Jerusalem Magazine
Aug 4 06 Day 24 War in Israel
Not many people believe that this conflict can reach a conclusion satisfactory to either side. Even within Israel the divide is beginning to surface. There are those in favor of a massive invasion, those who’d settle for just carving out a security zone, and those who think a total withdrawal is the best possible solution.
Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has been making the round of radio talk shows and TV stations in Israel, London and the US. He is an excellent spokesman for Israel. He’s presentable, has all his hair, isn’t too old, and speaks English with an American accent. Best of all he’s positive. Even in Hebrew. “I don’t think this war needs two drivers,” he said. Bibi is also the leader of the loyal opposition, the Likud Party, formally the home of PM Ehud Olmert. “At this point in time I’m not going to criticize the management of this war. That will come later. Now we’re all in this together.”
Cabinet minister Meir Shitrit, is a member of the Kadima party, which split off from the Likud when former PM Ariel Sharon decided he didn’t like the way the party was treating him. Shitrit has been a shrewd politician, and loyal party man, no matter which party. He’s in. PM Olmert was not in favor of a ground campaign, preferring the surgical strikes from the air. Experts claim that Olmert was advised that the war would be quick, that Hezbollah would quickly cave in, that the air force would destroy the snake, or at least cut off it’s head. Didn’t happen.
Shitrit is defending Olmert’s plan, even today. He is, however, very much is own man.  He was Israel’s youngest mayor. Elected to run Yavne when he was only 27. Since then he’s been in the Knesset nearly without a break, and served many Prime Ministers, in many cabinet posts. “I’m against a push to the Litani River,” he said. When asked why, he laughed. “We’ve seen that movie. We were in Lebanon for 18-years. What did it get us?
When the radio interviewer asked him if the no-fire zone wasn’t important to Israel’s safety, he said, “What? They don’t have missiles that can hit us from Beirut? What is this going to give us?”
“What about keeping Hezbollah away from the fences, so they can’t kidnap soldiers? He was asked. “I think that’s the job of the international force that will come in. Not us.”
Defense Minister Amir Peretz is a member of the left-wing Labor party. He joined Olmert in a coalition in order to keep the right-wing parties at bay. Olmert surprised everyone when he appointed Peretz, who has never held a cabinet post, much less one as powerful and complicated as the Defense Ministry.
Peretz is pushing for a move back to the Litani River, about where Israel was before they withdrew in 2000. He and Olmert are at odds over this strategy.  Further to the left of Peretz is Yossi Beilin of the dovish Meretz Party. Beilin has been calling for a withdrawal and talks with whomever will talk since day four of the war. He is mostly ignored. Peretz seems to be the hawk, suddenly. Reportedly he was assured at the outset of the war that the air force would end the job quickly. So far the war has gone on longer than even the Yom Kippur war. That war ended with an imposed settlement between Egypt and Israel. Ultimately a cold Peace was established.
Hezbollah however has said it wouldn’t honor any cease-fire as long as Israeli troops were on Lebanese territory. Prof. Guy Bachar is one of those who support Peretz’s view. He believes that the only real solution to the problem was hitting the Hezbollah as hard as possible for the next week, or until a cease-fire is called. He believes Israel needs to clear the land to the Litani, prepare it for another force to come in. He’s another optimist.
An ex-Air Force intelligence General said that Israel had done a terrific job so far. The air force had destroyed the Hezbollah infrastructure. A million people were on the march in Lebanon. They felt deeply what it was to attack Israel.
Another expert said that the majority of Lebanese didn’t really support Hezbollah, and that beneath the surface they were waiting for someone to eliminate them from Lebanon. Since no one else was willing, they’re waiting for Israel to do the job.
But as happened in the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, where eventually the police realized that every demonstrator hit on the head became a radical, as if tapped with fairy dust, the same thing seems to be happening in Lebanon. The homeless masses are mad. The families of the nearly 600 dead are mad.  The wounded have more than a bump on the head from a billy club.
Bibi Netanyahu defends Israel’s actions. “What do you expect? They are bombing us. So we bomb them. And if the complaints are that Israel is using too much force, someone should remind them that we’re only using a small fraction of what we could use. We are showing restraint. They just don’t know how much damage we really could inflict.”
Reuven S, a neighbor, was walking his dog in the empty lot near our homes. His dog is 15. Reuven is 57.  “I remember Lebanon. I was there in ’82, as a paratrooper. What was that, 24 years ago? Now we’re back.” Did he think the invasion was a mistake? “Of course not. We have to go in there. We have to hit them. They’re bombing us. What choice do we have?”  What about the homeless?  “What about our homeless?” he said. “We didn’t ask for this war. It was imposed upon us.”
Most of the commentators agree that if Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had it to do over again, he wouldn’t capture the two Israeli soldiers. He’s apparently lost his infrastructure. Suffered the loss of troops and weapons. And prestige. But these experts also agree he’s surprised Israel with the dedication of his fighters, and their courage.
Granted, all the experts agree that Hezbollah isn’t up to fighting one on one against an Israeli soldier. When the Hezbollah fighters encounter Israelis they run. The only thing they are good at is firing RPGs and anti-tank missiles, with deadly effect. The Israelis claim they’re driving Hezbollah back. Other pundits say it’s like trying to push back water with your hands. These are not the Americans facing the Chinese in Korea, where wave after wave of troops attacked the GIs. These are just local villagers, trained by the Iranians in guerilla tactics, who all think they’re Rambo. They don’t use the big fancy knife, but the RPG and Iranian supplied anti-tank weapons are just as effective.
Will an international force have the will or strength to take these guys on? Will Hezbollah be able to rebuild, get more supplies in from Syria, and reload, ready to fire again, if and when a cease-fire is ever in place?
Time will tell. Meanwhile, more soldiers are dying, again, in Lebanon. Civilians are dying in Israel. A taste for revenge is on the tongues of most Israelis. The dogs of war have been let loose and it’s not going to be so easy to get them back in the kennel.
August 4 06 Day 24 War in Israel
August 4, 06 Day 24 War in Israel