Saturday, February 2, 2008

Snow job

Israeli commentators will no doubt be suspicious of a leaked description of the wily Ehud Olmert being “moved to tears” while perusing key parts of the Winograd Commission Report, but I don’t doubt that this was true. Ever since the Lebanon war of 2006, more and more attention has been focused on its last 60 hours, when the IDF launched a ground operation and 33 soldiers were killed—including, notably, Uri Grossman, the writer David Grossman’s son. Many people have charged that the ground operation was so obviously too little and too late, that the United Nations resolution stipulating the terms of the cease-fire was already formulated—that the only possible explanation for this final action was to advance Israeli lines just enough to give Olmert the means to spin public opinion and claim a kind of victory.

For any Israeli leader, the charge that he or she knowingly sacrificed the lives of young soldiers for political gain would be devastating—if it could be made to stick. Recently, at a public awards ceremony, Grossman pointedly refused to shake Olmert’s hand. Had the report not, in effect, exonerated Olmert of the specific charge, retrospectively endorsing the authorization of a ground operation as “inevitable,” it is quite possible that this snub is how Olmert would be remembered. Olmert must have known this and it must have stung.

None of this means that Olmert will survive as prime minister; nobody knows yet whether the Report’s Lasswellian euphemisms (“failed decision-making by the military echelon,” accountability that is “normative in the political echelon”) has given him a reprieve, as he reassured his aides. He will try to survive: dangle the prospect of “talks” with the Palestinians, hold on to his centrist coalition by stoking the (plausible) fear of Bibi Netanyahu, show-off his friendship with Bush, pump the economy—and hope that some ultimate peace deal could be worked out with Abbas (probably, in secret) and give him something to run on in 2009.

And survival does not just depend on Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s verdict, which we should have in a day or two. The Israeli street (grieving parents, army officers, newspaper columnists, political allies who suddenly become rivals) has a way of yanking away the Mandate of Heaven, after which leaders, if not coalitions, die by a hundred cuts. Most originally thought Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir would survive the Agranat Commission Report in 1974. Meretz leader Yossi Beilin, whose parliamentary support may prove crucial, is already calling for Olmert to save the peace process by simply swapping jobs with his more popular foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, whom the Report actually praised.

What can be known already, though, is that the Report has given a reprieve to a style of thinking typical in (what Lasswell might have called) the Israeli “consensus,” where the only power worth taking seriously is military, and the only response to violent actions by rejectionist radicals is an even more violent attack on the states or authorities that unwillingly harbor them. This was the response against Jordan in Qibya in 1953 and Samu’ in 1966. This was the response against Lebanon throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was the response against Fatah since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada, especially when Sharon took over in 2001. The key is to make Israel’s “deterrence” credible: attack Israel and you will be hit tenfold; always checkers, never chess.

The main question the Report seemed to think worth asking was whether the tasks politicians gave generals actually succeeded—and if they did not, who is to blame for failures of decision-making and communication. The Report called the Lebanon War, of all things, “a missed opportunity,” yet another euphemism for the principle that when the government declares war it had better win it. Most of its recommendations were for the IDF.

HERE ARE THE questions the Report did not consider. Did any of these reactions get Israel anything but the alienation of the moderate forces it needed as counterweight to radical groups? Did they not strengthen radical groups, while causing revulsion among citizens of Western countries and in the Arab world as a whole—ordinary people who see, most vividly, the corpses and the rubble?

My God, was it not foreseeable that by retaliating massively against Hezbollah, Israel would be attacked with thousands of missiles, but that the missiles would be launched from buildings Israeli could not destroy without killing hundreds of civilians; that CNN and Al Jazeera would be on the scene and international reaction would force the air force to desist? That, in any case, another occupation of Lebanon would be impossible, and that Hezbollah would redeploy no matter how many losses it sustained—that Hezbollah, which would not even exist but for Israel’s twenty year occupation, cannot lose a war any more than win it, though it can most certainly lose a peace, which is why it will always sucker Israel into war?

Nor does the Report speak of how the consensus was turned into what one friend called ecstasa shel b'yachad, an ecstasy of togetherness. We like to forget this now, but Olmert’s popularity was at its height during the first week of the war, when in response to Hezbollah’s vicious ambush, the IDF responded by bombing Beirut’s airport, bridges, and oil installations, killing scores of civilians, creating tens of thousands of refugees, and fouling Lebanese beaches. When the Katushas started falling, and my wife and I protested (from New Hampshire) to Israeli friends that this was action was going to get us nowhere, one dear friend told my wife: “We have all moved, and you have stayed in place.”

MOST PEOPLE READING this blog did not watch Israel’s Channel One the night the Report was released. That is unfortunate, for the talking heads, for once, did not just shout each other down. The journalist Gideon Levy and former Labor Party and Knesset speaker, Avrum Burg, got the chance to ask the questions asked here, a hint the consensus may be shifting, if only subtly. “Why do we always think about the military first,” Burg asked; “why don’t we try negotiation, why don’t we try diplomacy, why don’t we sit down with the people attacking us.”

But an even more revealing moment was to follow. Vice Premier Haim Ramon, a confidant of Olmert’s, was asked why the “political echelon” simply gave in to the army brass and did not ask any of these strategic questions themselves? Ramon smiled. “All the politicians are afraid of the professionals,” he said; you are in a crisis, the defense professionals tell you they have a contingency plan. “Who dares to be the one in the papers contradicting them?” And it is not just with defense issues, he said. The same is true when you sit down to talk about the budget. You live in a world made by professionals, he implied, and they have been living in the post-1967 consensus for two generations.

The next morning, Jerusalem woke up to a blanket of snow. I flipped on the radio to find out what was open and what was closed. “Route 60 is closed from Shiloh to Jerusalem,” the people at the traffic control told us, a simple, proficient announcement that neglected to tell us that Shiloh is a tiny settlement on the other side of Ramallah, and Route 60 is a by-pass road used mainly by Jews (I drove it last week) to connect Ariel to Jerusalem; a road that would obviously be thought to connect Ramallah to Jerusalem if the people of Ramallah, now freezing and more cut off than ever from East Jerusalem, had not been so professionally effaced from Israeli consciences.


Chaya said...

Now Peretz has come out - like a little whiny boy saying "See? It was the army! It wasn't me!" Why didn't he resign when the war started??? That would have been the right thing to do!

bar_kochba132 said...

It is interesting that you quote as "authorities" someone like Abe Burg who has placed himself outside the Zionist camp. Here is what you quoted him as saying:
“Why do we always think about the military first,” Burg asked; “why don’t we try negotiation, why don’t we try diplomacy, why don’t we sit down with the people attacking us.”

Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon to the international border in 2000. Hizbullah attacks across the border and kills and kidnaps our soldiers. What grievances of theirs are we supposed to talk about with them?
Regarding Gaza, although Israel pulled out in 2005, the HAMAS rulers there are still full of grievances against Israel, including Israel's continued control of Judea/Samaria. However, HAMAS had said over and over they will never agree to make peace with Israel. Bernie, you stated in an earlier posting that "somehow" Israel is obligated to find a solution that even HAMAS can accept..but they themselves there is no such thing. So when they also cross the border, kill and kidnap soldiers, what is Israel supposed to "sit down" and talk about with them.
For that matter, didn't Barak in 2000-2001 literally "sit down and talk with the Palestinians" at Camp David and Taba and cross all the red lines he had publicly pronounced before hand? I know , you and others of the Left keep quoting Robert Malley as saying Barak didn't offer Arafat enough and Barak insulted Arafat by talking to Chelsea Clinton at dinner at Camp David instead of "the Rais" himself. So what did Arafat do instead of making a counter-offer?...he set off the suicide bomber war that killed or wounded THOUSANDS of Israelis.
Maybe the Palestinian and HIZBULLAH leadership DOESN'T want to talk? Did that ever occur to you? They SAY they don't accept Israel's existence, why do you refuse to acknowledge what they themselves say every day? Wishful thinking is no substitute for true political leadership and statesmanship, yet that is all we keep hearing from you.

Israel Defeated Hizbollah said...

I found this interesting article from the Lebanese side.

Why Hezbollah LOST the War in Lebanon!
And the Current 'Present' Situation in Southern Lebanon

By Gabriel al-Amin
Beirut, Lebanon

On July 12, 2006 Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers that led to Israel's war with them and, by extension, Lebanon itself. Hezbollah has been on Israel's fence since the latter's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Israel always requested from the international community and from the Lebanese government to deploy its Lebanese Army there instead of Hezbollah militants. Hezbollah, quite naturally, refused! Hezbollah vowed to NEVER allow any other force other than itself to occupy southern Lebanon. Even during the conflict, Hezbollah said it would never agree to allow either the Lebanese army nor international monitors to patrol southern Lebanon.

Then finally, when two IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers were kidnapped, Israel found the perfect excuse it was looking for to go into Lebanon and push Hezbollah well away from the Lebanese-Israel border. Israel pursued a limited invasion and killed over 500-600 Hezbollah members during the one month war. Additionally, Israel took over every single village in southern Lebanon. During the conflict even though Hezbollah received such a blow and all its members were freaked out and on the run. Yet when the hostilities ended, Hezbollah claimed victory! But did it really win?

Firstly, Israel agreed to a cessation of hostilities NOT because it surrendered and defeated militarily, but because of international pressure from the European Union and the United States. During this conflict Israel endured more international pressure, than it ever did in the past 10 years. Israel was put forth conditions and international agreements, such as the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese soldiers and 15,000 United Nations peace keepers into southern Lebanon, and arms embargo on Hizbollah. "This" proposal which was presented to Israel which EVEN Hzbollah agreed to accept, was something Israel was yearning for for many decades and was a once in a life time opportunity, it was a REAL "golden opportunity," even the far right in Israel said "this is an excellent proposal, so give it a shot." This cessation of hostilities, known as "The August Ceasefire", was initiated by the United Nations and International Community, and was put forward before both parties, Israel and Hzbollah, Hzbollah JUMPED right on the wagon to accept, because they saw it as the only way out of the mess they got themselves into. While at the same time, Israel was more stubborn on accept this ceasefire-agreement, since they were on a winning streak. Ever since then Hizbollah has not been seen or heard from in Southern Lebanon! At long last the frail Lebanese Government has finally had a degree of sovereignty over all of its state and is finally monitoring and guarding its own borders.

Not too long ago, nearly all television and print media images coming out of southern Lebanon were that of armed Hizbullah fighters with their guns, outposts, and banners. Not anymore! Hizbullah is now hiding under rocks in Southern Lebanon, its military might having received a substantial blow. In addition, Hizbullah is no longer enjoying the freedom and luxury of easily transferring Syrian/Iranian weaponry across the Lebanese-Syrian border or via the Beirut seaport. Much of this due to the combined efforts of a stronger Lebanese army and U.N. forces keeping a lid on such transferals.

But even though the International Troops and the Lebanese Army keep Hizbullah in check, isn't there still Hizullah presence in Southern Lebanon, EVEN THOUGH they are hiding "under rocks?" The same could be said for Al Qaeda presence in the United States, who are also hiding under rocks.

Hizbullah may portray themselves as fearsome "militants" but they are in fact cowards cowering behind Lebanese civilians. Yet, through mostly pin-point targeting, the IDF dealt a heavy blow to Hizbullah. Five to six hundred Hizbullah terrorists were killed and nearly all of their bases, headquarters and tactical infrastructure destroyed.

Some might say, "But didn’t Hezbullah manage to shoot over one hundred rockets into Israel every single day? AND why, during the war, didn't the Israel army/air-force ever manage to stop the Katyusha fire?" Well the answer to that would be "What's so impressive about groups of one or two rag heads pointing and setting off an unguided Katyusha southward into Israel?" In addition to the fact that Hezbullah only needed 1% of their military might in order to shoot Katyushas from their scattered fields and caves, into Israel every day. Plus, the only way to have completely stopped the Katyusha fire would have been to occupy every square inch of South Lebanon, including 20 miles north of the Litani, and to stay there for a few months. In the past 7 years, Israel wasn’t even able to curb the Qassam fire by the Palestinians.

Israel 'BADLY' miscalculated Hezbullah, those past 6 years since it withdrew from Lebanon. Why? Because in 2004, it was estimated that if Israel was to engage in war with Hezbullah, their Katyusha arsenal would result in 100 deaths per day on the Israeli side, but instead only 2 people per day were killed by those rockets. But during the war, Israel came to the realization that 99.9% of all those rocket attacks, mostly result in a lot of noise and broken windows. Prior to the war it was also estimated that if Israel launched a ground invasion, it would result in the deaths of over 70 Israeli soldiers per day, which would have left over 2000 dead on the IDF side at the end of the 34 day conflict. But only 120 soldiers were killed in total, which makes it 3-4 soldiers per day. Also, prior to the war AND during the war, both the ‘poor’ Israeli intelligence and Hezbullah itself even claimed, that the “Mighty Hezbullah Rocket Arsenal” would hit Tel-Aviv, but ‘no rocket ever made it to Tel-Aviv!’ Instead, Hezbullah, tried to send little remote controlled ‘toy’ planes there.

The reason 120 soldiers were killed in the first place, is because what would someone expect if an army deployed 30,000 soldiers squashed together in a small, tight, open space (South Lebanon)! It was amazing that after the war, those soldier didn't all suffer from cluster phobia. But even though Israel deployed so many soldiers in the open, Hezbullah didn't manage to deliver that harsh blow as was estimated before the ground invasion. But after all, Hezbullah didn't fight as courageous as the Egyptians during the Suez Canal invasion, nor as the Syrians during the war in the Golan heights.

It shouldn’t shock the world that Hizbollah bombed a couple Israeli Merkava Tanks, because even the Palestinians have done it in the past too. Blowing up a Merkava Tank is NOT an ‘uncommon’ operation. But at the same time Israel was still advancing and still taking over every village in South Lebanon, bombing every headquarter and outpost, all Hezbollah members were on the run. Even though Israel lost a couple of tanks and didn’t destroy Hezbollah, it still doesn’t mean they (Israel) were defeated militarily. The definition of military defeat, mean: to crush the other side, force it to flee and or be on the run, or force it into surrender. Israel was not defeated militarily!

The same can be said about the Israeli naval ship that was bombed by Hisbollah of the coast of Lebanon, during the first week of the conflict, which caused a tiny bit of damage to the ship and which resulted in the deaths of 4 Israeli naval soldiers. Once again this wasn’t a military defeat, but it was an internal flaw, which meant that; Israel needed a better anti missile naval detector radar, a better anti missile interceptor, and better armor for its ship. But did Hisbollah succeed in sinking the ship and destroying it completely, did they destroy all the Israeli naval ships of the Lebanon Coast, did Israel scurry away with all its ships with its tail in between its legs, or did Israel ask for a cease-fire? NO! Instead, Israel simultaneously the same day, brought the damaged ship back into Israel for repair and sent another ship to the Lebanon Coast to replace it.

During and after the war, Hisbollah regretted starting the war in the first place, by kidnapped the two Israeli soldiers. But Israel on the other hand, didn’t regret going to war with Hisbollah, not even 1%. In fact Israel was ready to go for round two, but Hisbollah, will not dare even consider thinking about it.

During the fighting, many people (both inside and outside Lebanon) finally saw Hezbollah as they really are... a terrorist group. It's strategy had little or no military value. The rockets they launched were intended to cause terror among Israel's citizenry. They were not aimed at Israel military targets.

Israel never managed to destroy Hisbollah. As much as the IDF might have wanted to, the wiping out of Hisbollah was not Israel's goal. Nor could it ever be its goal. It is against the laws of physics to destroy a guerilla/terrorist group (America is learning it the hard way with Al Qaeda) since their operatives and members are always blending in and out of the civilian populations from which they so cowardly operate. In fact NEVER in history has a guerilla group ever been destroyed.

Additionally, rescuing the kidnapped IDF soldiers without a strong intelligence as to exactly where they were hidden, would have been a nearly impossible mission, assuming they had not already been secreted out of Lebanon into Syria or Iran!

We constantly hear phrases such "Hezb’allah emerged stronger," "Hezb’ollah is now stronger than ever," or "Hezb’allah is now seen stronger than before!" There is some truth to that. Since before the Israeli withdrawal of 2000, Hezb’allah was seen as more of a small arms, home made explosive, cut and run group, but during this conflict they were able to show off their Iranian made weapons. But they were no match for the Israeli army, whom they bowed down to at the end, by feeling too threatened to attack and provoke ever again.

When the United Nations wanted to impose a 48-hour ceasefire, it was Hezb’allah which rushed to accept while Israel had to be pressured. Obviously this was because Israel had the military momentum in her favor. And when the month-long conflict ended, Hezb’allah leader, Nasrallah, remained in an underground bunker, no longer enjoying frequent visits to central Beirut, giving daily "Hate Israel" speeches, driving down to his home town of southern Lebanon or enjoying first class flights to Damascus and Tehran. Nasrallah even admitted that had he known that even one percent of this war would have gone as it had, he would have NEVER kidnapped the soldiers and thus started the war!

"We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.” - Hezbollah Leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, August 27, 2006

In February 2007, there was a skirmish between Israeli troops and the Lebanese army on the Israel/Lebanon border, even though this skirmish that resulted in a shoot out and was unfortunate, the ray of light from all this, was that Israel was confronted and attacked by the Lebanese army and not by Hizb’ollah. This was one of the first signs that showed that the Lebanese army was doing its job. This was mostly due to the fact that Hizb’allah lost its kingdom in Southern Lebanon, and is NOW in constant check by UNIFL, Lebanese Army, and International Troops. At least the Lebanese army was able to stand its ground and take control, unlike BEFORE the August 11 ceasefire! At least Israel finally got its wish, after 40 years, to FINALLY have the Lebanese army in control of the border. Since August 11, 2006 when the Lebanese army began its deployment in Southern Lebanon, not a single Katuysha, let alone a singe bullet was fired toward the Israeli side of the fence by Hizb’allah. Unlike after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, when Hizb’allah would look for any excuse to shoot Katyushas into Israel at least once every three months, but not anymore. No longer will the Israeli citizens of Northern Israel will ever live in fear once again!

People in the Lebanese Government now hate Hizb’allah, for bringing destruction to Lebanon. All of Hizballah's southern Beirut strong posts were destroyed by Israel. Even after the cease fire, Israel stayed in Lebanon for two more months in order to destroy all remaining Hizb’allah outposts and bunkers while Hezballah stood by and did nothing. During the conflict some of the Israel/Lebanon border fence was destroyed and torn down, and Israel was in no rush to fix it, since what's the point? Hezballah will not want to mess with the IDF again! Even until today some of that fence has not been fixed yet, since the only threat of infiltration, now, is from drug dealers smuggling Hashish across that border.

But what about the Winograd Commission, "which is an independent Israeli government-appointed commission of inquiry, chaired by retired Israeli chief judge Eliyahu Winograd, which is set out to investigate and draw lessons from the failures experienced by Israel during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. Which resulted in a war panel, and even the resignation of high figures such as the Israeli chief of staff Dan Halutz." The reason THIS is currently taking place in Israel, is it goes to show that Israel is a democratic country! If a "Lebanese-Winograd Commission" would be done to Hezballah; for launching an illogical irresponsible attack on Israel, by kidnapping the two soldiers which led to the war and the destruction of Lebanon. And if a Lebanese Winnograd Commission would be done to the Lebanese government; for not controlling its southern border by allowing thuggish armed militias (Hezballah) to roam free there, allowing illegal weapon shipments via the Lebanese seaport, air port, and Syrian Lebanese border to those armed "non-governmental" militias, and allowing Syria and Iran to meddle in its politics, then Lebanon would crumble to dust! But after all, Lebanon is not a Democracy.

Worst case scenario, the Winograd Commission and some of the failures of this war, prove, that Israel might have been defeated from within, but not militarily.

Furthermore there hasn't been one complaint filed against Hezballah on behalf of UNIFL and the International Troops since last year's August cease-fire, the only complaint filed, was against the Israeli army for their over flights over Lebanese territory. Speaking about Israeli over flights, even the Israeli army itself, hasn't complained even once, about hostile enemy fire against its planes by Hezballah. Since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000, up until the war last summer, they continued their daily over flight and breaches over Lebanese territory, only to find themselves being confronted by Hizballah anti-aircraft artillery. But after the August cease-fire Israel 'STILL' continued its breaches over Lebanese airspace, but this time, Hizballah hasn't even shot one pellet at them! Maybe because they are deterred and maybe because UNIFL and the Lebanese army are now in control.

After the war, Hizb’allah saw that it could no longer push around and bully Israel, and are therefore now trying to bully the "weak" Lebanese government by; their mass demonstration, camping out in front of the Lebanese Parliament, and political assassinations.

Israel did loose the war last summer, but not in Lebanon, but instead in Gaza. After Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, Israel began a massive military campaign in Gaza, destroying infrastructure, entering towns and cities, going after terrorists, and also trying to stop the Qassam rocket fire. But instead, all it achieved was nothing, and the results of it were, that now, the Palestinians saw even more of a weakness in Israel. After the Israeli military campaign in Lebanon, deterrence was at least achieved, BUT unlike in Gaza, after the massive military campaign took place there (Gaza), the Israeli deterrence was lost for good, and now, the Palestinians are, even, more UNDETERRED from Israel that ever! And therefore have increased their rocket fire into Israel. In addition to the fact that as soon as Israel stopped its military campaign, Hamas and other groups said, "They are now even more determined than ever to kidnap another Israeli Soldier." In April of 2007, they acted on their promise, under the cover of intense rocket fire on the Israel town of Sderot, Hamas terrorists again attempted to infiltrate Israel in order to abduct another soldier, but failed. A month later the militant group Islamic Jihad successfully infiltrated Israel, to also try to kidnap an Israeli soldier, but also failed. At least they weren't afraid to try!

After the war some Arab Governments, including the Palestinians, claimed Hizb’ullah achieved a divine victory! But hey, lets not forget, that some of those Arab governments and Palestinians which claimed Hizb’ullah won that "divine victory," are some of those "same" Arab governments who "STILL" until today claim that Syria, Egypt, and the rest of the Arab World won the 1967 War and the 1973 War! That is why after this war Israel lost its deterrence against the Palestinians, Iran, and Syria. BUT gained heavily, its deterrence, against Hezbolah.


People from around the world, before the August cease-fire, would have never believed nor imagined that the Lebanese army would EVER be in control of its southern border. Nor, people would have never believed Lebanon would EVER be able to establish control over "illegal" arms shipments across its Lebanese/Syrian border, sea ports, and airports, and, well, it finally is!

Hezbolah will most likely never dare kidnap IDF soldiers because they saw the might and strength of the Israeli army, and they now feel threatened. Sure, some Hezbulah sympathizers may throw rocks, wave Hezbulah flags or scream "Allah Akbar" at the Lebanese-Israeli border fence but Hezbulah rank and file are laying low. Very low! And Hezbellah is no longer the imminent threat at that very same border.

Since the 'moment' the two soldiers were kidnapped and even during the war, Israel knew, they would not succeed in getting them back, in addition to the fact that destroying a guerilla group is against the laws of physics! Once people will get those two facts into their heads, then THEY will realize that, the outcomes that were achieved as a result of this conflict, were the best possible "REALISTIC" outcomes that Israel could have achieved.

Obviously this past year, the Northern Israeli border has been the quietest it has ever been over the past 40 years.

By, Gabriel al-Amin
Beirut, Lebanon

Articles and Refernces:

UNIFL: Not 'ONE' complaint filed against Hezbollah since last years cease-fire
(Jerusalem Post 6/14/2007)

Again, Israeli gloom is misplaced (First Post - 4/17/2007)

Lebanese army, UNIFIL are keeping Hezbollah in check (Haaretz - 2/21/2007)

Hezbollah's 'Victory'? (Washington Post 9/1/2006)

The Lebanese Winnograd Commission (Thomas Friedman, New York Times 5/10/2007)

The Egyptian, 1973 October Victory (Egyptian State Information Service)

Lebanon’s Army Chief “the Lebanese Army is properly controlling its borders with Syria” ( [Hizbollah’s Official Website])

Bin Laden criticizes Nasrallah for allowing expansion of UNIFL troops (GulfNews December 30, 2007)

JamieSW said...

"HERE ARE THE questions the Report did not consider. Did any of these reactions get Israel anything but the alienation of the moderate forces it needed as counterweight to radical groups? Did they not strengthen radical groups, while causing revulsion among citizens of Western countries and in the Arab world as a whole—ordinary people who see, most vividly, the corpses and the rubble?"

Ah, so the only relevant question to ask about Israel's extensive and deliberate destruction of Lebanese civilian infrastructure and killing of Lebanese civilians is, 'did this further Israeli interests'?

"My God, was it not foreseeable that by retaliating massively against Hezbollah, Israel would be attacked with thousands of missiles, but that the missiles would be launched from buildings Israeli could not destroy without killing hundreds of civilians"

In fact, these claims were investigated by Human Rights Watch and found to be false (a judgement with which Amnesty International concurred). In contrast, it is beyond doubt that Israel stationed military equipment and personnel inside and near to civilian settlements during the war. Presumably, then, that makes Hizbullah's attacks justified?

"That, in any case, another occupation of Lebanon would be impossible"

More importantly, it would be illegal and immoral. Is that not worth mentioning?

"though it can most certainly lose a peace, which is why it will always sucker Israel into war?"

In fact, Hizbullah's aims are quite limited: to force Israel to withdraw from occupied territory and to secure the return of Lebanese prisoners. These demands enjoy widespread support within Lebanon.

The aim of the July operation was to force Israel to agree to a prisoner swap. It's also plausible that a secondary objective might have been t show solidarity with the Palestinians, who were being killed en masse at the time.

At the soldiers were captured, Nasrallah immediately made clear that Hizbullah did not want a war and was looking instead for negotiations. It was Israel that, far from being "sucker[ed]" into it, "initiated" the war (to quote Winograd Committee member Prof. Ruth Gavison).

fwiw, my take on the Winograd report is here.

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