Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Nasrullah's admissions

Sheikh Nasrullah, Head of Hizbollah, made some interesting and possibly far-reaching admissions in an interview he gave to a Lebanese journalist. He said:
1. He did not forsee the extent of Israeli military reaction to Hizbollah's killing of IDF soldiers and capturing of two hostages. He expected only a few days of Israeli artillery response as in previous such attacks.
2. If he had known the extent of the reaction he would not have given the orders for the cross-border attack.
3. Now he regrets having caused the war and the damage to Lebanese infrastructure that Israel exacted.
4. He will ensure that Hizbollah keeps the ceasefire and will not show guns openly in South Lebanon.
5. However, he retains the right to attack IDF troops if they remain in S. Lebanon.
6. But, he doesn't think there will be a "second round" of hostilities.
These admissions, if you believe him, that are in response to internal Lebanese criticism, tend to show that the claim that Hizbollah won a "holy victory" is so much bs (as everybody knows), and that the extent of damage that Hizbollah sustained was indeed large. Probably large enough to set them back at least a year or two in their plans. So that the war was a victory for Israel, but only just.
While the Israel Govt. did not attain its main goals of destroying Hizbollah, stopping the rocketing of N. Israel, and releasing the two kidnapped soldiers, these aims may yet be partially realized by the deployment of the international force UNIFIL2 and the Lebanese Army in S. Lebanon. Also by a possible prisoner exchange in the works, with Hizbollah releasing the 2 soldiers, Goldwasser and Regev, into the hands of a neutral third party (possibly the ICRC or German Govt.) and then Israel releasing Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners. Also, it is possible that in a pique of anti-Syrian feeling, the Lebanese Government might authorize the blockade of the Syrian border, mainly to thumb their noses at Syria. If these things come to pass as a result of the war and subsquent UN resolution 1701, then PM Olmert will declare a victory and will prevent a full Govt. Commission of enquiry into the shortcomings of the war. But, if he does that he will only further tarnish his image.
So much of what the Arabs do is faked, from the number of hostages claimed, to the media reports showing Mickey Mouse dolls in ruins that the Hizbollah media man carries around with him in a tote bag, to the reuse of dead bodies, to even the pretense of ambulance drivers being dead, etc. Now it has been revealed that the money being counted out to poor Shias who lost their houses, supposedly $12,000 each, was in fact counterfeit dollars. This was found by looking closely at photos of the dollar bills. It is well known that Hizbollah are one of the most accomplished counterfeiting organizations producing large quantities of US dollars in the world.
In a strangely similar move to Nasrallah's admissions, Ghazi Hamad, spokesman of the Hamas-controlled PA government, in an article described Gaza as "suffering under the yoke of anarchy and the swords of thugs." He wrote that following Israel's withdrawal and the initial positive expectations, "life became a nightmare and an intolerable burden," and "we should stop blaming Israel and fix our own screw-ups." It is noteworthy that during the fighting in Gaza in the past few weeks, since the killing of two IDF soldiers and the capture of one, 191 Palestinians, mainly terrorists, have been killed. Today three were killed by a missile fired from a drone while they stood armed on a Gaza street. Hamad admitted that the firing of Kasam rockets were not int eh Pal;estineians interest. So this has been a disaster for the PA, and hopefully they will get the message that the IDF will not stop its attacks until Gilad Shalit is released - Monday was his 20th birthday.
Meanwhile the release of the two Fox journalists with the support of Hamas PM Haniyeh, might be a harbinger for the release Shalit. If Hizbollah releases their prisoners, why would the Palestinians not release him too, indeed the two releases might be coordinated in order to obtain maximum PR value. The Palestinians do not want to be left out of the PR victory that Hizbollah will no doubt claim for the release of their prisoners. I know all this sounds too good to be true, but let's not always assume the worst, especially if Nasrullah and Hamad can be so uncharacteristically candid.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sex scandals

While reeling from the after-effects of the war, Israel has also been hit by a rash of political scandals, most of them related to sex. Within a very short time, both President Katsav and the Minister of Justice Haim Ramon have been the subject of criminal sex investigations and the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Tzahi Hanegbi, has been indicted for making illegal political appointments when he was the Environment Minister between 2001 and 2003.
In the case of Pres. Katsav, it is difficult to imagine such an apparently timid and proper person holding such a high office being improperly involved with a young woman on his staff. But, stranger things have happened. Katsav claims that the woamn has tried to blackmail him, and it was this development that lead him to report the situation to the Attorney General and that lead to the current situation. Katsav's office at the President's house in Jerusalem and his home have been raided by the police and computers and papers have been taken away. In the Knesset there have been calls, principally from several women legislators, for Katsav to resign. But, in a speech today Katsav rejected these calls and said that he will take no action pending the result of the police investigation. We all hope that the police will exonerate him, because it would be a scandal if he were found to have forced himself upon one or more female employees. Note that the previous President, Ezer Weizmann, resigned under a similar cloud. But, then again Presidential sex scandals have been known to occur in other countries (is he up there with Bill?)
Ramon resigned because he is being investigated by the police for an incident that occured recently when he is supposed to have forced himself upon an 18 year old female soldier at a party. According to Ramon she kissed him willingly on the lips at a party, and then cried foul.
Hanegbi's crime is not sexual but political. According to the indictment, Hanegbi lied about his connection to a campaign publication released in 2002, ahead of the April 2003 Likud primary, which boasted that Hanegbi had established "a national record for appointing Likud members." This appointment of Likud members without consideration for their professional capabilities to posts in his Ministry is considered by Attorney General Mazuz as an indictable offense. Never mind that Hanegbi subsequently joined Kadima in order to get an appointment.
The public's attitude towards these scandals is that the level of behavior of politicians in Israel is unacceptably low. None of them can be trusted, either to do their jobs effectively or to keep their pockets closed or their flies zipped. Unfortunately our best and brightest do not go into politics. Given the other challenges we face, who needs this?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Paradigm shift

Perhaps we Israelis are too quick in condemning the Europeans for their crass and facile condemnation of Israel, which we readily attribute to barely suppressed anti-Semitism. In fact, there is a strong element of anti-war sentiment in Europe as a reaction to their long history of mutual hostility and conflict. This is a positive historical paradigm shift in attitudes that has permeated Europe, but unfortunately comes at a bad time for the reality of the new challenge from radical Islam.
The Holocaust was one aspect of the inter-tribal wars that continued in Europe until WWII, pitting the nationalisms of the French, Germans, Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Czechs, Italians, etc. against each other. The more recent outbreaks in the Balkans, in which Serbs, Croatians and Bosnians murdered each other pitilessly was another manifestation of this phenomenon. Yet, the majority of young Europeans are tired of these internecine conflicts, they want peace and a good life, without the old hatreds constantly causing death and destruction. That is the meaning of the EU, and that's one reason why they are impatient with Israel, they can't understand why we keep fighting and keep killing poor Palestinians and Lebanese.
Young Europeans have all but forgotten the nationalist aggression of Germany and Italy, the unalloyed hatred that their people expressed openly for Jews, French, Poles and any one a little different from themselves. Although they can be criticized for much, most European youth mean well, they want to be tolerant and multicultural. And they just can't imagine that "third world" brown skinned people can be the aggressors, that poor struggling immigrants can in one generation become a threat to them.
When Jews came into Central and Western Europe in relatively modern times (from the 1880's onwards), fleeing from persecution mainly in Russia and Eastern Europe, they were happy to be tolerated and left alone. They never dreamed of trying to change the culture of these countries. Yes, some of them were socialists, and this generated some antagonism, but they never considered that their Jewish culture could or should be influential in their newly adopted countries, let alone become dominant. This is not true of the larger number of Muslim immigrants that have practically inundated these countries in recent years. Many of these immigrants do not want to assimilate, do not want to become British or French. This is in opposite contrast to the prevalent tendency to multiculturalism in these countries. The tolerance shown by the hosts is not reciprocated by the Muslims, they think their religion/culture is in fact superior and ought to be dominant, especially the extremists/fundamentalists among them.
But, the arrogance of this attitude is not based on social or economic factors (they don't promise a brighter future), but purely on religious/cultural ones. In their belief system, God is on their side and it has been pre-determined that Islam, the only true religion, will be predominant. It is incumbent upon them to struggle even violently to bring about their ascendency. So far the Europeans have hardly "got it" except for a few clever fellows, such as Tony Blair and the local Jews.
Of course, the Americans have not had to undergo such a paradigm shift, so they immediately reacted to 9/11 with a strong and vigorous reponse, hence the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately the US is now bogged down in Iraq, and they are running out of steam just as the real threat ensues, namely Iran. The crazy Mullahs and Ahmedinejad see their chance, they can develop nuclear weapons (noone will do anything about it) and they can start wars, testing their proteges, namely the Shia Hizbollah in Lebanon and the Sunni Hamas in Palestine, and get away with it. Yes, the Shia area of Lebanon was reduced to rubble by the IAF and many were killed, but why should they care. All the Muslims killed, including the Israeli Arabs in Galilee, will go to paradise in a good Muslim cause, while the infidels and Jews will go to hell. Either way they win, if they suceed they suceed, and if they fail, they will all become holy martyrs. So for them its a "win-win" situation, while for us its a "zero-sum game."
Only another paradigm shift in European opinion can change their basic assumptions about the Middle East and the nature of the conflict, and it ain't gonna happen. So we must continue along our path, a nation alone, as before, but with the support, for the moment, of the Great Satan, that is also threatened with extinction. God forbid that we are forced to tackle Iran (a nation of 68 million people) alone.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The next round?

Now that Kofi Annan has met with the EU FMs and France has reverted to its offer to send 2,000 men and Belgium and others have agreed to participate, then its looks like the new improved UNIFIL2 force will actually come into existence with ca. 7,000 EU-supplied men. There will also probably be Turkish and possibly other Muslim country participants.
There are several ways of looking at the force that is gradually taking shape in Lebanon. First, it could be regarded as simply a continuation of the old UNIFIL, watching what is happening, recording Hizbollah and Israeli breakages of the ceasefire, but doing nothing active. If so, this would hardly be the force called for in resolution 1701 that is supposed to disarm Hizbollah and prevent smuggling of arms. If it is to be a more robust force, more heavily armed as it is, then it should be expected to do something about Hizbollah fighters running around heavily armed in S. Lebanon. But, the rules of engagement do not require it to "disarm" Hizbollah, since the Lebanese Government has not asked them to do that. So why are they there?
There could be two answers to that question. First, they could be there to police the ceasefire between Hizbollah and the IDF. But, in effect by not acting against Hizbollah they cannot fulfil that basic task. Another answer could be that they are there to safeguard Lebanese sovereignty, security and democracy.
It has been stated time and time again that if the requirements of UN resolution 1559 had been implemented after it was adopted in 2000 when Israel withdrew, then there would not have been a further war in Lebanon in 2006. But, it was not implemented then, so how can we expect it to be implemented now, especially since the Lebanese Government is either sincere in supporting the right of Hizbollah to "resist" the IDF or is simply afraid to oppose it. Given the latter most likely possibility, the presence of a robust international force, with the Lebanese Army deployed in the south for the first time, could make a difference in Hizbollah's control over S. Lebanon. But, S. Lebanon is the Shia homeland, and it is unlikely that anything that "foreign" troops could do there would affect the local population's strong support for Hizbollah.
Also, in terms of trying to prevent smuggling of arms to Hizbollah, the international force can probably do little. It is easy to get small arms and even small rockets over the long border from Syria undetected, and over a period of time it is certain that Hizbollah will be rearmed. So contrary to Pres. Bush's and other's wishes, we will be back to where we started in a short while, months to years, and the presence of the international force may only complicate the nature of the next war between Israel and Hizbollah. There will be even more possibilities of "collateral damage" to UN forces and civilian casualties. The trap for Israel is already being set in place.
One way that Israel could avoid the trap of being bled again in Lebanon, would be to go for the jugular, to counter-attack the countries that are in fact arming and financing Hizbollah and using it as proxy to fight Israel, namely Syria and Iran. This would be a highly risky and dangerous business, but what are the alternatives, to be periodically bled and bombarded by Hizbollah. In every decade Israel has had to fight major wars against numerically far larger and well armed foes. How miraculous that we have not only survived but won each time until now. Fighting Hizbollah is perhaps even more problematical than fighting Syria for the IDF, especially with complete air superiority. But, if we counter-attack Syria, will it incite Iran, can we afford to wait for Iran to unleash missiles on us? Can we afford to wait until Iran has nuclear warheads?

Friday, August 25, 2006

European hypocrisy

As expected France has backed down from its committment to provide soldiers for the expanded UNIFIL force in S. Lebanon. Even though France was the country most strongly pushing for an "immediate" ceasefire in the UN Security Council, and even though France was widely anticipated to be the leading country in the force, with an estimated 3,000 troops, actually they have decided to contribute - 200! France can be relied upon to be unreliable.
The British and Americans have a low opinion of the French, which is based on mutual disregard, even though Pres. Bush labels France an ally. But, it is pure hypocrisy for France to push for the establishment of the expanded UN interim force in S. Lebanon, and then back down because they "don't know the rules of engagement." At present no one knows the final rules of engagement, they are being established by consensus between the various countries involved, and particularly the EU countries. So far it has been agreed that the force should be armed and should have the right to stop anyone other than the Lebanese Army from carrying weapons in S. Lebanon up to the Litani River. However, they will not be expected to specifically disarm Hizbollah, even though resolution 1701 (and the previous resolution 1559) calls for that, it will simply not be done! So much for UN resolutions. Unfortunately even the IDF could not do it, at least as it prosecuted the recent war. Another problematic aspect of the resoltuion is the requirement to prevent smuggling of arms from Syria into Lebanon. The UN force is unlikely to be able to tackle this, especially with a warning now from Syria that it will close the border if the UN force even tries.
In each of the European countries polls were taken to determine support for the war in Lebanon. France had the highest levels of people against the Israeli response to Hizbollah. Most French people (ca. 60%) did not believe that Israel had the right to counter-attack after being attacked by Hizbollah. What did they expect Israel to do, behave like France! Smaller majorities held this view in Germany and Britain. Only in the US did a majority of people (54%) agree that Israel was justified in retaliating against Hizbollah. Note that Germany has to be extra careful, they don't want their forces to be in any way drawn into a conflict with the IDF, that could have enormous consequences!
There is one small glimmer in this situation. If the ceasefire fails and fighting does resume few countries will be prepared to push as hard for an "immediate" ceasefire as they did last time, with the hypocrisy over the UN force they have shot their credibility. It's true that Amnesty International, long known as an antagonist to Israel, has accused the IDF (and Hizbollah!) of war crimes. But, most knowledgeable observers know that first there was massive deception in the reporting from Lebanon, so the numbers of casualties cannot be relied upon. For example, Pres. Seniora himself accused Israel of a war crime when he announced that 60 people had been killed in an IAF strike in Baalbek, and then he retracted and announced that in fact only 1 person had been killed. But, by then it was too late, all the media carried the original figure, and few noticed the retraction. Second, the IDF does avoid civilian casualties, so that the number of dead were actually low compared to what might have happened had any other military force (including the Europeans) been carrying out these raids. Hardly anyone noticed that many Christian and Sunni Muslim villages in S. Lebanon were avoided by the IAF and IDF, and are still intact with their original inhabitants still there. This was a very targeted campaign against Shia-Hizbollah areas. Third, there were ostensibly no Hizbollah casualties, at least none were reported by the media, what happened to them all? So to base your opposition to the Israeli retaliation in the war on "civilian casualties" is absurd.
Note that the EU is going to provide a large chunk of the money, together with the US (and Iran), for reconstruction in Lebanon. But, noone but the Jewish people has offered to help rebuild Israel, even though the estimates of the damage are not that much greater in Lebanon, b$3.2, while in Israel it is ca. b$1.
It seems that with the Italians stepping in to save the UNIFIL force, with 3,000 soldiers, and a meeting of EU foreign ministers due on Friday with Kofi Annan, and a more "robust" role being planned for the force, then it might actually be deployed, even if it will likely be another UN failure.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

They shall not pass!

Just as the Spanish Civil war (1936-9) was a prelude to WWII (1939-45), so the recent war between Hizbollah and Israel may have been the prelude to WWIII (or IV if you count the Cold War). In both cases the preliminary war was fought by proxy, in WWII the Fascists, Germany and Italy, supporting Gen. Franco and his forces against the Republicans, supported by Stalin's Soviet Union and the democratic West, Britain, France and the USA (although these were not represented by national forces but by volunteers from each country).
If you compare the situations then and now (notwithstanding many differences) you have the same reluctance on the part of the democratic nations to take the side of the democratic nation under attack, then initially Czechoslovakia. This time it is Israel, with Iran the power threatening its destruction. While the democratic nations finally came to their senses and fought Nazi Germany in WWII, they did very little to save the Jewish people caught up in the horrors of the Holocaust.
The proxy wars fought in various places between satellites of the Soviet Union and allies of the USA were very similar. When Israel defeated Egypt and Syria in several wars from the 1960's to the 1980's this was considered a victory for US armaments and technology versus the Soviet versions.
Once again the Jews are the touchstone, the "canary in the mine." But, this time as a democratic nation with an army and air force to defend itself. Even though Hizbollah did better than most people expected in the recent war and the IDF did worse than expected, this doesn't change the basic equation. Hizbollah is doing Iran's bidding, the work of the Islamofascist ideology that considers all infidels fair game, and would see Western airplanes blown out of the sky and civilians deliberately targeted. The "axis of evil" (to quote Bush) or the "arc of extremism" (to quote Blair), consists of Iran, Iraqi insurgents, Syria, Hizbollah, Hamas, and "home grown" terrorists loyal to al Qaeda, mostly trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan, such as those just charged in the UK with terrorist offenses intending to blow up planes.
I am reading a book currently about the Islamic revolution in Iran, and the same situation arose as in Europe in the 1930's, where the communists and marxists sided with the fascists against the liberals and democrats, because they wanted a complete revolution in society rather than saving bourgeous lives. But, it turned out that their lives were the first ones that were taken, both by the Nazis and the Khomeinists in turn. Marxists and communists were arrested in Iran, while themselves calling for the destruction of democratic norms, and were tortured and executed in their thousands. They thought they could contain the Islamists, but they were wrong, just as the communists in Germany thought they could contain the Nazis. So the Islamic revolution of 1979 overtook all opposition, just as the Nazi revolution did in Germany in 1939, and Iran is only now recovering its strength after the Iran-Iraq war that bled it for 8 years.
Now the Islamofascist regime in Iran is flexing its muscles and showing off its military might in war games, while at the same time reaching for the development of nuclear weapons (no sane person can accept their denials). Hopefully the UN SC will place sanctions on Iran, although this will be done reluctantly and ineffectually, just as the UNIFIL force in S. Lebanon will provide a cover for the recovery and re-arming of Hizbollah. Many Western liberals are certain that Pres. Bush is planning a war against Iran, much like that in Iraq, and are dead against it. But, eventually the West will be forced to confront Iran and its expansionist policies. They really mean it, God is on their side and they seek to overthrow the evil and decadent Western culture and replace it with their own version of fundamentalist Islam.
It is Israel's interest not to become a "Czechoslovakia" in that process, not to be a small democratic nation thrown to the dogs, to placate the appetite of the Islamofascists. Many people in the West, who have come to regard the Palestinian conflict as the central feature of the Middle Eastern situation, are making a huge mistake. The Palestinians have been a failure in establishing their own state, and just like the weak Lebanese State are being used by a stronger force for its own purpose. That is why Iran bankrolls Hamas and Islamic Jihad, just as it does Hizbollah. The "moderate" Sunni Arab countries, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are only just beginning to realize the threat to them in this movement. They are making their separation from Syria and Hizbollah known, even as at the same time that they cannot bring themselves to say anything positive about Israel's fight against Hizbollah.
Noone can predict what will happen in the future, but a further round of fighting between Israel and Hizbollah is likely, given the oft-stated plans of the Iranian regime. Whether or not a Democratic candidate will be elected in the US to replace Bush or whether Israel is left to go it alone remains to be seen. But, Israel cannot effectively fight Iran alone and the US knows that. But, if Iran sees that the West does nothing effectively to stop the rearming of Hizbollah, as is likely since neither UNIFIL nor the Lebanese Army will disarm Hizbollah, and if they think that the US will not come to Israel's aid, perhaps after the experience in Iraq, then we can expect a second round possibly in two years or less to include long range ballistic missiles from Iran falling on Israel. And what will we do then? One thing's for sure, we need a new Government.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Severe deficiencies

The winner in a war is usually the side that makes the least mistakes. This is
based on the fact that all sides in all wars make mistakes, the most common of
which is fighting the last war over again. In the recent war against
Hizbollah in Lebanon the IDF made many major mistakes, and severe
deficiencies were revealed. It is difficult for any military organization, not
built on constant questioning and reevaluation, and often in which the leadership of generals is downright arrogant, to cope with constant change and adaptation.
This is especially true in a challenging economic situation, since defense is
one of the most costly Government outlays.
One of the most egregious deficiencies revealed in the war was the lack of
preparation and support for the reserves who were called to duty.
Approximately 20-30,000 reservists were called up and were sent into battle
mostly towards the end of the war. Because of cutbacks in the Defense budget
starting about 3 years ago under Benjamin Netanyahu as Minister of Finance,
one of the main things that was cut was reserve training. So the reserves
went into this conflict for the first time without any recent training. They
went straight from their jobs as lawyers, carpenters, clerks, cleaners etc.
into the front lines. But, because of apparent caution by the political
echelon, they were sent into battle without sufficient planning, so the
equipment and armaments they were given were often outdated, unworkable or
inappropriate. Added to that the fact that often the orders were changed and
changed again at the last minute, this lead in some cases to total confusion
at the front. Calling up the reserves, then letting them sit, then sending
them in and then calling them back was a recipe for disaster.
Although some Labor Party and other politicians have criticized Netanyahu for
this situation, in fact they are even more at fault. It was Amir Peretz,
current Min. of Defense (!), who as head of the Histadrut Trade Union and then
leader of the Labor Party called for even greater cuts in the Defense budget
in order to support their social programs. Now he and our young men are
paying the price for this shortsightedness.
Some of the reserves have described how they were not given enough food or
water for days. This partly resulted from the fact that one helicopter was
shot down by a shoulder held missile by a Hizbollah fighter who infiltrated
close to the troop deployment. This apparently paralyzed the helicopter forces
and vital water supplies and wounded recovery was delayed. Some IDF soldiers
describe how they took muddy water from the ground and added chlorine tables
while under fire in order to slake their thirst. Some described how wounded
soldiers bled to death because the recovery helicopter was delayed.
Apart from these terrible deficiencies there was a general lack of adaptation
to the new tactics of the Hizbollah, apart from their fanatical suicidal
fighting (unlike the former PLO, Egyptians, etc.). For example, the Israeli
Navy, most modern navy in the area, didn't bother to turn on their
anti-missile technology because they didn't know that Hizbollah had anti-ship
missiles! And so one of their best ships was hit and four men were killed.
Anyone could have guessed that they might have such missiles, and at least you
take precautions! Hizbollah used motorbikes to get them quickly into the
field and to outflank and ambush IDF troops. Finally, after 8 men were
ambushed and killed and this was realized, appropriate actions were taken.
When the bombardment of the north with short range Katyusha rockets was at its
height, reserves were bivouacked in the open close to the border in
concentrations. It was predictable that they would be hit by rockets, and in
fact 12 men were killed by one Katyusha near Kiryat Shmona. What is the sense
of ordering all civilians to take cover and in the same area having young men
sitting around waiting for the next rocket to come in without any protection
whatsoever? That amounts to malfeasance.
We have no idea how much damage was done to military installations by cheap
rockets, when no action was taken prior to the war to protect them, even
though it was well known that Hizbollah had ca. 12,000 rockets of various
kinds supplied by Syria and Iran. Let's hope the IDF is currently taking
action so that their facilities are protected against this scourge all over
Israel, because you can be sure that our enemies, including Iran itself, are
currently choosing suitable targets.
Another area of neglect was the development of a laser-based anti-missile
system called Nautilus that was under consideration by Israel and the US for
protection against short-range rockets! It was cancelled, not because of cost
per se, but because of lack of interest. Now there's a case of
While the rockets were raining down on the north of Israel, the Government
itself did practically nothing to protect the citizenry. All those who
evacuated themselves did so privately, there was no mass evacuation organized
by the Government or the Army, although they managed to disengage 8,000
settlers from Gaza in a few days without much trouble.
These are some of the issues that the two Committees set up to evaluate the
actions in the war will cover. One of the Committees set up by Min. of
Defense Peretz, chaired by former Gen Lipkin-Shahak an adviser to Peretz, has
been criticized for being potentially too self-serving. Today PM Olmert
announced that he was setting up a more independent Committee with advice
from Attorney Gen. Bennie Mazuz, that will be a legally-based State Commission.
Hopefully this will also consider the strategy of the war, why there was such
an initial dependence on air power and then such a delayed decision on a
ground invasion of south Lebanon.
Israel has been in worse military situations before, perhaps the worst was
when Sadat flagrantly prepared his troops to cross the Suez Canal on Yom
Kippur 1973, and the General in charge of Israeli intelligence ignored all
blatant signs and warnings and maintained that they would never do it, until
Egyptian troops actually crossed the canal and attacked Israeli
fortifications! That day 3,000 IDF troops, mostly reservists, were killed,
partly because no provisions had been made for their active defense and/or
evacuation. Times have been worse, but in light of the recent failures the
future does not bode fair.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Secularism vs. totalitarianism

Given a choice between epithets to describe the West as "Christian" or
"secular," most people would choose the latter. After all, for the past
300 years, from the time of the Renaissance, there has been a transition
from a religious/Christian-oriented to a secular organization of the state,
concurrent with the development of democracy, science and the middle
class. Even though from a Jewish point of view the West is still
predominantly Christian, nevertheless, the degree of mixing of ethnic
groups and religions (particularly Catholic and Protestant) in the West has
accelerated this trend.
The Muslim world, consisting of some 45 countries and 1.3 billion people,
has lagged behind the West in this respect. Given that the organization of
states is ultimately independent of the original culture from which they
derive, since the nature of democracy, human rights, science, etc. are
universal values. As Pres. Bush and PM Blair have emphasized, these
values are applicable to Muslim countries just as well as to those that were
originally Christian.
In the wake of the recent war between Israel, a liberal democracy, and
Hizbollah, a fundamentalist Shia Muslim organization, there is no doubt that
the stakes are high. This conflict, perhaps distinct from the Palestinian
conflict that has been used for propaganda purposes, must be seen as part of
the wider conflict between fundamentalist Islam and Western secularism, that
is ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the general war on Islamic
I have been struck by a kind of defeatist ennui expressed by many liberal and
leftist Israelis and Europeans, as well as some N. Americans, that takes the
view that the bloodshed is too much, that this is a never-ending conflict,
that whenever a leader of a terrorist group is killed another takes his place,
so what's the point of bothering. The alternative is too terrible to
consider. Recently I had a chat with a well educated Brit, who questioned
whether democracy was worth fighting for, especially if one had to cause
civilian casualties in the process. I suggested he read some books I have
been reading lately about the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Khomeini regime
in Iran. In both cases "liberals" were simply executed, where liberal in this
context means anyone who disagreed with the strict interpretation of Islam.
Yes, the regime of the Shah of Iran was repressive, but it was not nearly on a
par with the Khomeinists, who have murdered at least ten times as many people.
For some details see "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi. As you know,
in Taliban Afghanistan, women who were deemed to have transgressed the laws
of the Koran were executed publicly at soccer matches every week. Women
were flogged for merely having their hair showing, or wearing lipstick or nail
These repressive regimes have a great deal in common with Soviet Communism
and Nazi Fascism. In the "Bookseller of Kabul," Asne Seirstad describes how a
bookseller in Kabul had his books burned first by the mujahideen, then by the
Communists and then again by the Taliban. He managed to save books each time
by various subterfuges (generally the book burners could not read), and now he
continues to sell books openly without censorship under the new government of
Make no mistake, Hizbollah is in the same corner as Iran. One could say that
the recent war in Lebanon was a different kind than all the previous ones
fought by Israel. In the past it was all about Israel's independence and the
national cause of the Palestinians. In this case it was a part of the war of
Western liberal democracy against fundamentalist Islam, similar to those that
were fought by the West against Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism. The
Muslim extremists are fanatics who are prepared to die for their cause, just
as the Nazis and Communists were, and they are motivated by hatred of the
If the liberals who throw up their hands in despair and say that they have had
enough, if they accept the Arab propaganda position that Israel is merely a
cruel regime that deliberately inflicts casualties on civilians, which is the
opposite of the truth, then indeed we have a hard time ahead. If you want to
trust the likes of Hizbollah and al Qaeda (whatever the differences between
them), then stop the security at airports, and see how long it takes for some
planes to be blown out of the sky.

Friday, August 18, 2006

They lie and cheat

Many media organizations are known to have an anti-Israel bias, whatever the
situation they will always find that Israel is wrong, culpable, excessive, and
even inhuman. One of these is the Reuters news agency, that was ironically
founded by a Jew. In the era of the internet it is foolish to indulge in media
manipulation, but many people still do it and get away with it. One such
example was Adnan Hajj, a freelance photographer working for Reuters. He
doctored his pictures during the recent war, for example to make the IAF
attacks on Beirut look worse than they were he intensified the blackness of
the smoke and made multiple plumes when there was only one. He also posed the
same sympathetic looking old woman, dressed in her black robes, before three
(!) different buildings, claiming each was her destroyed home. Another
example included pictures of bodies, and showed two of the bodies moving and
sitting up (maybe it was uncomfortable to be in a body bag for too long).
Hajj was found out by persistent bloggers, and Reuters fired him and removed
920 of his photos from their archives. However, while he was doing this they
must have known his bias, they must have known that he was editing and
slanting his picture for years. How many other media organizations accept
this kind of material?
We have previous examples, the French TV cameraman who faked the shooting
of Mohammed al Dura in Gaza at the beginning of the intifada, which became a
cause celebre, the so-called "massacre" of Jenin during the Israeli operation,
in which "eye-witnesses" (uncorroborated) told on camera how IDF soldiers
had lined Palestinian civilians up against a wall and shot them, but it was
all lies, and the "beach incident" in Gaza a few months ago, in which it was
claimed that an Israeli shell had killed a family of 7, but it turned out that
it was in fact a Hamas mine buried on the beach that had killed them. I could
go on, there are numerous examples, but the point is made, pro-Palestinian
media lie and cheat in order to defame and denigrate Israel.
Why do they do this? After all, the destruction in south Beirut was enough to
show without further elaboration. But, reality is not enough for their bias
and hatred, they see no problem with exaggerating the destruction in south
Beirut while not showing any damage in north Israel from 4,000 rockets fired
into it. They talk about 500,000, perhaps a million or more (!), Lebanese
civilians leaving their homes and fleeing north, without any kind of numerical
corroboration, while not mentioning the similar numbers of Israelis forced to
flee south.
Behind this approach is a fundamental truth, that in order to achieve their
end of destroying Israel, it is valid for Muslims to lie and cheat if it helps
to realize their goal. Truth is what you want it to be, wishful thinking and
rumor become reality in their media reports. This is something that the
western media has not realized and has not taken into account, and neither
have the unsuspecting western viewers. Do not believe everything you read in
the papers and even see on TV, much of it is manipulated and biased. But,
unfortunately, once the damage is done it is too late.
Thus, in reports during the Lebanon war, many anchors spoke in hushed terms
of the terrible destruction that Israel had unleashed on Lebanon. One would
think that the whole country was destroyed. But, in fact probably no more
than 5%, if that, of the country was affected. Yes, bridges were bombed, and
ports and airports put out of action, but see how quickly Beirut airport
recovered (one runway was left untouched). And only south Beirut (not the
center nor the Government area) and south Lebanon were targeted by the IAF
and IDF artillery, because that was where Hizbollah was located and was
fighting from. When a preponderance, it seems, of anchors on the main
networks, BBC, CNN and Sky are of Indian or Muslim origin (for example,
Shihab Rattansi, Hala Gourani, Nisha Pillai, Monita Rajpal, Terry Baddoo, etc.
etc.) how can one expect them to retain a semblance of balance in their choice
of reporting.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Who won?

The inevitable question being asked is who won the war between Hizbollah and
Israel? Although there is no clear winner, I would say that objectively
Israel won. Nevertheless, major mistakes were made in the Israeli campaign,
and there is to be a committee of enquiry into this established by Defense
Minister Amir Peretz.
The overall mistake seems to have resulted from an unfortunate combination of
a Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, who was formerly the head of the IAF, and a
non-military civilian leadership, both firsts in Israeli history. This
resulted in an over-dependence on air power to accomplish the mission of
destroying Hizbollah in the early days of the war, and then a reluctance of
the civilian and military leadership to engage in a full ground invasion of
south Lebanon. In fact, once it was obvious that the main aims of the war, to
recover the two kidnapped soldiers and to destroy Hizbollah's rocket launching
capability, could not be accomplished by air power, the IDF was still limited
to localized ground operations. A ground invasion of south Lebanon was not
ordered until a few days before the end of the war, far too late for it to
really have any major or long-term consequences.
No doubt one reason for the caution regarding a ground invasion was the fear
of causing high Israeli casualties. Although in a small country like Israel
116 dead is a large number, nevertheless, given the scope of the war, the
casualty figure is quite small. As the enemy knows, in democracies, every
death is counted and a large casualty count can lead to opposition to the wear
and the downfall of the political leadership.
It should be emphasized that in this war one side wants peace and one aims for
the destruction of the other, namely Israel and Hizbollah, respectively. That
the IAF delivered a major destructive blow to Hizbollah's infrastructure in
south Beirut and south Lebanon is clear. But, they are prepared for high
casualties and major destruction, and are adept at continuing to fight.
Particularly there was hardly a dent in their capability to fire short range
rockets (katyushas) into northern Israel, although their long-range rocket
capability was severely damaged. In the ground war they lost a lot of men
(ca. 500) and most of their underground bunkers and fortified positions. So
from an objective point of view Israel won.
But, in war, especially in the Middle East, things are not always as they
Objectively Israel won the Yom Kippur 1973 war, but Egyptians regard this as a
victory for Egypt. The fact that they attacked the IDF across the Suez Canal
and that although they received high casualties they were able to fight the
IDF was considered a victory for them. With such criteria, one can always
declare victory, and that is what Hizbollah, Syria and Iran have done. The
fact that Hizbollah was able to fire rockets for a month into northern Israel
and cause significant death and destruction is in itself a victory, the fact
that they were able to fight the IDF notwithstanding the destruction, and were
still fighting when the ceasefire was declared, was in itself a victory. This
has no doubt emboldened Hizbollah's leaders and their sponsors. But, how
many such victories can Hizbollah stand?
This is why they opted for a ceasefire and have kept it. But, under the terms
of UNSC1701 Hizbollah are supposed to be removed from south Lebanon up to
the Litani River and disarmed. Neither of these things are likely to happen,
especially since the Lebanese Government has caved into Hizbollah on this. So
as Israel withdraws, both the Lebanese Army and Hizbollah will return to south
Lebanon, and the expanded UNIFIL, however many soldiers it contains, will not
lift a finger to disarm them.
Nevertheless, the presence of both the Lebanese Army and the UNIFIL will
probably prevent both Hizbollah and the IDF from reinitiating hostilities very
soon. But, after enough time to rebuild its forces and facilities, Hizbollah
will be ready to relaunch attacks on Israel, ignoring the presence of the LA
and the international force. So overall, even though Israel won, not much
appears to have been gained.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sustainable ceasefire?

During the war in Lebanon the chief complaint against the West was that
instead of demanding an "immediate" ceasefire, they continued discussing a
"sustainable" ceasefire, in effect "fiddling while Rome burned."
Liberals in the UK went into conniptions because PM Blair was following Pres.
Bush, as they saw it, in delaying a ceasefire so that Israel could "finish
Hizbollah off." They saw a dark conspiracy in which the US gave Israel carte
blanche to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure and carry out "disproportionate"
attacks on Lebanon, causing massive human casualties. In fact, the casualties
were moderate and the destruction was clearly limited to either strategic
targets (ports, bridges) and south Lebanon where Hizbollah was located and
there was fierce fighting. There was NO DAMAGE to all other areas of Lebanon,
including the Christian, Druse and Sunni areas that constitute the major part
of the country, although reading the media you would not have known this.
Now that the UN resolution SC1701 has been passed after extensive discussions,
and has been accepted by both sides, we can see how useless such pieces of
paper can be, particularly if they have the name of the UN on them. After
unanimously accepting the resolution, requiring in specific terms the removal
of Hizbollah from the region of Lebanon south of the Litani River and its
disarming, the Lebanese Government has now done a deal with Hizbollah, that
contravenes the resolution. Sheikh Nasrallah, following Pres. Assad of Syria
and Ahmedinejad of Iran, has stated that now is not the time to disarm
Hizbollah, so the Lebanese Government has agreed to allow Hizbollah to keep
"secret" caches of weapons in south Lebanon, as long as they don't show their
weapons openly, and Generals of both the Lebanese Army and the UN
international force have stated publicly that it is not their job to disarm
So Pres. Bush's repeated assertion that he wanted a ceasefire that would not
result in a continuation of hostilities in an hour, a day, a week or a month
has been repudiated. If Hizbollah are not disarmed and are still present in
south Lebanon, then nothing has been achieved in the war in which Israel lost
117 men and much of south Lebanon was destroyed. What is the point of having
an expanded UNIFIL if it is as useless of the original? What is the point of
a "robust" force if the nations that pushed for an immediate ceasefire are
hypocritically not even prepared to send forces that could disarm Hizbollah
according to the resolution that they wrote (particularly the French)? Many
who have good reason not to trust the UN, foresaw this specific difficulty.
And UN Secty. Gen. Kofi Annan is now backpedaling, trying to negate the very
resolution that he supposedly worked so hard to achieve. FM Tzipi Livni is
due to make a lightning trip to NY to meet with Annan. We hope she is going to
tell him that if resolution 1701 is not implemented as stated, then like the
previous resolutions 1550 and others, it will be merely remembered as a piece
of paper, thrown into the trash bin while the ink was still wet. And Israel
will have to consider reactivating the IDF to accomplish by military means
what the diplomats were supposed to have accomplished by this resolution.
One wonders why the IDF is in such a hurry to evacuate south Lebanon
given the actual situation.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Proportionate destruction

The chief crime that Israel seems to have committed in the eyes of the liberal
west and the Islamic east during the war in Lebanon is "disproportionate
destruction" of Lebanese apartment buildings and infrastructure. I am not one
of those who are prepared to apologize for this deliberate strategy, for two
First, I reject absolutely the idea of "disproportionality" in war. When the
Allies invaded German-occupied Europe did they decide to keep their forces
small in order to be "proportionate"? When the US invaded Iraq, were they
criticized for having too large an Army? When they engaged in "shock and
awe" as a deliberate military tactic was that criticized as "over-kill"? In
these days the concept of "asymmetric warfare" is commonplace, witness Iraq.
The second reason is more specific, the southern portion of Lebanon is the
Shia region, and is Hizbollah's heartland. Not only is Hizbollah centered
there, but the Shia population identify totally with it. There was a time when
the more moderate Shia militia Amal had a considerable following in the Shia
region, but when all other militias agreed to disarm according to the Taif
Agreement of 1989, only Hizbollah remained armed, both because of its size and
power, so noone could force it to disarm, and because of its identification as
a "resistance" group against Israeli occupation.
But, once that occupation ended in 2000 with Israeli withdrawal, there was no
further justification for Hizbollah. But, that didn't matter to Syria and
Iran, they needed Hizbollah to continue to threaten Israel, and so they
concocted the Shebaa Farms region, as a small area that was transferred from
Syria to Lebanon, even though it was occupied by Israel, as a means to justify
Hizbollah still calling itself a "resistance" movement. Actually this is a
ludicrous situation, since the UN and all knowledgeable observers know that
this was merely an excuse. But, nevertheless it has become a cause celebre in
Lebanon and the Lebanese Government has used it as an excuse to both criticize
Israel and justify not acting against Hizbollah.
So the population in south Beirut and south Lebanon is completely identified
with Hizbollah, and its offices and arms caches are distributed throughout the
Shia region, in apartment blocks in south Beirut and in fortified villages in
south Lebanon. Hence the only way to dislodge Hizbollah from there is to
destroy the apartment blocks and villages that they are ensconced in.
Although Israel warned the Shia population to move north, and although the
actual total casualties given by the Lebanese Government of ca. 890 killed is
quite small given the amount of destruction and the number of sorties the IAF
flew, nevertheless this total represents in part the so-called "collateral
damage" that is endemic in war.
However, the ICRC and Lebanese Red Cross have now admitted that they
treated Hizbollah fighters during the war, as part of their historic role of
neutrality. Similarly Israeli medical teams have administered to wounded
Hizbollah fighters, several of whom were treated in Nahariya Hospital. It is
very suspicious that no Lebanese authority can give any figure for Hizbollah
casualties. It is well known that they merge with the civilian population, do
not use a uniform (and so are considered irregular forces) and use the
civilian population as shields. The IAF dropped leaflets listing the names of
nearly 200 known Hizbollah fighters killed in battle and the IDF estimates
that altogether up to 500 Hizbollah fighters may have been killed in the
month's fighting. If so this represents about 50% of the total dead estimated
by the Lebanese Government.
So the number of actual civilian casualties may be half that of the Lebanese
estimates and the destruction of south Lebanon was a proportionate attempt
by Israel to degrade the support and facilities for Hizbollah, in fierce and
intense warfare. In order to make it more proportionate should Israel kill
some more of its civilians and soldiers and destroy more of its buildings?

Monday, August 14, 2006


The past few days, supposedly the last of the current Lebanese conflict
between Hizbollah and Israel, have been the worst so far, each side trying to
get in its last strikes. Over 250 rockets hit northern Israel on Sunday,
killing one and injuring dozens. This represents a failure of the IDF to deal
with the rocket threat of Hizbollah. Even from the ruins of southern Lebanon
occupied by 30,000 IDF troops they were able to fire so many rockets at
Israel. In retaliation the IAF bombed more areas of south Beirut, although
this may not have had any more effect following the previous destruction of
that area.
Also on Sunday it was reported that 24 IDF troops were killed in one day, the
bloodiest day of the campaign, 19 were killed in the ground assault and 5 in a
helicopter downed by a missile. Certainly these casualties are not the result
of a defeat of Hizbollah. Whether or not Hizbollah will abide by the UNSC
ceasefire is uncertain, but at the moment the ceasefire is holding. Israel
retains the right to respond to any action by Hizbollah, including rockets or
ground attacks. But, who will say that it was Hizbollah that again started the
The Israeli toll in the 33 days of the war have been 107 soldiers and 43
civilians dead, and 1,000 injured according to the Min. of Foreign Affairs
site. Lebanese Govt. sources say that 890 civilians were killed and 3,800
wounded, although they give no figure for Hizbollah fighters. Certainly
many of the "civilians" include Hizbollah fighters wearing civvies. Israel
estimates that ca. 250 Hizbollah terrorists were killed in direct fighting,
but an unknown number were killed in air attacks. While a huge amount
of Hizbollah infrastructure and supplies were destroyed, it has not proved
to be an insurmountable blow to the organization. Sheikh Nasrullah still
lives and their rockets are still deployed. Nevertheless Lebanon needs a
ceasefire right now.
One big difference between living in Israel and the Diaspora is that every day
we see the photos of the dead soldiers and civilians on the news and in the
papers and see their funerals. It has a much bigger impact than if it were
thousands of miles away. They are not merely statistics, each one has a
story, they are us. That so many Israelis, mostly young men in their prime,
can be killed by an organization that we allowed to develop such a capability,
knowing that they were planning on using it (why else did they need 10,000
rockets), and that after all the suffering and the discussions Hizbollah may
remain a threat to the State of Israel, is not a satisfactory outcome to the
present war.
That there is a ceasefire is good, but for how long it will last and whether
or not the details of UN resolution 1701 can be implemented remains to be
seen. The sooner a "robust" military force is on the ground there the better.
The key issue of whether or not Hizbollah can be disarmed is very

Sunday, August 13, 2006


UNSC1701 that was passed unanimously on Friday by the UN Security Council is a partial victory for Israel and the US. Undoubtedly compromises had to be made that are less than perfect from an Israeli perspective in order to achieve the unanimous consensus. But, a lot was accomplished that had never been achieved by Israel before.
• In the preamble it is made clear that Hizbollah is the cause of the current conflict.
• One of the clauses calls for the “unconditional return” of the captured Israeli soldiers. But, being in the introduction this does not have the force of an operational paragraph and no mechanism is suggested as to how this could be accomplished.
• The main success is that the resolution calls for the formation of a military force of 15,000 men to implement the resolution in relation to removing armed Hizbollah forces from south Lebanon below the Litani River, as required by UNSC1559, but never implemented. However, this will be a reconstituted UNIFIL contingent, not what Israel wanted, although its mandate will be much tougher, and this will be spelled out in a further resolution.
• Another success is that while Hizbollah is told to cease “all attacks” Israel is required to cease “all offensive actions,” leaving the door open for any defensive actions that the IDF may need to take if attacks by Hizbollah forces continue.
• The main problem with this resolution is that it does not contain any mechanism to force Hizbollah to accept its provisions. Although Sheikh Nasrullah said that he would accept the resolution, he also contradicted this when he said that Hizbollah will continue to fight if Israeli forces remain in Lebanon. This might be finessed by his accepting a time-table once the international force is constituted.
• One of the main problems with the resolution is that no mechanism is proposed for how the international force, and presumably the Lebanese Army, would replace the IDF that is only now consolidating its hold over south Lebanon. This presumably would be spelled out in a second resolution that is planned.
• The Lebanese Government officially accepted the resolution on Saturday after a long Cabinet session, and declared it a victory for Lebanese diplomacy. They did indeed achieve some things, such as the requirement for the IDF to be withdrawn from Lebanon, but not “immediately” as they wanted. But, they failed in their attempt to get the SC to force Israel to withdraw from the Shebaa Farms area, since the UN had previously assigned that to Syria, and so it is only mentioned in the Resolution as something that Kofi Annan must consider and report back to the SC.
• Israel’s cabinet is due to meet today (Sunday) and is expected to accept the resolution, with a ceasefire to be implemented early Monday, apart from any defensive actions necessary, for example if Hizbollah continues to fire rockets into Israel and continues to fight IDF forces in south Lebanon. Of course, the definition of a ceasefire under these circumstances is quite murky.
• There is now criticism for the first time during the war of the Olmert Government from the left and the right in Israel. The left see the “invasion” of Lebanon and the high level of Lebanese civilian casualties reported (although not confirmed) as unacceptable. The right see the delay of the IDF’s general invasion of the south as a huge error (they would have preferred it a month ago), and do not want the Government to accept the resolution until Hizbollah is definitively degraded
• “Softening up” of Hizbollah by the IAF was a necessary prerequisite before ground action, but was overextended, and the ground forces should have bypassed the fortified villages, according to Yuval Steinitz, former head of the Knesset Defense Committee, “We should have used ground forces four weeks ago, pushed through north of Hizbollah, surprised them and given them no chance to withdraw northward.” Frontal attacks on fortified Hizbollah villages was not a usual tactic for the IDF, and undoubtedly caused higher casualties. There seemed in this war to be an excess of caution and a loss of élan and deterrence by the IDF.
• Can the war be termed a victory for either Hizbullah or Israel? Undoubtedly Hizbollah will claim a victory, because they always do. Having fought a determined defensive action and having caused significant Israeli casualties and having brought down an IAF helicopter, all of these will be labeled “victories” by the Arab street. Note that this has been the longest war in Israeli history, refuting the claim by some that Israel could not survive a long war. Also, the home front, under severe attack with many casualties in the north and extensive destruction, and Israel’s third city Haifa essentially paralyzed, nevertheless came through this war with great resilience.
• Nevertheless the IDF could not “destroy” Hizbollah, as some enthusiastic commentators wished at the beginning, and it will undoubtedly remain intact, either as a purely political force in Lebanon or more likely as an armed force but north of the Litani River, from whence it could recommence its rocket attacks on Israel when it chooses. Although the UN resolution calls for an embargo on arms shipments and imports to any armed group except the Lebanese Government, this is unlikely to be enforceable, and Syria and Iran are no doubt already planning how to circumvent this condition.

Overall, while the fighting still continues, this has been a costly and difficult war for Israel, one of the first in which Israel’s homeland was under direct attack, and in which, as well as military casualties, there were also extensive civilian casualties. Although the war in Lebanon (not with Lebanon) has completely overshadowed the war in Gaza with Hamas, they will consider it a successful formula, namely bombarding Israel with numerous and long-range rockets (so far they only have short range Kassams). Israel cannot afford to sit idly by while Hizbullah prepares for the next round, and this UN resolution for all its pretensions will not likely prevent that happening.
Another effect of the war will be on the Israeli domestic political scene, I doubt that Olmert will try to pursue his flagship policy of “unilateral withdrawal” from the West Bank, putting the heart of Israel within rocket range. In both places where Israel withdrew, Lebanon and Gaza, we had worse attacks than before, as the opponents of unilateral withdrawal predicted. For Olmert to continue to pursue this policy now would be political suicide.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Public support

In several polls over the past few weeks it has been found that ca. 90% of Israelis support the Government in this war. It has been noted that in 1982 when Israel attacked Lebanon under very similar circumstances there was tremendous opposition to that war. It is worthwhile analyzing why there are these differences 24 years later.
First and foremost, in 1982 Ariel Sharon was the Defense Minister, and Menachem Begin was PM. These two men were anathema to the left and the Labor Party. Both men were considered to be warmongers, and when Sharon made the decision to invade Beirut he disrupted a supposedly national consensus, that the IDF must be used only for defensive purposes, and this move was considered to be offensive. As such it was denounced by the left as "imperialist" and "colonialist" and huge demonstrations against the war were organized, with ca. 500,000 people at a rally in Tel Aviv. The question is why are there no such rallies today?
The obvious reason is that the Government this time is all-but leftist itself. It's true that Kadima is a centrist party, although PM Olmert comes originally from the right wing Likud Party. But, the Government is an alliance of individuals including some from the left, especially Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Head of the Labor Party. Two more politically opposite individuals it would be hard to find than Sharon and Peretz. While Sharon was an internationally recognized general, Peretz was mayor of a small town in the south (Sderot) and then head of the Labor Union, Histadrut. He was also known as a supporter of Peace Now, the leftist movement that opposes all IDF actions, on the grounds that if we don't fight back and give them what they want the Arabs will recognise the futility of war and stop attacking us. Not a very sensible position and not one that Peretz has adopted in the current situation. On the contrary, he has reigned over a Defense Ministry that is thoroughly engaged in the defensive war that the IDF is fighting in Lebanon. Also, Shimon Peres, that constant factor in Labor Party politics, is now our Kadima Deputy PM, and is actively supporting the war and actively engaging in international diplomacy, just what he loves to do.
Also, last time it was the PLO that had a "state-within-a-state" in south Lebanon while this time it is Hizbollah. And not only is Hizbollah a nasty Islamist fundamentalist terrorist movement, that wants to destroy Israel and kill all Jews (sympathetic leftists too), but it is indiscriminantly bombarding the entire north of the country, and Haifa is known as a left-wing stronghold. Even leftists recognise that Hizbollah deliberately started this conflict by attacking across the international border and killing IDF soldiers and taking hostages.
So the left have a problem, their best man is in the driver's seat, their reasons for opposing the war in 1982 don't apply now and so they are distracted and rendered impotent, like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car.
It doesn't take much for the right to support the war, Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition, has gone on TV and given excellent interviews with cogent explanations of the Government's actions. But, although there was a pathetic tiny demonstration of about 2 dozen leftist extremists in Tel Aviv two weeks ago against the war, so far the left has been quiescent. It may stay that way for the remainder of the war, but eventually the approaching car will hit them, and then they will find something to shout about.
There are many potential criticisms of the conduct of the war. Why did they wait so long, nearly 3 weeks, before initiating a ground invasion of S. Lebanon? It may have been the need for a long period of "softening up" of the Hizbollah fortified villages. It may have been political caution on the part of inexperienced politicians. It may have been an erroneous assumption by the Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, who was formerly the Air Force Chief, that air power could do it all, the "shock and awe" factor used by the US in Iraq. It may have been reluctance to call up large numbers of inductees and rather let the professional forces take the brunt of the initial fighting and casualties. It may have been in order to signal to Syria that the call up of reserves was not directed against them, but at consolidation of the IDF position in S. Lebanon. There are many possible reasons and factors, some of which we may be unaware. At this point it is futile to guess.
But, as the toll of casualties mounts on both sides, some leftist are no doubt getting fidgety, they are unusually quiet. Maybe they have glimpsed the truth articulated so effectively by PM Blair in his speech in Los Angeles last night. There are those in the West who simply "don't get it," who haven't realised that the "arc of hostility" that stretches from Iran thru Iraq and Syria to Lebanon is aimed at well-meaning leftists too. Perhaps the left in Israel are not that stupid after all. Nah!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Iranian war

The French Foreign Minister Phillipe Douste-Blaizy said in Beirut on Monday, when he met the Iranian FM, in an astonishing quote that will hang around his neck and cause him to stink forever, that "Iran [is] a great country, a great civilization -...which plays a stabilizing role in the region." Nothing could be further from the truth! It shows how low the moral status of the French has remained, since they capitulated to the Nazis in 1940.
In 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini, aided by France, returned to Iran, and declared the Islamic Republic, he also proclaimed the Islamic Revolution. They hoped to export their revolution to the Shia areas of south Iraq, and south Lebanon. That was in the heady days when the US Embassy was taken over and the Americans were held hostage for a year. It has been reported that now Pres. Ahmedinejad was one of the student leaders responsible for that atrocious act.
And then there was the Iran-Iraq war, started in 1980 by Saddam Hussein of Iraq, in which Iran lost perhaps a million men and boys. Young men directly out of the religious schools of Qom and elsewhere were sent to the front with only a Koran and a slogan. One of the most common slogans, pasted all over Teheran, at that time was "the road to Jerusalem leads thru Baghdad." Fortunately Iran was unable to defeat Iraq and they never got to Baghdad. But, they never changed their intentions.
In the intervening years Iran was recovering from the losses of the Iran-Iraq war and has had a series of so-called "moderate" leaders. However, now that Pres. Ahmedinejad has been elected, Iran has returned to its extreme revolutionary mode. Now in the present situation, they are manipulating their fellow Shias in southern Iraq and Baghdad into a sectarian revolt against the Sunni Iraqis, using the extremist Shia leader Muktada al Sadr as their proxy. Their main concern is to force the Americans out of Iraq and to try to form a Shia republic there. They are also responsible for the current attack by Hizbollah on Israel. This was initiated by Sheikh Nasrallah on the orders of Ahmedinejad in order to take the heat off Iran at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, that started the same day as the attack.
Hizbollah, safely ensconced and dug-in in south Lebanon, was considered to be essentially immune from Israeli air raids. Ahmedinejad gave them long-range rockets to attack Israel in the event that Iran itself comes under fire from the US over its nuclear facilities. Hizbollah have admitted that they did not expect such a strong and destructive response from the IDF to their attack, they believed their own propaganda that Israel was a "paper tiger," and would not counter-attack as they hade not done so in the past when Hizbollah had periodically bombarded northern Israel and also attacked the IDF and taken hostages (three dead hostages and a former IDF Israeli businessman were exchanged for 1,000 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners only a year ago).
So now we have another round in the Iranian war against the West. Since Iran has limited options it depends on its proxies in south Lebanon, Iraq and of course, Syria. These are the extent of its ability to expand its Shia revolution, since the majority of Sunni Arabs are not interested, except perhaps Hamas, that although it is Sunni is bankrolled by Iran, and being Palestinian is more extreme than anyone else.
Note that Lebanese Christians and many Sunnis and Druse, are totally against Hizbollah. They see it as their enemy, highly armed and the agent of a foreign power, Iran. Beside the pictures of Nasrullah in south Lebanon one sees Ayatollah Khomeini and other Iranian Imams, but not Lebanese politicians. Interviewed on BBC Radio one Christian in a cafe in Beirut said that he hoped Israel would destroy Hizbollah, and his friends all agreed. They know what's going on. This is another stage in the Iranian war, and Israel must win this one. Luckily it seems that Pres. Bush and Condy Rice are aware of the stakes.