Blogging the War: An Existential War

by Brian on July 20, 2006

in In the News,Living Through Terror,War with Hezbollah

This article was posted on on Thursday, July 20, 2006. The link is here. 


The war with Hezbollah is one that Israel cannot afford to lose.

As war enters its eighth
day and the north of Israel continues to be pounded by Hezbollah
missiles, while Haifa braces for further attempts at hitting the
strategic oil refinery along its Mediterranean coast, Israelis are
standing solidly behind their government’s actions, a new poll
revealed.The Dahaf Institute, which conducts surveys for the
Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, found that 81 percent of the public
favors a continuation of the fighting in the north, and that 58 percent
of Israelis believe that fighting should continue until Hezbollah is
completely destroyed. The latter number spikes to 69 percent among
those living in the north.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert summarized
the situation bluntly in a speech before the Knesset on Monday:
“Citizens of Israel, there are moments in the life of a nation, when it
is compelled to look directly into the face of reality and say: no

The Israeli consensus behind the war is critical but not
surprising given the stakes involved. This is not Lebanon II as some
commentators have said. Make no mistake, the war that has been thrust
upon Israel, unprovoked and unwelcome, is as existential a threat as
the Six-Day War in 1967 and the War of Independence before it in 1948.

is not a “border skirmish” and it is not “simply” terrorism. The entire
north of Israel — as far south now as Haifa, Tiberias and Afula — is
essentially off limits to tourists and residents alike. Even if a
ceasefire were declared tomorrow, a nearly 40 kilometer swath of the
country would be essentially uninhabitable, with the threat of more
missiles raining down at any time.

On Monday, Israel reported
that it destroyed an Iranian-made “Zelzal” missile that had a long
enough range that it could hit Tel Aviv. While that news item
mysteriously vanished by the morning papers, the implication remains:
if Israel does not win this war, the entire country is in Hezbollah
missile range and, as we now so painfully know, the possibility of
Hezbollah using its missiles now or in the future is not just in the
realm of the doomsayers’ imagination.

Henry Kissinger once said
at the height of the Vietnam era that, “the guerrilla wins if he does
not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win.” If Hezbollah
is not stopped once and for all, it will have won — in the eyes of its
supporters and in the actions of copycats around the world — and
Israel, in a very real sense, will not be able to limp along as a
viable state for much longer in the face of such a loss.

the war with Hezbollah is not limited to Lebanon and the north of
Israel. It is a regional war whose outcome may have the power to
reshape the entire Middle East. The U.S., say some commentators, is
looking to Israel to do its dirty work, to send a message to Iran that
its proxy army in Lebanon cannot succeed against unrestrained Western
might. The thinking goes that if Hezbollah — and Syria by extension
either diplomatically or in the field — is dealt a crushing blow, Iran
may step back from its unbridled bellicosity against the West.

general Wesley Clark minced no words. In an interview with the Fox News
Channel’s Bill O’Reilly on Monday night, he expressed the hope that
Israeli action in Lebanon would “reshape the region in favor of
democracy” without U.S. troops having to lift a finger.

U.S., for now, at least, has given Israel nearly carte blanche to clean
up the mess. Perfunctory calls for Israel to “act with restraint” and
Condoleezza Rice’s proposed visit to the region aside, U.S. President
Bush’s true opinions on where real responsibility for the current war
lies came out loud and clear during Monday’s inadvertent on-microphone
comments to Tony Blair at the G-8 Summit when he said “What they need
to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s— and it’s
over.” For Syria: read Iran as well.

Even political doves like
Ha’aretz’s Yoel Marcus, who are loathe to approve of anything the
Israeli government does, have come out in favor of Israel’s current
action. On Tuesday, Marcus wrote “we should be grateful to Hezbollah
for giving us this ‘window of opportunity’ to launch an offensive that
will change the rules of the game and break down the “balance of fear.’
All Israeli governments have resigned themselves to Hezbollah’s
extra-territorial standing as almost a state within a state, supported
and stage-managed by Iran, which keeps it stocked with weapons and
military instructors.”

Marcus reflects the Israeli consensus
when he said, “we’re looking at one of Israel’s most justified wars.
With the whole arsenal that Hezbollah has amassed, it was clearly
gearing up for a large-scale attack on northern Israel at some future

If Israel can deal a fatal blow to Hezbollah, can Hamas
be far away? Israel’s actions in Gaza haven’t gotten as much airplay of
late, but the fighting has continued — as have the Kassams raining down
on the outskirts of Ashkelon. Although we may see what’s happening in
the south of the country as smaller potatoes, try telling that to the
residents of Sderot who have suffered rocket attacks from the Gaza
Strip nearly non-stop for months now.

How long will this clean
up operation take? Deputy IDF Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe
Kaplinski said on Tuesday that the offensive against Hezbullah would
reach its completion “in a matter of weeks.” Will Israel have that kind
of time before the international consensus of support breaks down? And
what about internal Israeli dissension? Already today, Israeli
government officials seem to be floating trial balloons aimed at
gauging public opinion.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni hinted
Tuesday morning that Israel would not object to a temporary
international force in south Lebanon, despite earlier outright Israeli
rejection of such a plan which stated that an outside force would
hinder Israeli action, and in any case, if it didn’t work the last
time, why should we have any expectation for different results now?
Livni quickly added that her tentative diplomatic overtures were not
meant to shorten the IDF operation but to ensure implementation of UN
Resolution 1559, which was supposed to have eliminated the Hezbollah
threat when Israel withdrew from Lebanon six years ago.

Tuesday, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said that Israel may have
to consider the possibility of negotiating over Lebanese prisoners to
end the current crisis. Were Dichter and Livni speaking for Prime
Minister’s office, or as happens too often in this land of oversized
egos, shooting their mouths off without a license?

What is clear
is that, whether international forces are deployed or whether Israel
ultimately returns to the negotiating table, the war is far from over.
Hezbollah may have more surprises for Israel, and Syria may still join
the hostilities. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are safe for now, but for how

Religious pundits have already begun to speak of this
being eventually labeled the “War of the Three Weeks.” The war in the
north opened on the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, the beginning of the
three-week period of mourning leading up to Tisha b’Av — the ninth day
of the Hebrew month of Av. That day has been traditionally one for
remembering great destructions in Jewish history — from the first and
second temples to the Holocaust — and is commemorated through fasting
and prayer.

If this war were to end — successfully — in a
matter of weeks, Tisha B’Av could be transformed from a day of sadness
to one of jubilation. The converse — another Jewish tragedy to add to
an already long list — is unthinkable.


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