2006/12/10

THE SECOND LEBANON WAR | REASONS AND RAMIFICATIONS

Leif Nadbornik

The average Joe, watching the news, would hardly have given a second thought to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on 12 July. “Those crazy Middle Easterners” would have been his first reflection, just before changing channels or waiting patiently for something “more interesting” to come on the news. Little did he expect that this kidnapping would end up completely dominating the news for the rest of that cursed summer.

Israel, equipped with one of the most modern, motivated and well prepared armies in the world was not able to fulfill the objectives Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had set for the mission inside Lebanon, Operation Gishmei Kaitz - Summer Rains.

The reasons behind the operation were clearly not sinister and pre-planned, but rather – as shown by the force of the initial strikes on Lebanon – to stop further kidnappings of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah operatives. Olmert wanted to show them that it’s just not worth it, and, along the way, get back the soldiers; as opposed to the official spin, which was simply “to get back the soldiers”.

Whether the operation that ended up escalating into all-out war achieved that is questionable. In an interview, Hassan Nasrallah said that he would not have ordered the kidnapping of the soldiers had he known the extent of the damage the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) would inflict on Lebanon.

To understand the results of the war, one must peer into the minds and capabilities of the leadership, as well as the apparatus that carried out the operations.

Prime Minister Olmert is, to all intents and purposes, a brilliant politician. Anyone who manages to climb to the top of the stormy, ever-changing mountain of Israeli politics has to be a political magician. The problem is that he is not much of anything else.

Trying to swim through corruption charges and a horrendous track record of 12 years as Mayor of unified Jerusalem, Olmert did serve as Minister of Trade and Industry under the previous government led by Ariel Sharon, but the success of the economic policies of his own government that rose to power only this year, is largely due to good macroeconomic conditions, the desperately needed reforms carried out by Benyamin Netanyahu – Minister of Finance during Sharon’s last government, and the Governor of the Bank of Israel – internationally renowned economist, Stanley Fischer.

Olmert is, in contrast to Prime Minister Sharon, whom he succeeded, equipped with no significant military experience. Additionally, he bowed to political pressure and appointed Amir Peretz, a former trade union leader as his Minister of Defence. Peretz, like Olmert, is not a military man.

The IDF, on the other hand, while armed to the teeth, has been bogged down for years in operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Here, the IDF conducts high-level intelligence, launching frequent aerial and ground surveillance operations and usnig Palestinian informants to give warning of impending terrorist attacks on Israeli civilian targets and any other political and military developments in the region. Aerial missions in the Gaza Strip have been scaled up since to the withdrawal of Israeli settlements and IDF troops from the area. On the other hand, operations in Judea and Samaria – as the West Bank is known in Israel – require significant expertise in urban warfare.

This mixture of incompetent and corrupt political leadership with an army that has not seen conventional warfare since Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982 – as the First Lebanon War is known in Israel - is the cause for the military failure of the Second Lebanon War.

While some, especially Arab, opinion leaders would be keen to predict the rapidly approaching demise of Israel on the back of its failure in the latest war, we must keep in mind that the war’s aftermath will see those named responsible for the fiasco lose their political heads or have military honours and stripes ripped from their shirts.

After this, the army will undoubtedly be refocused on classical warfare as well as on keeping up with the military challenges that Palestinians continue to pose. Funds are already being redirected to developing defence systems against short-range surface-to-surface missiles to prevent future damage on the scale of last summer’s Hezbollah missile rain.

While the war did cause significant material damage to Northern Israel, economic growth and foreign investment has continued almost as strongly as before the war. The Bank of Israel estimates that the war in the North caused an aggregate revenue loss of 23oo million NIS (537 million USD) (Globes, 9 November 2oo6) to the government coffers, and that despite this, economic growth is expected to continue robustly and with a stronger than expected tax inflow.

Hezbollah, on the other hand, if it refuses to change its modus operandi in Lebanon and end armed resistance against Israel, will have to face a more determined and much better prepared IDF the next time around.

As regards Lebanon, there seems to be no happy ending when, roaming free within her borders, there is a powerful militia, acting as a political party, that incidentally controls a whole region and whose declared intention is to inflict harm on a neighbouring country.

LEIF NADBORNIK is a recent graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, with a BA in International Relations and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. He is currently living in Cairo.

78 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny how things turn out sometimes...

Those soldiers 'kidnapped' by Hezbollah... were actually captured INSIDE Lebanon's borders doing illegal reconnaisance work on behalf of the IDF!

Furthermore, it's been established that Israel had war designs on Lebanon LONG LONG time in the making.

Sorry Leif, you either don't know yer history or you're holding somethin back from the goy

16 January, 2007 19:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

incredible how some people always succeed in missing the point. besides the point that the previous person to post a comment was wrong in the kidnapping thing, and the author of the article is correct, the point of the article is not whether they were kidnapped in israel or in lebanon. and every country should have contingency plans, as did israel.

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