Hizbollah have had years to fortify and set up bunkers and ambushes for our troops, and we are sending them in there without the capability to avoid such pre-planned attacks; 5. Loss of life among the soldiers results in a loss of morale both in the IDF and in the home front, so it should be avoided if at all possible; 6. This is war, and we must fight to win, not to carry out moral games: "we are morally superior to you, even though we are dead!" 7. Everyone knows that Hizbollah gunmen hides among civilians, often their own families, and the Geneva rules of war allow attacks on them under these circumstances.
I don't care if the IDF uses flattening tactics like the NATO assault on Serbia, or pinpoint "laser painting" as suggested by one expert, or merely artillery shelling, but the unnecessary risking of soldier's lives in order to save enemy civilians must stop. Does anyone outside Serbia remember how many Serbian civilians were killed in the NATO attacks there, but everyone remembers that NATO won and the Serbian Army withdrew from Kossovo, and likewise with Grozny and the Russians, the US and Iraq and so on. So dear PM Olmert, DM Peretz and CoS Halutz, let's get on and do the dirty job of war and not be confused that we must risk our son's lives in order to spare our enemies lives.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


This letter was published in "The Independent," London, 26/7/06:

Yes, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing their homes and are trekking like refugees away from the fighting. Those who are not fleeing are hunkered down in basements and shelters, with limited food and often nothing to do to while away the hours, while overhead they can hear the thump of missiles hitting their homes, schools and place of work. Yes, this is an accurate portrait of northern Israel!
But, it is hardly reported in the media, in contrast to the movement of thousands of Europeans in ships from Beirut harbor that is being reported in detail. The plight of the Lebanese is reported, but there is not a word of the reciprocal situation of Israelis, under attack from 1,600 rockets fired so far into Israel, with salvos of 70-100 at a time in limited areas. Between the Lebanese border and a line from Haifa to Nazareth there are ca. 1 million people living, and of these it is estimated that ca. one third, 300,000 people, have fled, but you will not find that reported in the media!
Why does Hizbollah have all these rockets? Where did they get them from? Israel is criticized for hitting bridges (infrastructure) and trucks, when these are being used to attempt to resupply Hizbollah with more rockets - would you take that risk? The IDF is being criticized for hitting villages when it is known that rockets are hidden in bunkers under specific houses and schools in those villages, would you leave them there? What does "proportionate" mean under these circumstances, nothing but a propagandistic word to try to restrict Israel's right to respond to the rockets and defend itself.
Jack Cohen

This letter was published in "The Irish Times," 27/7/06:

I am amazed at the shallowness of the analysis of most politicians and media regarding the current war between Israel and Hizbollah. It is NOT a war between Israel and Lebanon, Israel has no dispute with the Lebanese Government or people, and wants to see a stable and peaceful Lebanon to its north. But, once Israel lost 8 soldiers killed and two kidnapped in the unprovoked Hizbollah raid across the internationally recognized border on July 12, then Israel had to strike back. In doing so it naturally hit the headquarters of Hizbollah in the Shia neighborhood of south Beirut, it also struck airports, bridges and roads throughout Lebanon to prevent re-supply of Hizbollah, and telecommunciations facilities to stop Hizbollah broadcasting instructions to its fighters. Any sensible military force would have to carry out these raids.
In the thousands of sorties that the IAF has flown in the past two weeks, barely 400 people have been killed, that is an incredibly small number and testimony to the accuracy of the IDF's targeting! If they wanted to cause civilian casualties, as some suggest, then by now there would be thousands and they wouldn't be dropping warning flyers on the population. Also, the targets of the IDF are not in the Christian, Sunni Muslim or Druse areas of Lebanon, these are essentially untouched by the fighting.
In the final analysis you have a choice, either you choose the Shia Muslim extremist terrorists of Hizbollah or the democratic government of Israel. Who would you prefer to win? It may soon affect you where you live.
Jack Cohen

Friday, July 28, 2006

You are a target!

It would be the most exquisite of outcomes if Hizbollah is not destroyed by Israel in Lebanon, but although greatly diminished, it decides that since Israel is too hard a nut to crack and is capable of destroying it in another round, instead it will not concentrate on Israel but will turn its attentions to ....Europe. Of the three, Israel, the US and Europe, Europe is by far the softest and easiest target for terrorists. Also, Europe is acting to ensure that there is an "immediate" ceasefire that will enable Hizbollah to survive in Lebanon and be re-supplied by Syria and Iran. Hizbollah is known to have representatives, many of them undercover, all over the world, especially in Europe. Can Hizbollah be effective in international terrorism? Of course it can and it has shown it can. Here are some prior actions of Hizbollah operating as an arm of Iranian anti-Western policy.
In 1983, Hizbollah blew up the compound of the US marines in Beirut, who were there ostensibly as a peace keeping force. They used a truck bomb that simply drove under the building housing the marines and exploded and 241 marines were killed. To show their peaceful intent the marines and their guards had no bullets in their guns (this is hard to believe, but is true!). This is an example of the stupidity and naevite of the west in facing the Islamist threat.
In the same year, 1983, not sufficiently chastened by the experience of the bombing of the marine barracks, and ignoring specific warnings from Israeli sources, the US Embassy in Beirut was also blown up by Hizbollah, killing most of the State Dept. experts on the middle east who were having a regional meeting there, ironically many of whom were known to be anti-Israel. President Reagan at the time threatened dire consequences to the people that carried out this attack, but no actions were ever taken.
In 1992, Hizbollah operatives acting under Iranian orders blew up the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, then again in 1994 they blew up the offices of the Jewish Community of Argentina in Buenos Aires killing hundreds of people. Although these terrible incidents were extensively investigated no actual arrests were ever made.
This kind of impunity has allowed Hizbollah to grow in power and size. They will be in your neighborhood soon.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The cowardice of their convictions

This is real hypocrisy - as only the EU can do it! They tell Israel that it should accept an immediate ceasefire, and then what? Of course, they want the ceasefire to hold, but how can it if there is no international force that can come in to enforce the ceasefire and prevent Hizbollah from continuing to control south Lebanon and to fire into Israel when it wants. But, these same countries are refusing to establish such an effective international force. As the Australian FM said, to send soldiers into southern Lebanon while Hizbollah is still active would be a "suicide mission." So they oppose Israel destroying Hizbollah but they also refuse to do anything to save Israel and Lebanon from Hizbollah. They are very good at passing UN resolutions, such as SC1559, but they are even better at self-righteous indignation. Condy Rice is the only one who seems to "get it!"
Another case of hypocrisy. What are the two most complained about results of the Israel-Hizbollah war? The "terrible toll" of civilian casualties and the huge number (estimated at 500,000) of displaced persons running away from the battlefield. But, Israel is purposely dropping leaflets telling civilians to leave certain areas in order to avoid civilian casualties. You can't have it both way, either criticize Israel for causing civilian casualties or for causing refugees, but not both!
About the number of civilian casualties, that look so bad when you see the actual bloodied faces up close on TV. But, in fact the number is extremely low. For example, the number is now estimated at 650 dead after 17 days of fighting! Given the thousands of IAF sorties that's less than 0.04 casualties per sortie, not a significant number. But, of these casualties, a high proportion are Hizbollah fighters or affiliates, including family members living in Hizbollah apartment blocks where they have their headquarters, that are hit by pinpoint Israeli strikes. In the Kossovo war, the NATO campaign against Serbia was considered to have had a very small number of casualties due to the US use of surgical strikes and the toll was, 600 dead. If we assume that ca. 50% in Lebanon are actual Hizbollah members, that reduces the civilian casualties to a very small number, but these are deliberately highly exaggerated by the media for emotional effect and by Lebanese and other spokesmen for propaganda effects. It works very well on naieve liberal westerners who watch TV as their main "News" source.
The soldiers are fighting a guerilla/terrorist insurgency against Shia forces that are funded and sponsored by Iran. The soldiers are taking casualties in heavy fighting, with ambushes, roadside bombs and suicide bombers. Its terrible, especially because the soldiers in this case are British soldiers in Basra and American soldiers in Baghdad.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Immediate vs. sustainable ceasefire

The terms "immediate" and "sustainable" are not generally considered as opposites, but they have come to be regarded as such in relation to the split between the coalition of the Arabs and the western liberal Europeans on the one hand and the US, British and Israelis on the other regarding the issue of a ceasefire to the Hizbollah-Israel conflict.
The Rome conference was considered a "complete failure" by the western liberal and European media, in that it did not come up with an immediate ceasefire, nor with a basis for the formation of the nucleus of a stabilization force for south Lebanon. But, it did formalize the agreement by Israel to sanction humanitarian deliveries and "corridors" in Lebanon, that will in effect circumscribe Israeli military actions but also take some of the pressure off.
However, from the US-Israeli viewpoint the Rome Conference was a partial success, in that even though the question of a ceasefire was discussed in detail, Condy Rice was excellent, and she stuck to her position that only a "sustainable" ceasefire, that would not leave Hizbollah armed and on the ground in south Lebanon, to repeat its incendiary acts as before, is acceptable. One reason why it was a failure is that the final communique failed completely to mention the two Israeli soldiers taken hostage by Hizbollah and their bombardment of northern Israel with over 1,600 rockets, killing 21 civilians and wounding 1,300! It is noteworthy that Hizbollah, Syria and Iran were not included in the Rome Conference, but in effect the Arabs, the western liberals and the Europeans substituted for the Syrian-Iranian axis side in this context.
Behind this scene is the continuation of the conflagration on the ground, with the Hizbollah fighters putting up a stronger resistance than expected by the IDF and the rocketing of northern Israel continuing unabated, with 100 rockets falling again Wednesday across the whole of the north from Haifa to Rosh Pinna, with many injuries and much property damage. Even Jan Egeland, the UN Human Rights spokesman, was suitably impressed by the degree of damage in Haifa, although he failed to express his emotional identification with the suffering of the Israeli people as he did with the poor Lebanese.
One reason why Israel is glad that there is no immediate ceasefire being imposed by the international community, as there always was in past conflicts, is that the IDF has apparently run into trouble in Bint Jbail. Instead of having taken it, as prematurely stated Tuesday night, in fact they had only surrounded it and on Wednesday 9 IDF soldiers were killed and 22 injured in an ambush in the heavy fighting for the town. This is a disaster for teh IDF and a victory for Hizbollah. Instead of 100 Hizbollah fighters as they initially estimated, it turned out that there may have been 200 or many more there. Some were killed when their bunkers were blown up, so their number is indeterminate.
One reason for this "slow" progress by the IDF was revealed in a report Wednesday in the Israeli press, that the IDF military intelligence branch had detailed reports of all the main fortified Shia villages in S. Lebanon, but these were not transferred to the operational branches, so that the soldiers went into battle without the latest detailed intelligence. One wonders what the military intelligence officers thought that this information was being kept for. In any case, as reported in the press, the troops who went in to fight the fanatical Hizbollah defenders did not have the requisite information of the layout of their bunkers, partly due to the "arrogance" of IDF officers. As often happens, Israelis prefer to rush in and learn on the job, but this can be costly in precious lives. In time, the IDF will defeat Hizbollah, but don't count on Syria or Iran to help get a ceasefire. Although Nasrallah has admitted that they were surprised by the strength of the Israeli response to their deliberate provocation, only when Hizbollah is really hurting and is in danger of being disarmed will they try to stop it.
Remember the old adage, "don't believe everything you read!" And especially not what you see on the TV networks. For example, the Lebanese Pres. Seniora spoke passionately at the Press Conf. in Rome about an "immediate ceasefire" but he also talked about extending Lebanese Govt. sovereignty down to the Israel border. But these are mutually incompatible aims, because only if Hizbollah is removed from the south by being severely beaten by the IDF in a continuation of the fighting can he have the latter. He also talks passionately about getting back the Shebaa Farms that he calls part of Lebanon, while everyone knows, and the UN certified, that this small parcel of land is in fact part of Syria. So would you believe anything he says? Yet the media portrays him as the poor suffering Pres. of the poor suffering Lebanon (that is waiting to get its hands on millions of reconstruction dollars, courtesy of Hizbollah and the IDF). Note that the number of casualties in Lebanon after 2 weeks of fighting is about the same as in Iraq in two days, yet you don't hear the same concern about Iraqi civilian lives! By the way, this proves that the IDF is careful about civilian casualties!
The incident of the four UNIFIL soldiers killed by IAF fire is another example of an IDF fashla, but none with any sense can consider this a deliberate act, as Kofi Annan implied. I remind you that during the NATO campaign against Serbia to force them to remove their army from Kossovo, the USAF destroyed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing many Chinese. Of course, the Chinese and many others considered this a deliberate act of war. But, after an investigation it turned out that the USAF were using old maps in which the building had a different purpose, although on ordinary city maps of Belgrade it was correctly marked. Such are the mistakes of war. But, when the IAF destroys a specific building in Tyre, and as the CNN correspondents scramble around on camera talking excitedly about civilian casualties and the destruction of apartment buildings, it turns out that this was the headquarters of the Hizbollah commander in South Lebanon, and that the building was empty at the time! So much for the hype of emotionally biased reporting that is the standard fare from Lebanon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Bint Jbail is the major town in south Lebanon from where Hizbollah have organized their military activities against Israel. Heavy fighting is going on now for control of the town. About 100 Hizbollah terrorists are well dug in and the IDF is attacking it mainly from the south, from the village of Maroun al-Ras that was captured yesterday. On Monday twenty IDF soldiers were wounded and 2 were killed and two pilots died in a helicopter crash. About 20 Hizbollah fighters were killed and two were captured.
The reasons the town is so important is that it sits on a hill overlooking the surrounding plain and the only main road in south Lebanon runs from there north and then west to Tyre. The IDF needs to control that road, both to move up it and to ensure that the Hizbollah terrorists don't use it to escape.
At the same time there should be other independent ground operations, one west from Metulla that is at the tip of the Israeli Hula Valley that projects north and is on the same latitude as Tyre, in order to cut off their escape, and one along the coast towards Tyre. If the IDF carries out these operations it can essentially surround, if not totally occupy southern Lebanon, and then hold it for its takeover by an international force that will be decided upon by negotiations.
This area of south Lebanon up to the Litani river, some 20 kms from the Israeli border, is the crucial area that Israel wants free of Hizbollah. The so-called "stabilization force" proposed by PM Blair and UN Secty. Gen. Kofi Annan would supposedly, under agreement with the Lebanese Government, come in and then the IDF would withdraw. But, this force must be more "robust" than the UNIFIL force that has been there for 28 years and done nothing, except perhaps cooperate with Hizbollah. UNIFIL, that was supposed to have been an "interim" force, will likely be disbanded, and the new force will likely be under NATO or EU sponsorship, with orders to shoot if necessary to stop re-infiltration of Hizbollah. Who would compose this force? Not the US or UK, because Hizbollah would fight them. Possibly Turkey (there must be Muslim partners), France (that has a stake in Lebanon), Egypt (if Israel agrees) and possibly Italy. The members must be agreeable to Lebanon, who will take over from them eventually, and Israel who will give up the land to them. But, although Hizbullah must accept the force, it will do so reluctantly and without cooperation.
What is a good measure of the success of the IDF in its war with Hizbollah? Perhaps the number of rockets fired at Israel each day. I wish I could say that these have been reduced in number, but they have not. Monday there were 70 rockets all over northern Israel, although noone was killed, and Sunday there were 125 and two people were killed in Haifa. This is as many rockets as on the first day that they started the bombardment. So the IDF has not yet found how to stop the firing of rockets and has not reduced their supplies enough to lower number of firings. We patiently wait for this to happen or for a ceasefire.
Monday, after her brief visit to Beirut, Condoleeza Rice landed in Israel. Tuesday she will meet with Israeli Govt. leaders, then on Wednesday she will travel to Rome for the meeting of the "Lebanon interest group." Not until after that meeting will the results of her discussions start to become apparent. The IDF has until then to inflict a defeat on Hizbollah in Bint Jbail and elsewhere.

Monday, July 24, 2006


There are some new aspects of the current situation that represent a fulcrum, a turning point in the history of Israel and the Middle East.
1. The US has realized once again that Israel is a strategic asset. Now that US forces are spread thin over Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran is a major strategic threat, the need to defeat Hizbollah, a proxy of Iran, is an urgent American strategic interest. But, the US can't do this by itself now, so it is cooperating with its ally Israel in facilitating this destruction. Israel is using US-made weapons and is operating under an umbrella of protection from the US, particularly in terms of time and the pressure by the international community (the UN and EU) to use civilian casualties as a means to peremptorily halt the war against Hizbollah and enforce a ceasefire, as it has been used to do in the past. So this is in effect a proxy war between the US and Iran through their allies, much as previous wars in the Middle East were proxy wars between the US and the USSR. Yes, Lebanon's infrastructure is being hit, yes, there are civilian casualties, but neither are the actual target of the IDF's actions. Israel and the US, as well as ironically the EU and UN, want finally to see a strong and democratic Lebanon arise from the ashes. But this cannot be achieved without the effective destruction of Hizbollah's military capability, both its ability to fire rockets into Israel and to dominate the Lebanese state on the ground with conventional forces. Israel has been in effect given the US imprimatur to go ahead and carry out this task on behalf of the entire western bloc.
2. The ability of Hizbollah to build up a huge arsenal of offensive ballistic weapons in Lebanon with Syrian and Iranian support, without serious challenge from Israel or the West was a major strategic error. Never before has any Arab force (for that is what Hizbollah calls itself even though it is Shia and is allied to non-Arab Iran) been able to actually fire rockets into Israeli cities and pose an existential threat to the State of Israel. This is what Pres. Ahmedinejad meant when he kept threatening Israel with being "wiped off the map." Yes, he wants to have nuclear weapons, but he and Nasrallah couldn't wait until then. They needed to show off their prowess and their capability in order not to be outdone by Hamas (a Sunni Arab terrorist organization). So once again Israel is being used in an inter-Arab competition, to show who is the most effective anti-Israel bloc. At this point the Iranians have won, even if their proxy Hizbollah is decimated. However, they have lost one of their major chess pieces in the future maneuvering over their nuclear ambitions.
3. The prior main enemies of Israel were the Sunni Arab countries, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the rest. But, they now find themselves outflanked by the Shia forces of Iran, Syria and Hizbollah, representing the Shia population of South Lebanon. While we could never consider the Sunni Arab states truly moderate, they have become in two respects, both Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties with Israel, and Saudi Arabia as well as the other two are totally dependent on US backing for their continued existence. Without being able to sell their oil to the West and depositing their petro-dollars in the West (as they discovered in 1973), the Saudis would be bankrupt. Also, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan exist because of US military support (and indirectly that of Israel). How can we interpret the fact that none of the usual Arab culprits have done anything effective to support Hizbollah and/or Lebanon, other than calling for an "immediate" ceasefire to stop humanitarian casualties (as if they really cared about the deaths of a few hundred Lebanese). No, the fact is that these countries have realized that Shia fundamentalism is a far more dangerous threat to them than Israeli Zionism!
4. Hamas is split, between the conservative fundamentalist Sunni Muslims who derive their ideology from the Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, and the Muslim fundamentalist revolutionaries who derive their philosophy from Khomeinist Iran. The former reside in Gaza while the latter are hosted in Syria. Although they ostensibly belong to the same organization, the "foreign" residents such as Khaled Mashaal have been calling the shots because Iran has been supplying the money and the revolutionary ideology. While Palestinians don't care so much where the ideology comes from, as long as it supports their war against Israel, the Saudis and their Sunni brothers are very concerned that the Palestinian cause is being hijacked from under their noses by Hamas and Hizbollah and Syria/Iran making a better showing against Israel. So they are back-pedaling on the war in Lebanon, not wanting to show that they in any way support Israel, but on the other hand not wanting in any way to actually support Hizbollah. Bush made this very clear by meeting first with the Saudis in Washington with Condoleeza Rice before she left for her visit here. Presumably they gave their assent to anything that she decides in relation to the Israeli war against Hizbollah. There is nothing more that they would like to see than for Hizbollah to be defeated, and Iran to be taken down a peg in the Middle Eastern arena.
So we have come to a fulcrum in the Middle East. Just as the Lebanon conflict has eclipsed that in Gaza, so from here on out the Palestinian conflict will be seen as a subsidiary battle in the ongoing struggle with Iran.

No moral equivalence

There is no moral equivalence between the terrorist organization Hizbollah and the democratic state of Israel. Hizbollah deliberately started this crisis by attacking across the international border, killing 8 IDF soldiers and kidnapping two. Hizbollah hides in civilian areas and deliberately and randomly targets Israeli civilians with rockets. By contrast, the IAF uses accurate missiles and rockets to hit specific targets and tries to avoid civilian casualties. So far in 12 days of hostilities there have been according to Lebanese source ca. 400 civilians killed, which is a small number given that the IAF has flown thousands of sorties!! More than that are killed in an average day in Iraq! If the IAF did not take care to avoid civilain casualties there would by now be thousands of Lebanese dead. Also, how many of the "civilians" are Hizbollah fighters? Noone knows.
It is true that the destruction of south Beirut looks awful, but that is because it is Hizbollah's center, that is where they have their headquarters and that is where they live. Under the rubble are many interconnected concrete bunkers where the attacks have been planned and where even now Nasrullah and his clique may be hiding. They own numerous buildings there and Iran has spent ca. m$100 per year on Hizbollah, and part of it has been spent to make this Shia neighborhood their own. It was totally cut-off form the rest of Lebanon by Hizbollah check points. Israel must show Hizbollah that it will pay a "terrible price" for its aggression.
It is totally inappropriate for the UN Humanitarian spokesman Jan Egeland to walk down the center of this destroyed area and say that there has been a "violation of humanitarian law" there. It is about as accurate as the comments that were made about a "massacre" in Jenin judging from the local destruction of war there, they were wrong! Another egregrious statement was from the British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells, who mis-spoke yesterday when he left Beirut and said that the IAF strikes were not "surgical enough." Today in Israel visiting the injured in hospital in Haifa he has backtracked a bit, he agreed that destruction and killing on both sides should stop, and he agreed that Israel has a right to defend itself.
How is it that these and other well-meaning people have such little concept of the real situation, yet can go shooting their mouths off as if they were experts and give Israel advice on the "proportionality" of the response. It is necessary for the IDF to destroy as far as possible Hizbollah's infrastructure, and since Hizbollah has been using Lebanon as a parasite, that means destroying some of Lebanon's infrastructure. This includes roads that could be used to re-supply Hizbollah (from Syria), bridges to reduce their ability to bring up reserves and rockets, and telecommunications, so that they can't give orders by cell phone and TV. These things are elementary, yet shallow politicians seem not to realize these facts, and go around bemoaning the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure as if Israel is a wilful child (as one of them said) and doesn't have a professional airforce in which every target is chosen in advance and is confirmed before being hit.
Even then mistakes happen under pressure. Cars that are seen behaving suspiciously are often targeted. It is a mistake to drive rapidly away from an area where a rocket has just been fired (even if the occupants don't know that. Also, Hizbollah hides its rockets and equipment in schools, mosques and hospitals. And the local populations have received numerous warnings to move from the area in IAF pamphlets. If they have left it to the last moment that is their problem. Some of them are Hizbollah fighters finally deciding to leave with their families because they didn't realize the extent of destruction that the IAF would cause.
No one needs to have sympathy for those who have connived and actively supported Hizbollah as most southern Lebanese have done and as most still do. Noone needs to give Israel advice on how to defend itself. The people of Israel trusts the IDF to ensure that the right moral choices are made in this desperate war. When rockets are landing on our cities, 70 today on Haifa, with two killed and 30 injured, and ca. 200 rockets all over northern Israel, noone needs to tell us what is "proportionate." In most wars the winner inflicts a ratio of ca. 10:1 casualties on the loser, and that is precisly the current situation, Israel has ca. 40 dead and Lebanon/ Hizbollah 400. So be it!
Israel wants to see a stable and peaceful Lebanon. Only when Condoleeza Rice arrives here tomorrow and only when discussions have taken place that might result in the implementation of the provisions of UN SC 1559, and only when the IDF has completed enough destruction on Hizbollah so that it can no longer fire rockets into northern Israel, and only when a sufficiently "robust" force can be deployed in southern Lebanon to ensure the sovereignty of the Lebanese Government and the disarming of Hizbollah, can the area return to peace and tranquility.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The "Lethal Weapon" syndrome

What is it that allows sensitive young Jewish men to turn into killers, that enables them to jump into trenches and fight hand-to-hand with hardened fanatical Arab terrorists? It must be something, it doesn't happen without cause. Of course, the main thing is training in the IDF, but all the units involved in such fighting are elite paratrooper units that are volunteer only and are always oversubscribed.
I put this down to the so-called "Lethal Weapon" syndrome. Remember the character Mel Gibson played in that series of movies, especially the first one. The role of Sgt. Martin Riggs is someone who is barely stable, who is insane from the murder of his beloved wife, and who is practically suicidal, looking for a way to redeem himself from his mental anguish. That's the kind of attitude our troops must have in order to carry out this assignment. And young Jews can have this attitude because they know that in the past so many of our people have been killed, so many of our mothers and children have been massacred for no rational reason, its mad, but mad ideas can lead to many deaths, and the only way to stop the loss of our lives is to fight back savagely and even suicidally. If you don't fear death you can do it.
The Syrians know this syndrome first hand when the IDF attacked in 1973 and overcame their entrenched soldiers in bunkers on the Golan Heights that were thought to be impregnable. Even today when you visit that area you wonder in amazement at the courage of the Israelis who scaled those heights with Syrians firing machine guns down on them and managed, although with heavy losses, to take the bunkers. Another example was the Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem in 1967, where the Jordanian Legion, was entrenched in heavily defended bunkers and the IDF took them at point blank range. Today you can tour the site as a National Park and marvel at how it was possible, and Israel allowed the Jordanians to construct a memorial in East Jerusalem to the bravery of their men who defended this site. If history is any judge, the IDF will take all its targets in south Lebanon and will remove Hizbollah from its underground bunkers, hopefully never to return.
At present it is estimated that there are around 2,000 trained professional Hizbollah soldiers in the south. These are the ones putting up the resistance to the IDF and firing the missiles into Israel. They have another 20,000 men all over south Lebanon and south Beirut who could be called upon, but noone knows how many of these can or would respond. In total there are ca. 100,000 Shia Hizbollah volunteers in south Lebanon, although many of these would now be demoralized and unable to reach the front. They believe that this is a religious responsibility and they are in principle prepared to die for their cause. However, in practical terms the IDF is far more heavily armed and professionally trained. There have been calls by Shias in Beirut for the IDF to come and fight them rather than only dropping bombs on them. The current action in south Lebanon will no doubt cure them of their braggadocio.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Rice's "pudding"

US Secty. of State Rice has announced her much-anticipated trip to the Middle East with her first stop in Egypt on Sunday and then to Israel on Monday. She gave an excellent press conference on Friday and stated the position very clearly. There is no point in trying to force an immediate ceasefire if Hizbollah is left armed on the ground to start another round against Israel and holding Lebanon hostage whenever it chooses to do so. She called such a ceasefire, "a false promise" a return to the status quo ante. She said that there has to be an international force on the ground in S. Lebanon that must be "robust." But, what does that mean and what countries would be prepared to contribute to it? This will be discussed at a conference on the situation in Lebanon in Rome next week. What will be her recipe, what ingredients will go into her "melange" in order to go from intense fighting on the ground to a peaceful Israel and Lebanon with sovereignty extended to the southern border?
The current strong IDF ground "probes" are designed to destroy entrenched bunkers that cannot be destroyed from the air. In the past 10 years and particularly in the past 6 years since Israel withdrew totally from Lebanon, Hizbollah has constructed a maze of underground concrete bunkers, some containing rockets, beneath many Shi'ite villages in south Lebanon. These were constructed in most cases with the active and enthusiastic support of the Lebanese Shia inhabitants. It is perfectly acceptable under the Geneva Conventions for Israel to drop leaflets warning the inhabitants to leave, and then attacking these villages and destroying the bunkers and their contents. The IDF needs to do this in hand-to-hand fighting, although casualties might be high and it takes intense courage to do so. But, the IDF has done this kind of thing before, in 1956 when the Egyptians had a defensive line across northern Sinai, in 1967 in the Golan when the Syrians were well dug in, and in 1982 during the last Lebanon War. But this time the fortifications are much more extensive and improved, and there are fanatical Hizbollah fighters defending them.
Israel has no intention of staying in Lebanon and occupying its territory as it did in 1982. That lead to an 18 year occupation during which Hizbollah was formed and gained strength and the IDF lost a continuing hemorrhage of men. So another force must be found to occupy this territory that will be "robust" enough in its actions to prevent Hizbollah returning, and that will also ensure Lebanese sovereignty to the border. Some might marvel that Israel is intent on rescuing its neighbor from its predicament with Hizbollah, rather than trying to take its territory itself, but Israel has no territorial claim on Lebanon, quite the opposite.
Since the major part of the bombing of south Beirut and transportation and communication facilites has almost been completed in most of Lebanon, Israel is willing to allow humanitarian supplies in to reach the Lebanese population. Note also that most of the areas of Lebanon, including the Christian areas in the north, the Sunni areas in the center, and the Druse areas in the southeast are intact. A French shipment that arrived in Sidon today will be allowed to be offloaded, and in coordination with Israel, international relief agencies will be able to establish corridors to bring in other supplies. There will be no "drastic" humanitarian crisis in Lebanon as the professional humanitarian leaders have been prophesying. Also, the number of people killed, even if it is as reported ca. 360 in 10 days of fighting, is hardly more than the casualties in Iraq in one day, and it would be churlish in the extreme for the British to blame the Israelis for attacking Lebanon when their target is Hizbollah, when they are doing the same thing in Afghanistan, when their target is the Taliban.
So now we are waiting to see what Rice can pull off, will her recipe be a success or will her "pudding" collapse.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Dresden syndrome

Lebanon is a small, relatively impoverished country. Why on earth does a Lebanese organization need long range strategic Iranian Zalzal missiles with a range of 200 km? The only possible reason is as an extension of Iranian military capability to attack Israel, in case Iran is under attack from the US and/or Israel. That is the only reason one can fathom, otherwise Hizbollah has no reason to possess such expensive and deadly missiles. Given that Iran is not under attack, and that so far no Zalzal missiles have in fact been fired at Israeli targets south of Haifa, it seems that Iran, that reportedly maintains operational control of these missiles, has so far not given Hizbollah permission to fire them.
This is a good sign, it means that Syria and Iran, seeing that the IDF is actively engaged in a powerful and destructive attack against Hizbollah, with no interference from other countries, do not want to become the next brunt of the IAF. This is the so-called "Dresden syndrome," from when the western allies totally destroyed Dresden in eastern Germany in WWII as a warning to the approaching Soviets. While naieve western correspondents wander around south Beirut looking at the destruction wrought by IAF bombs and proclaiming their liberal angst at seeing such destruction in "civilian areas," they entirely miss the point. It is necessary for Israel to destroy south Beirut, the Shi'ite/Hizbollah power center, in order to send a strong message to Syria and Iran - this could be Damascus or Teheran! By this destruction the IAF is preventing all of us from becoming involved in a worse and more dangerous conflict. And Israel is saying to them "don't tread on me!" - in other words re-establishing its deterrent capability.
I think the US and Pres. Bush know this well and so are quite happy to stand by and see Israel destroy Hizbollah as a proxy of Iran, and Iran must be given this message. Now the Security Council will get back to considering Iran's nuclear capability, and hopefully they will pass a resolution bringing sanctions against Iran for its opposition to the will of the international community. But, before that they will endevor to construct a situation in Lebanon, which is purely a western construct, that excludes Hizbollah from its former power base in south Lebanon, and excludes both Syria and Iran from any interference in Lebanese matters. This must be seen to be a net loss to the Shi'ite radicals.
How this will actually be accomplished is not yet clear. Both PM Seniora of Lebanon and Walid Jumblatt leader of the Lebanese Druse have come out and accused Hizbollah of deliberately starting this crisis on behalf Iran. It may be that Lebanon will become the intermediary in transferring the two captured Israeli soldiers back to Israel, and once Israel has finished its operations clearing Hizbollah from south Lebanon an international force will be set up to guarantee their continued absence from there, according to UN SC resolution 1559, that may include France that has historic ties with Lebanon and wants to see it whole and independent. In this way the current moves at the UN, the upcoming visit of Secty. Rice and the eventual ground action by the IDF in South Lebanon may come together in an acceptable solution.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Getting out and going in

As we sit here in Netanya, until now in comparative safety, the northern part of our country is under siege. It is estimated that ca. 1,600 rockets have been fired into the area between the Lebanese border and the line from Haifa to Afula. Within that region live 1 million people. In the border cities, such as Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona, life has become impossible, and a large portion of the population has fled. One man was killed yesterday by a rocket in Nahariya. Also Haifa, where people were trying to continue on, now has been hit with so many salvos of rockets that life there has also come to a standstill. It is estimated that one third of the people in this area have evacuated, that's ca. 300,000 people, most of them moving south, to where we are and further south to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as tourists leaving Israel by air.
It's true that much of Beirut and Lebanon have been affected by Israel's air war against Hizbollah, and each of the major countries are evacuating their nationals from Beirut, mostly by ship from Beirut harbor. The total numbers are also large, supposedly 20,000 Brits (less than 1,000 have been evacuated so far), 25,000 Americans, 20,000 French, also Scandinavians, Irish, Spanish, Italian, etc. But, even though the images of war ships taking refugees out of Beirut Harbor to Cyprus are very photogenic, not a single word or report has been given of the far larger population movement of Israelis to the south away from the rocket bombardment of Hizbollah. It is quite demoralizing that one week after the war started the number of rockets landing in Israel has not decreased.
To illustrate the danger of these rockets, yesterday three hit Nazareth, an Israeli Arab town in central Galilee, and killed three people, two children in a direct hit and a man in a mall. Being Arabs they may not have thought that Hizbollah would target them, and they may have ignored Israeli Government warnings to shelter. This attack on the birthplace of Jesus may give Christians deeper insight into the murderous nature of Hizbollah and the randomness of their attacks on civilians.
Of course, the foreign nationals being evacuated from Beirut are angry at Israel for disturbing their lives or visits to Lebanon, and some say very nasty, such as that Israel has no reason to be striking Lebanon and deliberately killing innocent civilains, that no one can control Israel its a murderous country on the loose, and of course that Israel started this for no reason and can't be stopped, etc. etc. But, these people not only have not been exposed to a free or balanced press in Lebanon, but they are giving the opinions of Hizbollah, that is a violent anti-Western terrorist organization. They completely ignore the attack by Hizbollah into Israel that started this, and they ignore the 1,600 rockets that have been fired into northern Israel, and the stopping of life throughout the region, including businesses, etc. If they knew that there were more refugees like them flooding into southern Israel, they might have more sympathy for our plight. Also, reporters in Lebanon pointing to bombed buildings say things like "these were civilian apartments, etc." without any possible knowledge of rockets that might have been stored there or telecommunications centers, etc.
And those calling for an immediate ceasefire are not living in the real world. AS PM Blair sadi int eh Commons, how can you get a terrorist organization to agree to and adhere to a ceasefire. Would al Qaeda give the US a ceasefire, would the insurgents in Iraq, the idea is ridiculous? The only way to deal with such an organization is to defeat it. This is one of the aims of the IDF, otherwise after the fighting stops Hizbollah will go right back to being a violent and active terrorist organization. The IDF must "neutralize" Hizbollah in order to prevent a recurrence of this situation where Israel's north is hostage to rockets and life cannot go on as usual.
While the fighting is going on in the north and the south, yesterday there was a major terrorist alert in central Israel that caused huge traffic jams. Eventually a Palestinian terrorist was captured on a building site in Hod Hasharon, in central Israel.
Also, today the IDF announced that it has been engaged in intense localized ground warfare against Hizbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon. Two IDF soldiers were killed and some were injured. In order to ensure that Hizbollah is removed from southern Lebanon in the final analysis ground action is necessary. Thank God for our brave troops who go into Gaza and Lebanon under these circumstances.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

In every decade

What do the following years have in common, 1929, 1936, 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 1993, 2000 and 2006? They were all years in which there were major outbreaks of Arab-Jewish/Israel violence. At least one in every decade for 90 years! In 1929 there were Arab massacres of Jews in Jerusalem and Hebron, in 1936 was the so-called "Arab uprising" that was put down by the British. In 1948 was the Israel War of Independence, in 1956 the Sinai Campaign, in 1967 the Six Day's War, in 1973 the Yom Kippur War, in 1982 the Lebanon War, in 1993 the first intifada, in 2000 the second intifada, and now in 2006 we have the Hamas-Hizbollah war. How many of these were started by the Jews/Israel? The answer is nil, in every case the aggressor was the Arab side, but also in every case the Jews/Israel were the eventual winners. You would think that they would learn a lesson from this, but apparently not.
But, there are two major differences over time. After 1973 the major Arab States did not participate. In other words, in 33 years no major Arab country has been at war with Israel. Since the 1990s until the present, the main protagonists were the Palestinians themselves. For the first time this year, the war is a proxy war in which Hamas and Hizbollah are agents of outside forces, mainly the Shi'ite fundamentalist regime in Iran and their proxy, Syria. It has been said that Iran gave the orders to initiate these hostilities, and that Syria would fight to the last Lebanese and Iran to the last Lebanese and the last Syrian. That is a major reason there is a difference in support this time swinging away from the Arab side and towards Israel.
Although Hamas is a Sunni Muslim organization, it is a terrorist and fundamentalist one, and is funded and supported, although not totally controlled by, Iran. Nevertheless its leadership in Syria is more influential than that in Gaza. Hizbollah is an integral part of the Shia revolutionary movement. Its relationship to Lebanon as a state is secondary, its main allegiance has been to Iran. The Lebanese Government did not implement UN SC resolution 1559 calling for Hizbollah's disarming, because it was unable to. Hizbollah justifies its existence as a "resistance" organization, meaning resistance to the existence of Israel.
Now there will be two strains of thought in Lebanon, those who will blame Hizbollah for starting this crisis by its attack on Israel and for acting as a surrogate for Iran and Syria, and those who will look at the damage done to Lebanon, including its infrastructure by the IDF, and blame Israel. Given the absence of the usual widespread demonstrations in the Arab world, including Lebanon, it seems that very few Arabs are prepared to come out publicly and support Hizbollah. While they don't like Israel and talk about "civilian casualties" a lot, they don't do so with much conviction. So far there are supposed to be ca. 200 civilian casualties in Lebanon, not a lot given the degree of phsyical destruction. But, since Hizbollah fighters don't wear uniforms they are usually counted as civilians. I challenge any media organization to confidently say how many of the so-called civilian casualties are in fact innocent civilians and how many are Hizbollah combatants. Probably a minority I would guess, and my guess is as good as theirs.
Since this is a war by proxy and Hizbollah has few natural allies, not the Lebanese patriots (Christians, Sunnis and Druse) who are not being targeted by Israel, nor the Sunni Arab regimes (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, etc.) and not the western countries (which they regard as their enemies), that leaves Israel with an advantage to carry out its war of destruction against them without fear of intervention. The only possible allies of Hizbollah, Syria and Iran will not likely intervene on their side, since to do so would invite military reaction not only from Israel, but also from the US. In a sense Israel is acting as a proxy of the US, giving Iran an indirect black eye for its chutzpah.
If the Iranians give Hizbollah the order to fire long-range strategic missiles on central Israel then the conflict would escalate. But, failing that, Israel will get its week or more to continue the process of destroying Hizbollah, and it may be that after that there will be no other proxies of any significance that will readily come forward to challenge Israel.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Skies and lies

There are certain assumptions built into the current situation that we take for granted. One of the most significant is the Israeli control of the skies. Since about 1956 the IDF has had total control of the skies in this region, and this has been the absolute prerequisite for IDF victories and for the safety of the State of Israel. Although suicide bombers and rockets kill people, they are no danger to the existence of the State.
In 1956, three British RAF jet fighters were sent over Sinai as a warning to Israel not to attack Egyptian positions. The fledgling IAF shot them down. Such was the shock of this happening that the RAF never came back. In 1967, the whole war was predicated on IAF superiority and it lasted only 6 days because the Arab States had to be rescued from absolute annihilation.
In 1973, the Egyptians shocked the IAF by using a missile shield supplied by the Russians that projected into Sinai. But, once the Egyptian forces in an excess of confidence ventured beyond their missile shield the IAF regained control. In 1982, it was said that the Syrian pilots were the bravest in the world because they knew as soon as they engaged the IAF they were doomed. In that war, Syria lost 82 planes to 1 of Israel. Now in the war against Hizbollah, IAF absolute superiority ensures that they can run sorties all day and all night without fear of retaliation. And this means that a ground incursion into Lebanon, with IEDs ("informal explosive devices", as in Iraq) and ambushes along the roads is avoided, thus greatly reducing IDF casualties.
Unfortunately in Nablus in the West Bank last night an Israeli patrol that had arrested some terrorists was attacked with an explosive device and one soldier was killed. A crowd of Palestinians gathered around his mutilated body and held a celebration and handed out sweets, and there was a spontaneous demonstration in favor of Hizbollah. The patrol was looking for a specific suicide bomber, and one was found in the center of Jerusalem with a 5 kg bomb in his bag. Luckily he was found before he exploded himself.
Another assumption we make is that Iran and Syria are behind this current war. This seems obvious to us, yet on TV I saw the Syrian Government spokesman, Dr,. Bashaan, emphatically deny to an interviewer that Syria supplies weapons or missiles to Hizbollah and state that this is an "old story" and a fabrication of Israeli intelligence. So explain how Hizbollah came to hold 10,000 missiles, all of which have been manufactured in Syria or Iran. Explain how pictures have been taken of missiles being off-loaded at Beirut airport from regular Hizbollah flights? Explain how long-range missiles (not easily hidden) have been seen being transported along the Damscus-Beirut highway? Explain how Syrian and Iranian missiles are raining down on Israeli cities? These were no doubt supposed to have been used if Iran was ever attacked by the US or Israel over its nuclear bomb making facilities. With such pathetic lies, when even the Lebanese Government agrees that Syria has been supplying arms to Hizbollah, there is no dealing with them.
Apparently the whole Sunni Arab world knows that Iran is behind this outbreak and resents them manipulating the situation and triggering a war in their own backyard. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are spearheading a campaign to criticize Hizbollah, and indirectly Syria and Iran for their "adventurism." Remember that Damascus and Cairo have historically been the leaders of competing camps in the Arab world. Some editorials in Government controlled newspapers in Arab countries could almost have been written in Israel. There has been no spontaneous Arab street support for Hizbollah throughout the Arab world, except in the PA territories. Especially in Lebanon, now that Hizbollah is on the ropes, Lebanese Christians and others are beginning to criticize Hizbollah. The Shi' ite area of south Beirut, Dahiya, where Hizbollah had its HQ, was a virtual city within a city, and in order to enter it people had to pass through Hizbollah checkpoints. Now the IAF have reduced the area to a ruin and the unification of Lebanon is now more possible than ever before. Israel did the same for Lebanon in 1982 by forcing out the PLO that had controlled their own state-within-a-state in the south and now they have done it again with Hizbollah. The Lebanese may eventually show their gratitude for this, but don't count on it.

Going my way

The unanimous statement on the Middle East crisis issued by the participants at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg is distinctly favorable to Israel. This was undoubtedly due to the influence of Pres. Bush and PM Blair, deflecting the prior harsh criticism of Israel from France and Russia.
The blame for the current crisis is squarely placed upon those responsible, namely Hamas in Gaza and Hizbollah in Lebanon. The statement refers to the need to implement UN SC resolution 1559 of 2004 that calls for the disarming of Hizbollah and the deployment of the Lebanese Army to the Israel border. Of course, the statement also calls for a ceasefire and for the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian politicians (not in the same category) and calls on both sides to avoid civilian casualties. But, no deadline for the ceasefire is even suggested. One notable point missing is any criticism of Syria and Iran that was ommited due to Russian influence.
This is an unusual situation where Israel is on the side of the good for a change. Instead of being forced to accept an imposed ceasefire in record time, Israel is in effect being given time to diminish Hizbollah, and then is also asking for SC1559 to be implemented. Blair and UN Secty. Gen Kofi Annan have called for an international force to be stationed in South Lebanon. Israel is not happy about such forces, since in the past the UN force that was deployed there essentially did nothing, except help Hizbollah. The last time when there was a kidnapping of Israeli soldiers it turned out that Hizbollah had used a UN truck to trick them, that they had "hired" from the UN forces. However, if the intl. force is temporary, and will be trailblazers for the Lebanese Army to take over, then Israel might agree.
The headline in the Jerusalem Post this morning is that the "IDF wants another week to smash Hizbollah." In the past 5 days of fighting it has estimated that it has been diminshed by 25%, enough to cause serious damage, but estimates from IDF sources are that in another few days this will be down to ca. 50% and beyond that Hizbollah will be severely impaired. It is very important that Israel discovers and destroys the secret caches of Iranian and Syrian long range missiles that Hizbollah possesses (thought to number in the hundreds) before they can fire them.
So far the furthest south that the 1,000 or so rockets fired on Israel have reached is Afula, ca. 40 km (25 ml) from the Lebanese border. If the range extends to Tel Aviv or equivalent (say 80 km or 50 ml) then Israel would consider that another escalation and would inflict more damage on Hizbollah, including a possible ground operation. Individual IDF commando units are also operating in Lebanese territory, and certain villages, from which extensive rocket activity has been detected are being destroyed after the civilians have been told to leave. The IDF is trying to make sure that conditions are such that Hizbollah can never return to the south, and in fact Blair has suggested that the area up to the Litani River in Lebanon (ca. 50 km) should be a restricted area for them.
The UN fact finding team was in Beirut yesterday and expressed its sympathy with the Lebanese people, but I don't expect they will do the same when they arrive in Israel soon. Nevertheless, they will be received in a friendly manner by Israeli FM Tzipi Livni and then they will return to NY to report back to the Secty. Gen. and he will report to the Security Council. All nice time wasting measures, before the Security Council, the same people who met in St. Petersburg, take up the case to discuss again. The difference is that an SC resolution is supposed to be binding under international law. By then I suspect that Sheikh Nasrallah, even though he is currently basking in the glow of being the first Arab leader who was able to inflict severe damage in the Israeli homeland, will be regretting that on behalf of Iran he initiated this hostile action.
The Iranian FM met in Damascus with the Syrian leader, Bashar Assad, and they issued a statement that there could be a ceasefire in Lebanon (now that Iran has achieved its aim of distracting the G8 from criticizing its nuclear program, and Hizbollah is practically decimated). Tonight PM Olmert addressed the Knesset and the nation and set out his conditions for a ceasefire, the 3 soldier hostages must be returned, Hizbollah must be disarmed and will not be tolerated near the Israel border. Now that the idea of a ceasefire has been broached, intermediaries (such as the Lebanese Government, Britain, France, the UN) could handle the exhanges of soldiers and Secty. of State Rice will visit soon. So the end game is gradually appearing thru the fog of war. However, latest reports of a long range (200 km) having been fired from Lebanon may delay any such outcome.

The deterrent effect

It used to be that the IDF was considered to be a very powerful army and that it was a definite deterrence against Arab attacks. Some of its outstanding military operations were the destruction of the Egyptian air force in one day at the start of the 1967 war, the surrounding of the Egyptian forces in 1956 outside Ashkelon (Faluja) and their forced withdrawal, and the battle of the Chinese Farm in Sinai in 1973 that lead to the IDF occupation of part of western Egypt across the canal. But, these were large military confrontations, all of which the IDF won.
Now in the era of terrorism things are different. A large defensive army is vulnerable to mosquito bites, but mosquito bites (as I can attest) can be very painful. The Iranian-backed strategy of Hizbollah and Hamas is to inflict challenges to the IDF by calculated attacks on small units, taking soldiers hostage, and firing rockets into Israel. For this purpose Iran has equipped Hizbollah with long-range rockets, and one that hit Haifa today killed 8 people. Haifa is the third largest Israeli city, it has a population of 250,000 and houses many strategic facilities, including the port and oil refineries. This represents a major escalation of the war as far as Israel is concerned.
The IDF was unable to withstand minor attacks on two fronts, when both could have been anticipated (especially after the threats of Ahmedinejad and Nasrallah) and were unable to prevent the taking of soldiers hostage. Despite the latest anti-missile technology on the Israeli naval vessel outside Beirut, it was turned off and it was completely unprepared for a missile attack! (this should result in a court martial). The IDF moved Patriot anti-missile missiles up to Haifa yesterday to protect it, but there were no alarms and no anti-missiles were fired!
All of the actions so far represent successes for Hizbollah and Iran. In effect, the deterrent capability of the IDF has been put into question. The terrorists have developed a successsful strategy and the IDF, however much it pounds southern Beirut (the Shi'ite area) has been inadequate to stop it. The rockets are still raining in from south Lebanon and northern Gaza. In all these cases the IDF has been far below its expected high level of capability.
We can agree that no-one is perfect, and that generally the IDF does an excellent job, but these events have impaired the IDF's deterrence and have damaged the psychological underpinning of Israeli society, that depends on the deterrence of the IDF as the major basis for the future of the State. Now that 450 katyusha missiles have hit northern Israel in the past few days, and that 8 people have been killed in Haifa by long range missiles, the Israeli population and the world are waiting to see how the IDF and the Israel Government responds to this terrible challenge to our credibility and our existence. By following the trajectories of rockets it is possible to find the source from where they are fired and fire back at the target. The Arab world must see that the IDF is capable of carrying out its task of destroying Hizbollah and stopping the rockets. If Hizbollah now fires even longer range rockets that they have to hit Netanya, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and BG Airport then all bets are off.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Iran's adventurism

It used to be said that the Jews were like the "canary" in the mine, if they were extinguished nothing could live. Now Israel is the "canary" in the world's mine. If the world and the Security Council or the G8 enforce a ceasefire on Israel because of spurious PR concepts such as "spiralling violence," "disproportionate force," "collective punishment," (never heard in relation to any other conflict in the world!) before they destroy Hizbollah then they will once again be rewarding the Islamist terrorists, allowing them to escape the consequences of their actions, and in future it will be the world's democracies which will suffer the consequences.
Each time that the Palestinians, now under Hamas, and Hizbollah unleash an attack against Israel, and in any country these attacks would be considered acts of war, the international community, influenced by the Arab bloc, has stepped in, demanded a ceasefire and the situation has been frozen in place, ready for the next outbreak. But there are some differences this time. The attacks were so blatant and clear-cut, especially since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year and from Lebanon six years ago, and the taking of soldier hostages makes this a continuing crisis. Also, the similarities of the tactics adopted by H & H point to their coordination. This time the UN Security Council has passed the issue onto the G8 meeting in St. Petersburg, and you can be sure there will be much discussion to come up with a joint statement from both the US/UK and Russia, France and the EU. The longer the delay the better it is for Israel.
In this situation, Hamas is not merely a Palestinian actor and Hizbollah is not merely a Lebanese actor, but they are really extensions of Iranian policy, relayed through Syria. In Damascus the representatives of Hamas, Hizbollah and other terrorist groups meet and conduct discussions all the time with the representatives of the security services of Syria and Iran. So Hizbollah is a regional actor of Islamist extremism, and the current situation has been initiated and planned from Teheran and Damascus. It has almost nothing to do with the Government of Lebanon or PA Fatah President Abbas.
One of the consequences of this is that apart from the standard criticism of Israel, a bloc of Arab countries have come out and openly criticized Hizbollah at the Arab League meeting that is taking place in Cairo. They are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrein, the UAE and the PA (Abbas), half of the 18 representatives present. Their position is that Hizbollah has caused the current situation in Lebanon by reckless military acts. This as an implied criticism of Iran, that they see as an irredentist Shi'ite player trying to take over parts of the Sunni Arab world by using the Palestine conflict. The supporters of H & H are mainly Syria and Iran, and the Shi'ite population in south Lebanon. This split, although limited, is a good sign for the West and for Israel.
The Shi'ites constitute 40% of the Lebanese population and have about 20% of the representatives in the Lebanese Parliament, with two Hizbollah members in the Lebanese Government. Although it might seem possible for the Lebanese Government to insist that Hizbollah disarm - as ALL other militias did years ago, this entrenchment of Hizbollah in the organs of power largely prevent the Lebanese Government from acting. They fear the outbreak of another civil war (the other 60% are not unified), and the Lebanese Army is no match for Hizbollah. Also, Hizbollah justifies itself by saying that it is focussed on fighting Israel. So it is somewhat schizophrenic, either it exists to fight Israel or it exists to be a part of the Lebanese political system. In the final analysis it can't have it both ways.
But, if the IDF is able to decimate Hizbollah's military capability, then it might make it possible for Pres. Seniora, as he hinted in his interview the other day, to extend the Lebanese Army down to the Israel border. However, this might not solve the problem, since the Lebanese Army has been complicit with Hizbollah in fighting the IDF (they have been passing information to Hizbollah for years). However, if in an optimistic analysis, Hizbollah can be disarmed as part of a ceasefire agreement, that might finally resolve the problem. The chances of this happening are very small to nil.
Iran has achieved one of its main goals with the H & H actions, they have taken attention away from the Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear arms and from the EU-US offer/ ultimatum that had a flexible time limit. After the G8 meeting that is considering this, Iran may call Hizbollah off, since their proxy has suffered a lot of damage at their behest. But, now having the bit between the teeth, having inflicted more damage on Israel with their katyusha rockets than ever before. Hizbollah might want to see this through to the bitter end. Let's hope the IDF has enough time to decimate Hizbollah capabilites.
They have destroyed the major Hizbollah facilties in Beirut, but the leadership has gone underground, and could escape bombing. So the IDF might launch a ground attack, but that is tricky, dangerous and might also not succeed. It is only a question if the IDF can inflict enough damage and can get the international community, with US/UK leadership, to take the bull by the horns and deal a significant blow to Hizbollah either by forcing it to disarm and/or to move further north. Otherwise these crises are going to erupt periodically and the Islamist/Jihadist axis is going to gain strength from its military adventurism, and this would be a threat to all.
The main criticismof Israel is the loss of "civilian lives" in Lebanon. But, remember that Hizbollah is not a regular army with uniforms. They blend in with the population, and when they are killed they are usually counted as civilians, if you look at the figures there are none for "combatants." Then again Hizbollah hides among the supportive Shi'ite population of south Beirut and south Lebanon. Israel has dropped fliers warning the popualtion to leave their houses and go north. In the wake of the rocket attacks on northern Israel and Haifa the IDF will now commence a wide-spread intense bombing/strafing campaign in south Lebanon in order to destroy the capability of Hizbollah.
Only then should the US at the G8 introduce a ceasefire proposal according to UN SC resolution 1559 of 2000, under which the Lebanese Army will be deployed down to the Israel border, Hizbollah will be removed from the border region and will be disarmed. Until Israel can get these conditions implemented the IDF will continue its military campaign within Lebanon.

Human origins

I have just read a fascinating book entitled, "The seven daughters of Eve," by Bryan Sykes. This title is deceptively simple, it might alternatively have been entitled "Human population genetics by analysis of mitochondrial DNA." While this wouldn't have sold so many copies it would have been more accurate. Nevertheless the book is written in a very easy flowing style and is very explanatory and comprehensible.
Bryan Sykes is a Professor at Oxford University's Insitute of Population Genetics and has pioneered the use of mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) as a means to follow human evolution.
This has enabled him to answer important and interesting questions such as how the Polynesians populated the Pacific Islands (did they come from Asia or from the Americas), were the bones discovered in a shallow grave near Ekaterinborg, Russia, those of the Romanovs and was Anastasia one of them, did homo sapiens displace earlier forms of humans (Neanderthals) or did they interbreed with them, and can one trace the lineages of Europeans, and by extension all the world's populations, back to specific individuals.
First, in order to answer these questions we must understand what is mitochondrial DNA. Each cell of our body has within it many organelles, most significant of which are the mitochondria. These are the bodies responsible for respiration, the conversion of dissolved oxygen supplied by the blood into biochemical energy (ATP). Without mitochondria life itself would be almost impossible. These structures are not inherited via the usual mechanism of DNA recombination from sperm and ova that takes place in the fertilized egg. On the contrary they are inherited only from the mother in the cytoplasm that accompanies the egg.
Almost everybody knows that DNA is "deoxyribonucleic acid" and is the genetic substance, but the salient point about DNA is that it is found in the cell nucleus and it divides whenever a cell divides and then is reproduced to give two daughter cells, or it is carried by the sperm to the ovum where their respective DNAs combine. But, years ago a strange discovery was made, namely that mitochondria contain DNA of their own. This is a small relatively obscure packet that is responsible only for the reproduction of the mitochondria themselves. Since it is a small circular piece of double-stranded DNA it is though that it might have derived from a microorganism that has taken up permanent symbiotic residence in our cells.
Checking this small piece of DNA is a lot easier than the cellular DNA, and since it derives only from the maternal line, one can make conclusions about heredity. If two women or a woman and a man have identical sequences in their mDNA then they have the same mother, as simple as that. Since mutations occur in DNA (the exchangeof one base for another among the four A, T, C and G) over time (by chemical and other effects) so one can "measure" the time from one person to another by the number of mutations in their DNA. Thus the mDNA of a skeleton that is dug up can be compared to a contemporary human being, and the difference in their sequences can tell how old the skeleton is.
Because of lack of space, I will briefly answer the questions posed above: 1. The mDNA results conclusively prove that Polynesians came from SE Asia (Taiwan) and not from the Americas (as Thor Heyerdahl tried to prove with his Kon-Tiki expedition). 2. The skeletons found in a shallow grave near Ekaterinbourg were in fact the Romanovs, by comparison of their mDNA with that of living relatives, and Anastasia was not one of them! 3. Homo sapiens (also known as Cro-Magnon man in Europe) gradually replaced Neanderthals and other primitive men, there is no evidence of any inter-mixing. 4. By comparisons of sequences, Sykes was able to show that there are 7 common mDNA sequences in Europe that relate to 7 clan mothers. This shows that there is an undisturbed connection between ancient (65-17,000 years ago) and modern humans.
However, the distribution of these 7 founder sequences (a similar analysis can be done with male Y chromosome DNA) shows that there is no such thing as a "pure" race in Europe. By comparing to the whole world (not a complete analysis yet) it is possible to conclude that individuals moved across continents and huge distances and left their genetic mark in far places. One deduction from the results is that farming was intoduced gradually into Europe from the Middle East, and the indiginous hunter gatherers were not replaced but adapted to farming. The power of genetics!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Defensive war

So far what is the toll of the war situations resulting from the naked acts of aggression by Hamas in the south and Hizbollah in the north against Israel? Note that Israel had withdrawn totally from Lebanon 6 years ago and from Gaza 1 year ago, indicating that what Israel does makes no difference at all, their hostility is based on hatred and ideology. In the first attack on June 25 at Kerem Shalom 2 IDF soldiers were killed and one, Cpl. Shalit, was captured. At the present time Israel has withdrawn the IDF from northern and central Gaza, only a small detachment is still in the south in relation to the captured soldier.
At the first attack on July 12 near the Lebanese border 4 IDF soldiers were killed and two, Stf. Sgts. Ohad Goldwasser and Elad Regev, were captured. Also, 3 soldiers were killed in a tank by a roadside explosive and one more was shot in an ambush as he went to their aid. That made a total of 8 IDF soldiers killed. Last night it was announced that an Israeli gunboat off the coast of Lebanon was hit by an Iranian missile and 4 sailors are missing and severe damage was caused, so that the boat was towed back to Haifa. (In a good example of "collateral damage" another missile hit a civilian Egyptian boat and caused death and destruction). Thus, so far Israel has lost a total of 14 men and 3 captured. Usually the enemies lose most of their men after the initial attacks, so it seems that Israeli soldiers must first shed blood in unpredictable yet anticipated attacks, before Israel is able to defend itself.
In the barrage of rockets on the north of Israel so far 7 people have been killed and ca. 50 wounded. American and Argentinean women immigrants were killed in Nahariya, a man was killed in Zefat and yesterday a grandmother and 5 year old child were killed in Central Galilee. About 100 rockets fell on northern Israel in one day, and it is expected to get worse. Life there has come to a complete standstill, with people living in shelters or safe rooms (built for the Gulf War) or escaping to the south.
In Lebanon it is reported that 82 civilians have been killed, but I challenge any of those journalists who report this to prove their information. Since the Hizbollah fighters don't wear any specific recognizable uniform, they are usually classified as civilians rather than combatants, and in fact no combatant deaths have been reported. According to IDF claims the majority of those killed are combatants.
Note the pattern of IDF attacks against Lebanon, mainly against transportation (airport, bridges, roads), to prevent the kidnapped soldiers being removed (to Syria or Iran) and reinforcements and weapons for Hizbollah coming in. Also, the southern suburbs of Beirut are being hit, where Hizbollah has its center in the Shi'ite area. Even there the IAF dropped notes warning civilians to stay away from Hizbollah facilities. One disturbing development is that Hizbollah to gain length in the trajectory is firing its rockets from apartment buildings, either with or without the agreement of the tentants. Of course, when these are detected before being fired they are hit by IAF missiles.
The IDF has specifically avoided hitting Christian, Sunni Muslim and Druse areas, and also Lebanese Government buildings, even though Hizbollah is part of the Government. This is opposite to the case of Gaza, where last night the IAF hit the Ministry of Economics because there Hamas is the Government. The IDF have also avoided Lebanese Army installations. As the Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman said in his speech to the Security Council last night, Israeli counter-attacks are focussed on Hizbollah targets - there is no such thing as "indisciminate bombing" and "disproportionate force" as claimed by several European leaders, including Pres. Chirac of France.
The HQ of Hizbollah in south Beirut was hit and destroyed, but unfortunately Sheikh Nasrallah was not killed. He issued a blood-curdling speech on al Manar TV threatening Israel with "open war." Things are likely to get worse before they get better. Hizbollah has prepared for 4 years for this attack, so what else do they have up their sleeve? Whatever happens we must remember that for Israel this is a defensive war against an Iranian-controlled fanatical Shi'ite terrorist militia.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fighting Hizbollah

Fighting Hamas and Hizbollah is not like fighting a regular army. Although Hamas gives the appearance of a disciplined organization, its military wing, Iszzadin al Kassem (named after an early Islamic Palestinian nationalist) is really made up of a series of terrorist cells that hardly cohere. But, Hamas was persuaded to adopt the tactics of Hizbollah, namely relying on rockets and hit and run tactics, and so their attack on Kerem Shalom was very successful, and they achieved their aim of killing IDF soldiers and capturing one. But, Hamas is bottled up in Gaza, where they are vulnerable to the IDF.
Hizbollah is a much more military-like organization, larger and with more armaments. Also in parades through the streets of Beirut they look much more disciplined and professional. On several occasions they have managed to carry out well organized attacks on the IDF and have killed and captured IDF soldiers. However, they are far from the capability of a proper well organized army such as the IDF.
The problem the IDF faces in fighting Hizbollah is exemplified by previous attempts, such as 1982, when as the IDF advances from the south of Lebanon, Hizbollah melts away before them, like a classical guerilla army. Then when the IDF withdraws, as it finally must, they simply return and retake their positions. In order to defeat them, the IDF must first enter central Lebanon south of Beirut, cut-off their escape routes (remember that Lebanon is very mountainous), and then catch them between the two arms of the pincers. But, this requires the IDF to be inserted across central Lebanon prior to or coincident with a push from the south, and this is very difficult to do, since the international community will shout about "disproportionate force" and "civilian casualties" etc. Yet I fear that unless the IDF uses these tactics, Hizbollah will merely fade away, only to return again in force again as soon as the pressure is off. This is why it is necessary as a secondary menas for the IAF to hit these routes in central Lebanon to try to bottle up the Hizbollah operatives before they can escape. In an irony, the more the Hizbollah thinks of itself as a regular army and the more it tries to confront the IDF, the more likely it is to be defeated.
Why doesn't the Lebanese Government take over control of south Lebanon from Hizbollah? If they mustered the public support to remove Syria from Lebanon as they did in 2005, you'd think they could do that too. But, its no so simple. First of all the Lebanese Army is very weak, and is no match for a dedicated force like Hizbollah. Second, the Lebanese Army has soldiers from all of the many ethnic groups in Lebanon and the Government can't afford to have it split if some of them refused to obey orders to fight Hizbollah. Finally, the power of Hizbollah comes from the Shia areas of south Beirut and south Lebanon, where the Government's control is marginal at best.
Nevertheless, the UN SC resolution 1559, that called for the withdrawal of all Syrian forces from Lebanon, also equally required the Lebanese Government to extend its control to the Israeli border, and this they have not done. The UN also ratified the Israel-Lebanon border, and certified that Israel had withdrawn from ALL Lebanese territory. But, to give Hizbollah an excuse to continue attacking Israel for its "occupation" Syria transferred sovereignty of the Shebaa Farms region on the border between Israel, Lebanon and Syria to Lebanon. Now this was such a transparent trick, that even the UN refused to accept it, and according to international law the Shebaa Farms region (a very small area) still remains part of Syria.
Whether or not the IDF will have enough time to achieve its objectives in Lebanon before a Security Council resolution imposes a ceasefire is uncertain. This time, as opposed to the past, the UN is in principle on Israel's side, and the blatant, deliberate and cynical act of aggression by Hizbollah is also more clear-cut than previously. So there has been a longer delay before the Security Council meets and they have approved an investigative committee sent by the Secty. General to visit the area and report back. This gives Israel valuable time, and as long as it can justify its attacks as being against Hizbollah targets it will not be censured. But, if the IDF can continue for longer, nevertheless, the tendency is to freeze the situation and then we are back to the status quo ante, where neither Lebanon (with international pressure) nor Israel have been able to disarm or defeat Hizbollah. No one gains from this except Iran and Syria.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Beirut airport and beyond

The attack by the IDF on the Beirut International airport was trumpeted in the media as the sign that Israel had (already) gone too far. After all, why should Israel punish Lebanon and destroy its newly rebuilt infrastructure just because of an attack on its soldiers miles away in the south. But, with the insoucience of ignorance none of the clever anchors or reporters seemed to know two things.
First, the airport is the hub whereby Syria tranships material and munitions from Iran to Hizbollah, and has been doing so for years. Every week a series of flights come into Beirut from Damascus carrying rockets and newly trained terrorists. What country, knowing that this is going on on its doorstep, and that it is a direct threat to the lives of its people and to its existence would sit by and do nothing - only Israel! Only Israel is intimidated by the vicious reaction of the media against any action that Israel takes, even in elementary self-defense. Hizbollah claims that it has 10,000 Katyushas (!), and today they hit Zefat (Safed) ca 12 km south of the border and Haifa ca. 30 km from the border - this is considered a major escalation. Today I saw a former Army Chief-of-staff interviewed on TV and he said that Israel should never have allowed this situation to develop, but he was CoS at the time and he did nothing!
Israel cannot tolerate such attacks, and this is presumably what Pres. Ahmedinejad has been warning when he announced that a "storm" would be inflicted on Israel. Already two Israelis have been killed and 120 wounded in a barrage of rockets on northern Israel, and up to 1 million people are now considered to be within range. In fact one theory as to why Hizbollah unleashed its attacks now (in the tourist season) is that Iran wanted to preempt the summit meeting of the "G8" leading countries that is due to take place in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
The second issue is the fate of the two kidnapped IDF soldiers, who are being held in Lebanon. There are credible reports that Hizbollah, that is funded and supported by Iran with Syrian involvement, wants to transfer the hostages to Iran. They no doubt feel that once there they will be beyond Israel's grasp, and an exchange can be dangled in front of Israel's eyes, as the soldiers are kept in custody and tortured. To prevent this happening Israel has put a blockade on Lebanon. So to those who think that Israel has "gone too far" as usual, think again.
Now that Israel has been forced into a two-front war by the deliberate aggression of the Islamist terrorist organizations Hamas and Hizbollah, the Israel Government must define its military and political aims. The military aims are fairly obvious, to release the kidnapped soldiers, and to stop the firing of Kassam and Katyusha rockets into Israeli territory.
The political aims are less clear-cut. One of them should be to eliminate Khaled Mashaal, who is the Hamas leader in Damascus responsible for the attacks in Gaza, and Sheikh Nasrallah, who is the mastermind behind the Hizbollah aggression. But, these actions must be delayed until the fate of our hostages is known, so that the terrorists holding them do not kill them in retaliation.
In more general terms, it should be Israel's aim to disarm Hizbollah and have the Lebanese Army take over responsibility for southern Lebanon and the border area, as envisaged in UN resolution SC1559 (it is unusual that in this situation Israel has the UN officially on its side. Ironically we might do for Lebanon what it cannot do for itself. If this is not accomplished we will be back again in Lebanon as we were 20 years ago.
Similarly we should aim to topple the terrorist Hamas Government of the PA. Have you noticed how Pres. Abbas and Fatah have been playing no role in the current crisis. Ironically, instead of Fatah eliminating Hamas as PM Rabin originally envisaged when he allowed Arafat to return from Tunis (one of the biggest mistakes Israel ever made), Fatah/Abbas are leaving it to the IDF to accomplish that goal. After we have done their dirty work maybe Fatah would then be ready to actually negotiate with us.
The defeat of Egypt and Jordan in several wars finally resulted in their negotiating peace treaties with Israel. Only once the Palestinians are forced to recognize that they cannot defeat the IDF and that they are much more likely to achieve their goals by peaceful means will there be a chance for a negotiated settlement. Until then it is the survival of the fittest.

Mumbai bombings

We should not be surprised that an extremist Islamic terrorist group struck at the rail infrastructure of Mumbai (Bombay) this week. First, the Muslims have a long-standing conflict with India over Kashmir (see below), second there have been many Islamic terrorist attacks in India, the worst being in 2001 when they attacked the Parliament building in New Delhi killing 18, and in 1993 a series of bombs in Mumbai killed over 250 people. Third the rail system is a "soft" target, in that it lacks any real security and is so overcrowded and any bomb would be sure to kill many people. The toll this time was 190 killed and 700 injured.
The suspected terrorist organization is Lakshar-e-Taiba that is active in Kashmir. However, a spokesman for LeT denied responsibility, calling the attacks "outrageous", and the Pakistan FM issued a statement calling the bombings "despicable acts of terrorism." The fact that there were 8 almost simultaneous bombings (one that did not go off) shows a degree of sophistication that we have come to associate with al Qaeda, but there is no basis for attributing the bombings to them as yet. But, it is a familiar pattern, after bombings in the London and Madrid rail networks. There was also a recent plot against the rail system between New Jersey and New York that was apparently prevented in its early stages by arrests in several countries, including Pakistan.
It must be remembered that India has in fact the third largest Muslim population in the world. After the exchange of populations with Pakistan, the Muslim population of India was still very large and is now ca. m120 people. Pakistan has ca. m150, and Indonesia is the largest at m180. It is not difficult to find a small number of dedicated terrorists in the Muslim population of India as well as Kashmir and Pakistan (although Pakistan claims that it now prevents infiltration into India).
Kashmir is perhaps the largest and most potentially dangerous territorial dispute in the world, since both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons.
The dispute came about because the British in 1947 left it up to the hereditary ruler in each state to choose which of the two countries he wanted to join, India or Pakistan. Although Kashmir is predominantly Muslim (90%), the Hindu Maharajah of Kashmir chose India. The Pakistan army invaded Kashmir in order to prevent it joining India. This lead to a war between Pakistan and India and they ended up with ca. one third and two-thirds of Kashmir territory respectively, divided by the so-called "line of control." There have been two further wars between them over Kashmir since then.
Even though relations between Pakistan under Pres. Musharraf and India have improved significantly in recent years, there is no doubt that one of the main aims of the Islamist extremists is to defeat India and force it to relinquish Kashmir. This India will never do, since for all Hindus (and many Muslims) Kashmir is an integral part of India and in addition India has a far larger and more effective military. However, the terrorists hope by creating friction between them to cause Inida and Pakistan to go to war again. This would be disastrous! The main hope is that Pakistan under Musharraf will be sufficiently anti-terrorist that these terrible acts will not exacerbate the situation between India and Pakistan.
I have always felt that India and Israel are natural allies, in that both have irredentist Muslim enemies. However, the so-called "third world" leadership that India strove for under the Congress Party leadership of Nehru (which was a way of preventing Muslim opposition to India) prevented that. Now that India and Israel have diplomatic relations and have openly expressed their common policies as two democracies under Islamic terrorist attack, there is some hope for increased cooperation.