Zvi Barel writes a penetrating column on the failure of the Israeli strategy of deterrence in Lebanon in today’s Haaretz. Barel is a former managing editor of the newspaper and one of the most widely read Israeli journalists in the Arab world. I also find Barel’s slashing ironic wit to be refreshingly candid:
This war began with a sack full of legitimacy. No state can allow its soldiers to be abducted. Interestingly enough, not only did a few Arab leaders agree with that stance, so did many Lebanese who realized that Hezbollah had placed them on a collision course with Israel. Three weeks later, the sell-by date has passed on that realization, to be replaced by deep humiliation, suffering and anger. Why wouldn’t a Lebanese who has seen his home flattened into concrete confetti, his neighbors and their children killed by the hundreds and the likelihood of the school year to start on time fade away, begin to recoil? After all, he is already convinced that this is not merely a war against Hezbollah, but rather an all-out war against Lebanon, against him, whether he is Christian, Druze or Shi’ite.
When the war began, he still believed that the IDF, angry and vengeful, would help him hit back at Hezbollah twice as hard, but now he finds that his country has turned into a refugee state. He suddenly meets people he has never known and understands things he never understood: that war, in the final analysis, is not against an organization or an army, it is against a population. Hassan Nasrallah knows this well, and inside of three weeks he engineered the upset he had hoped for: He is once again Lebanon’s hero, the spearhead of the state. In the competition for the hearts and minds of the Lebanese, after all, Israel will never have the upper hand when its shells cannot distinguish between their targets.
It’s admirable that Barel attempts to understand how the average Lebanese is thinking about Israel these days. But I’m afraid that his government and his army don’t’ give two s(^%s about the subject. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be pulverizing virtually the entire country.
Barel relates the struggle in Lebanon with the one against the Palestinians and notes that IDF deterrence doesn’t work there either:
Anyone struggling to understand this equation may want to review previous study notes and ask why it is that the Palestinians, without long-range missiles, heavy weapons, tanks or super-headquarters, are also not deterred by the all-powerful IDF. Why, after more than 150 have been killed in three weeks, do they continue firing Qassams, mortar shells, whatever. Why is it that the logic of the IDF, which measures its forces by the amount of steel it possesses, does not work on them. The answer is the same: When war is waged without discrimination, deterrence is meaningless…
He also points out the grandiosity of Israeli war aims as opposed to the relative realism of Lebanese expectations:
In Lebanon, no one is talking about the IDF being vanquished. The ambition is much more modest: They want the IDF and the Israeli population to suffer so much they will not attack the next time. In Israel the aspiration is still enormous: to disband Hezbollah, to drive it away from the border, to reach a new agreement, and, yes, to deter.
When expectations are so high and the ability to realize them so low, there can only be a cold and cynical response from Israelis when they begin to recognize the high price their leadership has forced them to pay when they have gained essentially nothing in return.
5,000 Israelis Demonstrate Against Lebanon War
More than 5,000 people marched in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, to protest the ongoing Israel Defense Forces operation in Lebanon. Demonstrators set off from Dizengoff Street and marched along King George Street, which was closed to traffic, calling for an end to the conflict and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon, and denouncing Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
I know, I know. 5,000 demonstrators is pathetic considering how horrific this war is. And you’re right. There should be 25,000. But we must also be realistic. There were 100 at the first anti-war demonstration. 2,500 at the second and most recent one. Doubling that number isn’t bad.
And you’ll add that the demonstrators seemed to be most of the usual suspects: Israeli Communist Party activists, Israeli Arabs and assorted Israeli leftie-Bohemian types. All true. But one must keep in mind that a movement must start somewhere. Then it builds from there. And as long as Israel’s insane war and military policy continues this will give the anti-war movement all the impetus it needs. Eventually, if the war continues there will be 100,000.
There are several issues blocking a more mainstream anti-war movement. First, Israel is a national security state. It is very hard to rock the consensus when it comes to security or Israeli-Arab relations. Israelis, especially in war, tend to take a hard line. That’s why even Peace Now has in most cowardly fashion signed on for this war. If you can’t get Peace Now on board, then you’ve got a long row to how. But I’m convinced that the more mainstream left must eventually do so if it wishes to retain its moral mantle. If it continues to acquiesce then it will have little to distinguish itself from government policy itself. How long will its members countenance this betrayal? Not too long, I hope.