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Friday, August 04, 2006

Can Israel's Lost Moment be Found?

Charles Krauthammer's column in today's Washington Post should be read and re-read by Israel's leaders and supporters and by anyone who cares about the US - Israel relationship. Unfortunately, it is readily apparent that the Olmert government does not understand what is at stake in Lebanon, and by refusing to take off the gloves and go all out against Hezbullah, it risks jeopardizing Israel's special relationship with the United States. Somehow, the Olmert government must wake up before it is too late for Israel.
For decades there has been a debate in the United States over Israel's strategic value. At critical moments in the past, Israel has indeed shown its value. In 1970 Israeli military moves against Syria saved King Hussein and the moderate pro-American Hashemite monarchy of Jordan. In 1982 American-made Israeli fighters engaged the Syrian air force, shooting down 86 MiGs in one week without a single loss, revealing a shocking Soviet technological backwardness that dealt a major blow to Soviet prestige abroad and self-confidence among its elites at home (including Politburo member Mikhail Gorbachev).

But that was decades ago. The question, as always, is: What have you done for me lately? There is fierce debate in the United States about whether, in the post-Sept. 11 world, Israel is a net asset or liability. Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on July 12 provided Israel the extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate its utility by making a major contribution to America's war on terrorism.

...

America finds itself at war with radical Islam, a two-churched monster: Sunni al-Qaeda is now being challenged by Shiite Iran for primacy in its epic confrontation with the infidel West. With al-Qaeda in decline, Iran is on the march. It is intervening through proxies throughout the Arab world -- Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army in Iraq -- to subvert modernizing, Western-oriented Arab governments and bring these territories under Iranian hegemony. Its nuclear ambitions would secure these advances and give it an overwhelming preponderance of power over the Arabs and an absolute deterrent against serious counteractions by the United States, Israel or any other rival.

The moderate pro-Western Arabs understand this very clearly. Which is why Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan immediately came out against Hezbollah and privately urged the United States to let Israel take down that organization. They know that Hezbollah is fighting Iran's proxy war not only against Israel but also against them and, more generally, against the United States and the West.

Hence Israel's rare opportunity to demonstrate what it can do for its great American patron. The defeat of Hezbollah would be a huge loss for Iran, both psychologically and strategically. Iran would lose its foothold in Lebanon. It would lose its major means to destabilize and inject itself into the heart of the Middle East. It would be shown to have vastly overreached in trying to establish itself as the regional superpower.

The United States has gone far out on a limb to allow Israel to win and for all this to happen. It has counted on Israel's ability to do the job. It has been disappointed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has provided unsteady and uncertain leadership. Foolishly relying on air power alone, he denied his generals the ground offensive they wanted, only to reverse himself later. He has allowed his war cabinet meetings to become fully public through the kind of leaks no serious wartime leadership would ever countenance. Divisive cabinet debates are broadcast to the world, as was Olmert's own complaint that "I'm tired. I didn't sleep at all last night" (Haaretz, July 28). Hardly the stuff to instill Churchillian confidence.

His search for victory on the cheap has jeopardized not just the Lebanon operation but America's confidence in Israel as well. That confidence -- and the relationship it reinforces -- is as important to Israel's survival as its own army. The tremulous Olmert seems not to have a clue.
Krauthammer misses an important point here. It's not just Olmert's reliance on air power alone that's problematic: it's the refusal to make full use of the air power that Olmert has at his disposal. The results of Olmert's refusal to fully utilize Israel's air power have been doubly bad for Israel: he is risking the lives of our ground troops unnecessarily when he has sent them into battle, and the bombing against Hezbullah has been much less effective than it could have been.

Hezbullah is hiding behind civilians. Those civilians have been told again and again to leave the battle areas. If they have not done so by now, it is because they support Hezbullah (as many of them do), and their remaining in the war zone is a willful act undertaken at their own risk. The 4th Geneva Convention is clear on this point (and in fact does not even require that civilian presence in the battle zone be willful). Article 28 of the 4th Geneva Convention provides:
The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.
That is precisely what Hezbullah is doing by hiding behind civilians. While Israel cannot target civilians, it can and should go after Hezbullah operatives as if the 'civilians' were not there. Given that Hezbullah built schools and residences directly above munitions depots, there is no other way except to ignore the civilian population when going after Hezbullah operatives. Therefore, for example, when the IDF issues its report on the Qana massacre fraud and the report states,
The army said that they had operated according to information that "the building was not inhabited by civilians and was being used as a hiding place for terrorists." Had they known that civilians were in the building, the attack would not have been carried out...

... and that the building was adjacent to areas from which rockets had been launched towards Israel.
it shows that the Olmert government either does not understand, or does not want to take advantage of, the rights that are granted to it under the 4th Geneva Convention. (My belief is that the problem is the latter rather than the former, which would be in keeping with the replacement of Judaism with 'liberalism' as the religion of the left).

Somehow, the government must be made to realize that this war must be won clearly and decisively, and that the only way to win this war is to go after Hezbullah as if the 'civilians' were not there. The sooner Olmert and his leftist cabinet wake up to these facts, the better.

2 Comments:

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Dave Lucas said...

It's a shame that many good people on both sides are dying because of this. Let us pray that the conflict will soon be resolved, that the citizens of Israel and Lebanon can enjoy peace.

 
At 2:17 AM, Blogger PD111 said...

Carl

Good analysis.

The question - is Olmert's government still committed to withdrawal or disengagement in the West Bank. If so, then after this huge expenditure of blood, treasure and political goodwill of the US, all it will do is to bring the war nearer to Israel, and more effective as a consequence.

 

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