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Monday, December 29, 2008

Gaza goal to re-establish Israeli deterrence?

Ethan Bronner pretty much gets it right in a column in Monday's New York Times (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
“In the cabinet room today there was an energy, a feeling that after so long of showing restraint we had finally acted,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking of the weekly government meeting that he attended.

Mark Heller, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that that energy reflected the deep feeling among average Israelis that the country had to regain its deterrent capacity.

“There has been a nagging sense of uncertainty in the last couple years of whether anyone is really afraid of Israel anymore,” he said. “The concern is that in the past — perhaps a mythical past — people didn’t mess with Israel because they were afraid of the consequences. Now the region is filled with provocative rhetoric about Israel the paper tiger. This operation is an attempt to re-establish the perception that if you provoke or attack you are going to pay a disproportionate price.”

Numerous commentators on Sunday, both in Israel and in the Arab world, noted that the shadow of the 2006 Lebanon war was hanging over the attack on Gaza.
I don't believe there's much uncertainty in Israel about our ability to fight. But it's clear that the Arabs don't fear us anymore, and that is largely because of the IDF's failure in Lebanon (and that's how everyone here other than Ehud Olmert sees it) two and a half years ago. And yes, people believe that deterrence must be restored.

But the real uncertainty is about our willingness to fight. The question that dogs people here is whether our politicians have the willpower to order the army to undertake difficult operations and whether the IDF has the stomach to carry them out. Those questions have not been answered yet and they will not be answered until Israel actually has to put soldiers on the ground and sustain casualties. Have no doubts: If Israel is going to change the reality in Gaza, the only option is to put soldiers on the ground. The 'Palestinians' have too much weaponry and personnel in underground tunnels (including the entire Hamas leadership and - I am guessing - Gilad Shalit) for Israel to change the reality without actually going into Gaza. Remember Gulf War I in Iraq? That's what this war is going to look like. Gulf War I included a ground operation. But unlike Gulf War I, hopefully this time the good guys will follow through.

Bronner is correct when he says
There is palpable satisfaction at the moment in the Israeli government and the military because the operation so far is seen as a success.
But he is hopefully missing something when he says
Few have focused on the fact that at this stage in the 2006 Lebanon war, there was the same satisfaction — before things turned disastrous.
Things turned into a disaster in Lebanon for two reasons. First, because we had a buffoon for a 'defense minister.' Ehud Barak - who became Defense Minister in Lebanon's aftermath - is a lousy politician but he's a solid general. As a military tactician he's only lost once (Sultan Yaqub in 1982).

The second reason Lebanon turned into a disaster was because the government lost its nerve and waited too long to send in ground troops. If the rocket fire from Gaza starts increasing (at the moment it's running at about the same levels as last week), I'd worry about the government having lost its nerve. So far, that has not happened.

There are more reasons why this war is less likely than Lebanon 2006 to turn into a disaster. At this point, Ehud Olmert is a caretaker Prime Minister and I don't believe he's really running the show. Barak and Tzipi Livni both understand that with elections in six weeks (barring postponement - Israel's President has the power to postpone elections in cases of national emergency, but it's probably too early to discuss that seriously), if they bring home another standoff like in Lebanon, their careers are over. They won't let Olmert rein them in. Barak and Olmert are known to dislike each other anyway, and it's probably fair to say that Livni and Olmert dislike each other as well.

Aliza (Olmert) will have a lot less influence this time.


At 6:10 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I agree that if this is really an expensive campaign commercial for the Israeli Left, public support for Operation Cast Lead will dissipate rapidly. Israelis are prepared to do everything to defend their country but they are not prepared to send their children to die so that Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni look good during an election. The only way it will be judged a military and political success is if the Hamas regime is removed from power and its vast military infrastructure is destroyed. Any other outcome is just a big waste of time.

At 7:28 PM, Blogger browser said...

with these two criminaly insane traitorous pathetic cowards olmert and barak.leading this government the outcome will be exactly the same as in lebanon,
you can just see it that they are not out to win this war with a decisive victory,and the proof of this is that after three full days of bombings there are only 300 casualties.
these two traitorous leftist swines
are holding back the IDF's firepower for amuch more important mission,and that is for the time that they will be used to chase out another 250,000 jews from YESHA.


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