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Sum Up The Attitude Print E-mail
By Jay Bushinsky
August 14, 2006

As they say in modern Hebrew, 'One more victory like that and we're lost.'

That sums up the attitude of most Israelis, especially those called up as reservists to fight the Hizbollah guerrillas with defective equipment, insufficient rations and above all, questionable tactics.

It took a man of the stature and experience of Moshe Arens, an American-educated aeronautical engineer who served as defense minister during what now is termed The First Lebanon War to call the shots as they really were. How could it be, he asked, that Israel's armed forces, which are armed, trained and ready to defeat all the neighboring Arab states could not overcome 5,000 Lebanese irregulars despite the Hizbollah's possession of equipment and know-how obtained from its patron, the Islamic Republic of Iran?

The element of surprise, one of the Jewish state's most valuable military assets, was not brought to bear until the very last minute when, on the eve of the UN Security Council's unanimous vote for a cease fire, a massive ground assault was launched whose objective was to seize all of south Lebanon as far as the Litani river.

Until then, the infantry, armor and combat engineers operated within a stone's throw of the international boundary, overrunning the fortified positions created by Hizbollah immediately after Israel's hasty and unconditional withdrawal from south Lebanon six years ago.

The purpose at that stage was to clear the way for the Lebanese Army to take over the border zone, a move it was authorized to make under the terms of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1680.
Simultaneously, elite units were locked in costly battles with Hizbollah personnel in a string of towns and villages that were chuck-full of anti-tank rockets and pockmarked by land mines and roadside charges.  They actually were death traps for Israel's soldiers.

As the warfare expanded in the spirit of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's ringing words, "so far and no further," ('ad kan,' in Hebrew), the plight of the two soldiers who had been abducted from Israeli territory by the guerrillas who killed eight others in the process, July 12, seemed to fade from view, virtually made invisible by the flames and smoke churned up by the ferocious aerial bombardment of Beirut and other Lebanese cities.

The cease fire agreement mention them only in its preamble without any operative or clearly-defined procedure for their release.  Yet their abduction was what triggered the Second Lebanon War in the first place.

Rank and file Israelis were aghast at the toll in dead and wounded and the physical destruction caused by the 4,000 rockets and missiles launched at their cities, towns and villages by Hizbollah gun crews.  And as if the guerrillas' clerical leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, wanted to prove that Israel's military effort was in vain, the gunners fired off more projectiles during the final 36 hours of hostilities -- 330 -- than during any comparable time frame.  This was accomplished despite the fact that most of south Lebanon had been conquered by then.

The most depressing realization here is that Hizbollah still has at least 6,000 to 8,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal, presumably for use in the next round. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking as leader of the loyal opposition, predicted that another war with Hizbollah and its covert supporters, the Iranians, is "inevitable."  He urged the Olmert government and the military establishment to correct the defects and mistakes made in "Operation Change of Direction," (the awkward-sounding name given the five-week war, which was the longest since Israel's War of Independence of 1948-49).It is commonplace now to hear concerned citizens advocating the formation of an independent inquiry commission charged with finding out what went wrong and who is to blame. But neophyte Defense Minister Amir Peretz prefers an in-house board of inquiry which would lack the teeth and insight of the proposed commission.

Several of Israel's leading journalists, especially Ari Shavit of the independent daily Haaretz, openly accuse the Olmert government of abysmal and shameful failure. But their critique is either being dismissed as premature or untimely while perenniel advocates of national unity, such as Justice Minister Haim Ramon, constantly inveigh against becoming embroiled in "the wars of the Jews."

Ramon contends that Israelis have engaged in merciless backbiting in the aftermath of all of their wars.  But he conveniently overlooks the fact that when things go wrong, as they did at the start of the Yom Kippur War and at the end of the First Lebanon War (the Sabra and Shatilla massacre of Palestinian refugees) there must be probes to make sure the bad performance is not repeated.  And in both cases, the public demanded such probes and got them.
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