Yesterday, 24 Israeli boys were offered up on the altar of political expediency. As of this time today, another five boys are dead fighting in south Lebanon:
Five Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed in south Lebanon on Sunday, as troops and Hezbollah guerrillas engaged in heavy fighting, hours before a UN cease-fire resolution was expected to go into effect.
Two of the slain soldiers were captains, the IDF said.
As far as I can see, the only reason they died is so Ehud Olmert will have cover on his right flank from the attacks of Likud and other gung ho militarists. They are assaulting him mercilessly since he supposedly refused to fully unleash the IDF in its efforts to destroy Hezbollah. They wanted to invade and obliterate whatever was left of Lebanon that hadn’t already been destroyed in four previous weeks of war.
To give some background, Olmert recently announced he was upping troop deployments from 10,000 to 30,000 and sending the boys to the Litani River. But as Billmon has pointed out, this “offensive” seemed more of a fig leaf to protect Olmert so he could say he made a strong push to dislodge Hezbollah, but without really having to make the long term commitment it would’ve required to actually do so. Olmert can say to those who want his head, see–I made the commitment, the boys are there, they gained Lebanese territory we hadn’t previously held. I made the muscular response you required of me. But if there is a ceasefire that holds on Monday (unlikely in my opinion) Olmert will have gotten off cheap since the fighting will end and no more additional IDF lives need be lost.
It’s an utterly cynical ploy on Olmert’s part. But it goes hand in hand with the cynical and amoral military campaign already being waged in Lebanon.
There are already signs of trouble on the Lebanon side of the ceasefire equation. Haaretz says that the Lebanese cabinet has canceled indefinitely a meeting at which it was supposed to approve deployment of the Lebanese army in south Lebanon:
A critical Lebanese Cabinet meeting set for Sunday to discuss implementation of the cease-fire was postponed earlier in the day, a move that was likely to delay the dispatch of the Lebanese army to the south and an end of the fighting.
Siniora said the meeting had been indefinitely postponed but would give no reason. Pushlished reports said the Cabinet, which approved the cease-fire unanimously Saturday night, had been sharply divided over demands in the cease-fire agreement that Hezbollah surrender its weapons in south Lebanon.
That disagreement was believed to have caused the postponement of the Sunday meeting that was to have taken up the dispatch of some 15,000 troops to the south.
Without such deployment the ceasefire would appear dead in the water.
Also, Syria has made known its views of what will be required of Hezbollah after the ceasefire takes effect. Syria’s interpretation contradicts the wording of the resolution, but is to be expected given the one-sided nature of the requirement that Hezbollah cease all attacks and the IDF being required to only cease offensive operations:
Syria said on Sunday it supported Lebanon’s acceptance of a UN resolution to end fighting there, but added that Hezbollah had the right to resist Israeli forces until they withdrew from south Lebanon.
I regret to say that this is what happens when nations like the U.S. and France attempt to impose their will on other smaller and less powerful nations which don’t wish to go along. Unilateralism didn’t work in Iraq for us. It won’t work in Lebanon either. Bush and Rice have made a fatal blunder in leaving both Hezbollah and Syria out of the ceasefire negotiation process.
And finally, political disagreements within the Olmert cabinet over war strategy seem to be heating up. Tzipi Livni, child of right-wing nationalist zealots, seems to be staking out political ground to Olmert’s left in the upcoming battle over ‘who lost Lebanon.’ Haaretz quotes her today as saying:
Livni said she supports the UN resolution, adding that Israel should scrutinize its actions in order to identify the errors that led to the current conflict.
According to Livni, Israel should ask itself where it erred in light of the fact that Resolution 1559 was not put into place for several years and the Lebanese army did not deploy in the south of the country and that arms delivery to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran had not been embargoed.
Livni said counting on a military solution alone was unrealistic. “No army in the world would have succeeded in disarming Hezbollah with military means alone,” she was quoted as telling the Cabinet. “A parallel diplomatic effort was required.”
Previous reports here and in Haaretz have noted Olmert’s anger at Livni’s new found dovishness. There seems to be a potential split brewing in Olmert’s increasingly shaky governing coalition. Livni’s position is all the more remarkable considering her political lineage and previous hawkishness on security matters.