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Can Israel Survive This Catastrophe?

By David Warren

The war was an unavoidable disaster for Lebanon. It ends in a worse disaster: the victory of Hezbollah. The great majority of Lebanese who want nothing to do with Hezbollah must now live in a country that the terrorist organization will soon take over. They have the force of arms, and as Mao Tse-tung correctly observed, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." It is why the ruthless can prevail on this planet, and why it is never a mistake to confront them too early.

For Israel, the war was equally inevitable. No freely-elected government can stand and watch its citizens attacked and terrorized. For years Hezbollah had been dropping Katyushas into Israel's northern farms, without response. Since the year 2000, Israel had depended upon a final border with Lebanon, agreed by all parties through the U.N., in the hope of containing the problem. Finally Hezbollah performed a provocation larger and cockier than Israel could ignore. The capture of two IDF soldiers, infinitely more than the killing of six, was calculated to force a response. Israelis are rightly horrified at the thought of their own sons and daughters falling captive to such animals. Mere death they are accustomed to.

Those who have argued that Israel's response was "disproportionate" should learn how to feel shame. Hezbollah fired several thousand Katyusha and other rockets, almost all of them aimed at civilian targets -- and fired them from within Lebanese villages, crawling with "human shields". For more than a month, nearly a million Israelis were trapped in air raid shelters, while the devastation accumulated above them.

What would have been a proportionate response? Should Israel have lobbed a few thousand bunker-busters casually into Lebanon's villages and towns? If they had done that, would the Jew-haters and Jew-baiters of the world have shut up?

But now the ceasefire is a catastrophe for Israel to harvest, and Lebanon to share. And it was Israel's fault. Not for trying to destroy Hezbollah, but for failing to do so. A weak and stupid prime minister, Ehud Olmert, spent five crucial weeks changing his mind about what he was doing. The entire ruling establishment exposed itself as crippled by "political correctness", trying to fight against an enemy like Hezbollah, with the chief object of limiting civilian casualties.

I refer my readers to an article written by Avi Shavit, in last Sunday's Haaretz, to get some idea of the depth of the hole that Israel's own smug "gliberal" class has excavated. They acted on the incredible assumption that Israel's power would persist as a fact of nature, no matter what they did to subvert it.

For nearly sixty years, Israel has been in a position where it must unambiguously win every war. In the neighbourhood they occupy, a single defeat, and they are finished. They almost lost in 1973, but recovered (thanks to the local generalship of one Ariel Sharon), and had crossed the Suez and were in the act of cutting off most of the Egyptian army when the whistle finally blew for that ceasefire. The mess in Lebanon in 1982 likewise ended, despite setbacks, with the PLO enemy begging for mercy.

Speed has likewise been crucial to each Israeli advance. The country is small and can't afford the casualties of long campaigns, but worse, they are dependent on American arms. They must accomplish all goals, before American interests across the Arab and Muslim world are sacrificed. In this case, Shia support for Hezbollah was pulling Iraq to pieces, and alliances with Arab "moderate" states were cracking.

This time the war ends with the enemy substantially intact, after the longest campaign yet, and the whole world on the other side of the negotiating table.

After one week of the war, the Israelis had assembled the necessary pieces for a classic rout through the south of Lebanon, as I wrote on July 22. It was going to be bloody, but there was no way around except through. In the week after that, Mr Olmert and his colleagues began fussing, fumbling, and contradicting each other. Essentially, they could not bring themselves to do what they had to do, from horror at what it involved. Essentially, they persisted with an air war that wasn't getting results, and with limited ground incursions, in the vain hope of a miracle. It emerged that, with six years to prepare, they had seriously underestimated the degree to which Hezbollah were dug in, and the amount of explosive force it would take to dislodge them.

Read Caroline Glick's analysis of the ceasefire resolution in last Sunday's Jerusalem Post, if you want to understand how thoroughly it compromises Israel's most vital interests. It is not an overstatement to say, it leaves them in the position of being criminalized by U.N. proclamation, should they ever dare to defend themselves from Hezbollah again.

The next question is: Can Israel survive this?

© Ottawa Citizen

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