One of the many problems with Israeli policy toward its hostile neighbors is to believe that by escalating the conflict to levels it hopes the other side will feel are intolerable, it will somehow cow them. The only problem with this approach is that it makes the fatal assumption that when you escalate, your enemy somehow remains static. But of course, this being human nature we are talking about–the other side is always devising ways to counter-escalate. And while I deplore the latest Hezbollah attacks on IDF soldiers in northern Israel, the group has indeed ratcheted up the conflict several notches.
First, it deployed its Katyusha rockets to hit towns in Israel that had never experienced such attacks before. When a rocket lands on Kiryat Shmona, Israelis nod their head in sympathy while saying: “Nu, so what else is new?” But when they rain down on Sfat (Safed) and Haifa, places which have never heard or seen them before, this has to be deeply troubling. And the chief of staff’s warning today that Hezbollah has rockets with a 70km range has to be even more daunting.
The latest escalation involves a Hezbollah claim that it sank an Israeli ship participating in the naval blockade of the Lebanese coast. The IDF immediately acknowledged the attack but said damage was minor. However, the latest from Haaretz is this:
Four Israel Navy sailors were reported missing after an explosives-laden drone, apparently launched by Hezbollah, hit a naval vessel off the coast of Beirut on Friday night.
The blast caused a fire on board the ship, which had been stationed 16 kilometers off of the coast of Lebanon. After the fire was extinguished, it became clear that four soldiers were missing…
he incident occurred at around 8:30 P.M., causing a fire close to the helicopter landing pad onboard. The ship’s steering mechanism also sustained some damage.
Several hours after the vessel was hit, an IDF spokeswoman said the damage was worse than originally thought.
This reminds me of the attack on the USS Cole after which the U.S. downplayed the severity of the incident. Only later did it become apparent that the attack had nearly sunk the ship. I wouldn’t be surprised if something like this happens regarding this report as well.
And lest one believe that this is the end of Hezbollah inventiveness in its struggle against Israel, Haaretz adds:
Hezbollah has never before used a remote-controlled unmanned aircraft to attack Israel. But in a signal of its growing capabilities, the guerrilla group has twice managed to fly spy drones over northern Israel in recent years. The drones caused great concern in Israel because they evaded the country’s air defenses.
No matter how much one detests the group, one has to admit that this is a wily, resourceful and resilient enemy. One dismisses its ability to inflict a great price on Israel at one’s peril. In fact, one would have to say that despite Israel’s overwhelming superiority that Hezbollah has the tactical initiative. It has absorbed every Israeli blow levelled so far and inflicted some costly counter blows. I say this not because I am cheering on one side against the other. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Rather, I wonder in horror what Israel’s generals may be devising to counter this new escalation. You, see escalation begets escalation until we’re all like poor blind Tiresias traipsing through life bereft of mother and wife.
My final point is that the policy of mutual escalation, indeed the whole concept of there being a military solution to any aspect of this conflict is absolutely barren and bereft of sense. Lo b’choach v’lo b’hayil ki im b’ruchi amar adonai tzevaot (“Not by power and not by force, but rather by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts”).