Jerusalem Magazine
Eleven Israelis died today, so far. Five in Acre, three in Maalot. Again, over 200 rockets fell. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened, again, to bomb Tel Aviv. Acre was one of the targets today. A few people just walking around got hit by the shrapnel.  This has not been a good day.
The Iranian president called for the destruction of Israel. England’s premier Blair asked, “How much help is that?” Now for a surprise. The former head of Israel’s Mossad Ephraim Halevy, said on Israel radio today that Israel should only negotiate with Iran. No sense in talking to Hezbollah, since they’d only check with Iran. No one to talk to in Lebanon, since the government is sort of like the post office, passing messages from one address to another without making any decisions.
Our friend, a good soul, went to the funeral of Michael Lerner, the American immigrant who was killed in the fighting two days ago. She thought that since he was a “single soldier” with no family in Israel, she’d go to show support. She didn’t know him. “How many people at the funeral?” I asked. “A thousand she answered.  Hundreds of people who didn’t know him, or never met him, came to show their support to the funeral on Mt. Herzl. A woman said, “It was the least I could do. He came from the US. We have to honor him.”
A few days before the war Michael was in Philadelphia visiting his family. He returned to Israel when he heard the war had started. His fellow soldiers told how he put his kepaw on and said the Shma when he returned.
The Israeli soldiers are doing what they’re asked to do. An Ethiopian immigrant was interviewed as he loaded the magazine of his M-16. “What, I’m going to call in sick? I’ll go. We’ll do what we need to do.” Another soldier said, “We had some injured. One killed.” He was stern-faced. “But we’ll do the job.”
Should the Israelis feel that all Arabs are bad, three of the killed today were Israeli Bedouin Arabs. When Israel TV showed up in the village, one of the middle-aged Arab men said, “Nasrallah is the devil.” A conundrum. The sirens go on. The Bedouin were killed running for shelter after the siren went off. One never knows when a rocket has your number.
“Send in three-hundred thousand troops, scour the country from south to north, until Hezbollah is wiped out.” This was said by a calm reasonable person. “Look what happened in Iraq. Underpowered attack. Too few people. Too many enemies. Gotta go and wipe them out.”
But that is not what’s going to happen. Mostly Israelis hear about the diplomatic clock ticking. A few days. A week, maybe. Maybe two. The airwaves are filled with generals and former diplomats explaining how the present battles are necessary to achieve positive achievements in the upcoming peace talks. “First you have the battles, then the sides talk. That’s the way it has always been.” This is the common thought. The main message. Other analysts criticize the way Israel delicately handled the first weeks of the war, relying on the Air Force.
Not really true, though, that only talking works. The Germans may have talked to the Allies after surrender, but they surrendered. So did the Japanese. The talking came after the victory. In this case the commentators seem to think victory is too costly. That too many lives will be lost. Sort of like Iraq all over again. Throw enough troops at the problem to keep it going, but not enough to win. If I were a soldier fighting in Lebanon knowing that a cease-fire was in the offing, would I fight hard? When you’re down thirty points in the last quarter of the game, can you really get up the strength to make up the gap? Some pundits are saying that too much talk is coming out of the government, and not enough action. Too much jockeying for position at the negotiation table, and not enough victory in the field.
Three hundred thousand Israelis are homeless. Soldiers are dying in the field. Hezbollah is still fighting. Still sending rockets. And they have lots of rockets.
How can the war be won? With the bunker busters? Didn’t work in Iraq. Israel leans heavily on the air force, as did the US. Never did get Saddam that way. Butit did drive him into a spider hole, hiding out like a common criminal. Will the same thing happen to Nasrallah?
Meanwhile the split has begun to show. PM Ehud Olmert is opting for the diplomatic track while Defence Minister Peretz
is talking about staking out a security zone.
An ex-General, once head of an elite intelligence unit, says the Lebanese have to send in troops to hold the security zone, and the UN has to disarm Hezbollah according to UN resolution 1559. The moderator of the Israeli TV show doing the interviewing called this ex-Intelligence guy an "optimist"
Maybe there is hope. Maybe the UN can come in and disarm Hezbollah. The idea knocked around was that Israel would clear out the Southern Lebanese territory, and make it safe for the UN peace-keepers, who would disarm Hezbollah. My guess is that the Israelis will be stuck in the Lebanese mud for years. Analysts criticize the Prime Minister for too much too little, when it came to the ground war. But perhaps PM Olmert was trying to save the lives of Israelis soldiers. Perhaps the Minister of Defense, Amir Peretz, has advisors who differ with Olmert’s advisors.  Army will always want to fight. Politicians will always want to talk. Maybe this is good cop bad cop, for Nasrallah’s benefit.
Today was Tisha B’Av, the 24-hour fast marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples a couple of thousand years ago. In Jerusalem it passed quietly. But the religious people in Tsfat and Meron or other places in the north, didn’t have it so easy. Not only a fast; no water, no food, but the nerve-wracking sirens, and frightening bombs landing nearby.
The younger Israelis all have friends who have been called up. Close friends. Going to war. The TV shows maps of how Israel will keep a security zone of about 5 miles along the border. Israel did this once before, and were in Lebanon for 18 years. Now Hezbollah leader Nasrallah says he won’t stop firing rockets as long as Israel is in Lebanon. That’s his new excuse, as if he needs one.
The US President George W. Bush has again supported Israel. So has Tony Blair. One wonders what Winston Churchill would have to say about now? He mounted a campaign against Germany, and pounded them ruthlessly into surrender. The US was hit in Hawaii and went to war. Israel does it and gets castigated by the Press for bombing buildings in the country that started the war. Another conundrum.
If Israel didn’t think the world ran on a double standard, they do now. Most of the world’s press would rather show a blasted building in Beirut than Israelis in the hospital. If the world didn’t understand Iran’s plans for Israel, just read their lips. And then see if you can apply what their saying to Britain (remember the bombs in the subway?) Spain (remember the bombs in the train station) even Bali (remember the bomb in the disco. In Bali of all places.) And of course the Twin Towers of democracy. If the Hezbollah obduracy isn’t enough to make the world tremble, think of the damage they’ve done with their sponsor Iran. Think of the damage they plan to do.
In answer to Nasrallah’s threat of rockets in Tel Aviv, tonight Israel bombed Dahiya in Southern Beruit. The Israeli army says that if he responds by a rocket in Tel Aviv Israel will destroy whatever stands in their way. Especially in Beirut.
Tisha B’Av. One wonders if people didn’t see those destructions coming, and no one listened.
August 3, 2006 Day 23 War in Israel