Latest news: Haaretz reports that an Israeli grandmother and her five-year old grandson were killed and four others injured by Hezbollah rockets which landed in Moshav Meron on Friday evening. Ha-makom yinachem etchem–May God comfort their families. I have a five year old son and my heart grieves for their loss. Israel’s chief of staff is now warning that Hezbollah has rockets that can penetrate 70km into Israel, far deeper than the 18 mile distance to Haifa, which was rocketed yesterday. Two Israelis died in rocket fire yesterday.
The news gets bleaker and bleaker…
Israel has launched its much anticipated counter-offensive against Hezbollah and the entire Lebanese people in retaliation for the killing of eight IDF soldiers and kidnap of two others. The IDF’s response has been massive and chilling. And it has been “disproportionate” to use the clinical terms of diplomacy. For “disproportionate” read “collective punishment,” which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. How else may we describe an operation which blockades sea, air and roads and murders 63 Lebanese civilians (as of this date)? What can Israel possibly gain from this madness?
Let’s examine Israel’s statements about the Lebanon offensive. Yesterday, Olmert said that Hezbollah had violated “every rule” and brought the “Middle East to the abyss.” Yes, Hezbollah has violated every rule. But it did not bring the Middle East to the abyss because by itself it does not have the capacity to do so. However, Israel, with its massive firepower has more than the capacity to do so and it has through its actions in Lebanon. And one must not forget that Israel played a key role in initiating the escalation with a month of mostly failed attacks and targeted assassinations which killed 20 Palestinian civilians. This in turn led to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit which in turn led to the Gaza invasion which in turn led to the Hezbollah attack on IDF positions in northern Israel. Of course, the concatenation of events is a bit more complicated than what I’ve made out–but that summarizes it in a nutshell. So all of Israel’s claims that it is the victim here ring false. Yes, in losing its troops to killing and kidnapping it is the victim, but not the innocent victim it makes itself out to be.
I also found this piece of reasoning absolutely ridiculous:
Israeli officials say they believe that their campaign against Hezbollah is popular with many Lebanese…
I’m sure an Israeli policy which threatens to turn the country into a smoking ruins will find much favor among the inhabitants. Do they stop for even half a second to think how they would feel if an Arab nation bombed Tel Aviv to gain the upper hand on some Israeli political/military faction?
And here is further demented reasoning from the Israelis:
Until now, the Israeli officials said, the Lebanese campaign, largely limited to airstrikes and naval shelling, has been largely limited “to infrastructure, not too dramatic, and the Hezbollah neighborhood” in southern Beirut, which was leafleted first to ask residents to leave. Airstrikes, the most intense over Lebanon since the 1982 war, have been carried out against Hezbollah rocket and ammunition stores, launching sites, barracks and buildings.
Israel expected Mr. Nasrallah in response to order a cooling off period
Surely, they must be joking. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that whoever said that to the NY Times reporter didn’t even believe what he or she was saying. Israel couldn’t have expected a “cooling off.” I’m certain it expected retaliation. Perhaps it even welcomes it because it allows the IDF to further penetrate and obliterate Lebanese/Hezbollah targets. But again, it will not matter how many targets it obliterates. Hezbollah will remain standing probably stronger than ever. It will reinforce its image within Lebanon and the Arab world as one of the few forces which stood up to Israel and fought back.
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has further revealed the cluelessness of the military/political strategy:
Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said: “Our intention is to hurt Hezbollah and cause the Lebanese government to take responsibility for what is going on within its borders and somehow create conditions which will enable our prisoners of war to come home.”
“Somehow create conditions which will enable our prisoners to come home.” In other words, “this is what we’d like to happen but we have no idea how to actually make it happen.”
The Times quotes an Israeli analyst whose rhetoric that would be worthy of any neocon think tank (and just as delusional–I’ve noted those portions in italics):
Guy Bechor, an analyst who heads the Mideast Division of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said that Hezbollah, having made a series of errors, “is coming closer to its defeat,” and that Israel is likely to continue to carry out most of the campaign from the air to avoid being bogged down in Lebanon.
“Facing this aerial machine, Nasrallah can do little,” Mr. Bechor said. “And it will lead to its defeat. Israel is not going for an understanding with Hezbollah, but for a victory.”
Israel needs a few more days, Mr. Bechor said, to get the message across, and it will echo in Gaza, he said. “New parameters in Lebanon will make it easier for Israel with the Palestinians,” he suggested.
Four Israelis are now dead from Katyusha rocket strikes in northern Israel. Are these deaths worth the cost of this futile invasion? Is even a single Israeli life worth the cost of these adventures? I’m calling it an invasion even though ground troops are not yet involved. It is everything an invasion is but that.
Impotent U.S. Policy
U.S. reaction to the crisis continues to be shamefully, and perhaps purposely ineffectual. Lebanon has asked President Bush to push Israel for a ceasefire which he has refused:
White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters that Mr. Bush had spoken with Lebanon’s prime minister, Fouad Siniora, but would not press Israel for a cease-fire.
Mr. Bush “believes the Israelis have the right to protect themselves, and that in doing so they should limit as much as possible so-called collateral damage, not only to facilities but also to human lives,’’ Mr. Snow said.
Asked specifically if Mr. Bush would call for a cease-fire, Mr. Snow said, “No. The president is not going to make military decisions for Israel.’’
Yes, certainly Israel has the right to ‘protect itself.’ But how in heaven’s name is blockading an entire country either defensive or ‘protective’? As to “limiting collateral damage,” they’ve got to be kidding. This is just more doublespeak coming from an Administration which perfected the art with its prevarication regarding the war in Iraq. The U.S. has become a hopeless aider and abettor of Israel’s grandiose vision of “changing the rules” regarding its relations with the Palestinians and Lebanese. Which makes perfect sense because that is precisely what Bush himself tried to do in invading Iraq. Is there any doubt that the latter policy has failed just as the former is doomed to failure?
Israeli officials…said that the Israeli strategy is to diminish or destroy the power of Hezbollah, which has created “a state within a state” in southern Lebanon, and to ensure that the Lebanese army replaces Hezbollah on the border with Israel, as demanded by the United Nations.
In response to a new barrage of rockets today, said Isaac Herzog, a member of the Israeli security cabinet, “We’ve decided to put an end to this saga and to change the rules of the game whereby a terrorist organization that is part of the Lebanese government can push the region to the abyss.”
Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, a member of the general staff, said: “We want to put Hezbollah out of business. We want to force the Lebanese government to take responsibility and deploy along the border and dismantle Hezbollah, which if it is allowed, will prevent any stabilization and peace process in the Middle East.”