[Marxism] Israeli gov seeks impression of victory, see harm to strategic relationship with US

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Aug 13 20:17:24 MDT 2006

August 13, 2006
News Analysis

Israel Seeks Hint of Victory 

anger/index.html?inline=nyt-per> STEVEN ERLANGER

JERUSALEM, Aug. 12 -
s/israel/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Israel's move to greatly increase
its ground forces in
s/lebanon/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Lebanon a day before it is expected
to accept a cease-fire has two goals: to damage
bollah/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Hezbollah as much as possible and to
conclude the conflict with something that could be called a victory for
an Israeli government under domestic pressure. 

Having begun the war by proclaiming that the aim was the destruction and
disarmament of Hezbollah, Prime Minister
t/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Ehud Olmert will be able to claim only that
Hezbollah is badly hurt and, with the help of international troops,
effectively restrained - even without the robust new international force
or disarming of the militia that Israel initially demanded. 

In this last army push, which many here regard as too late to make a big
difference, Mr. Olmert wants to ensure that the Iranian-backed militia
and its stockpiles are at least cleared out of southern Lebanon.

The hope is that inhabitants of the north will be able to return home or
emerge from bomb shelters without the daily fear of rocket fire. 

The Israeli cabinet is scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss a
urity_council/index.html?inline=nyt-org> United Nations Security Council
resolution calling for a cease-fire. But the Israeli Army will be
pressing forward at least until Monday, if not beyond, trying to destroy
Hezbollah rockets and assets. That is a task that Israel does not
believe the Lebanese Army, even accompanied by an expanded
ted_nations/index.html?inline=nyt-org> United Nations force, will dare
to do. 

Mr. Olmert and his defense minister, Amir Peretz, have been wounded by
the perception that they mishandled the war and were overly reluctant to
commit sizable ground forces when there was enough time to accomplish
the government's stated goals. The life of the government is likely to
have been shortened. 

The debate in Israel has not been over the war's legitimacy - that is
widely accepted. The attacks on the government have been over its
handling of the assault.

In a familiar pattern of backbiting - the best indication that the war
has not gone well - the army leadership is complaining that the
politicians did not let the military do its job, and the politicians are
complaining that the army promised that the task could be accomplished
in a week or two and largely with air power.

As usual in Israel, the army is more popular than the politicians, and
it is bound to win the argument. But the army's performance against
Hezbollah will lead to considerable introspection and criticism about
failures in strategic analysis, intelligence, training and preparedness,
especially among the reserves.

There will also be sharp criticism of governmental preparedness, with
the image of many thousands of poorer Israelis huddling for a month in
decrepit bomb shelters with inadequate public services and supplies.

Mr. Olmert, who leads the centrist Kadima Party, is going to face a
postwar onslaught from the right, in particular from
etanyahu/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu,
the Likud Party leader, favored a major military operation to destroy
what he called "an Iranian army division" fighting in "a war conceived,
organized, trained and equipped by Iran, with Iran's goal of destroying
Israel and its fantasy ideology of building a once-glorious Muslim
empire in which we are merely the first pit stop."

There is more of this talk to come, and from another rival on the right:
Avigdor Lieberman, who is already very popular among the Russians who
make up a large number of the Jewish Israelis living in the north, many
of whom were too poor to seek shelter in southern towns.

Mr. Olmert's plan to extend the policy of unilateralism by removing up
to 70,000 Israeli settlers from the West Bank, behind the separation
barrier, also appears moribund. The rocket wars have made the barrier
look flimsy, and one year after
on/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Ariel Sharon and Mr. Olmert pulled 9,000
Israeli settlers out of Gaza unilaterally, many onetime supporters of
the plan say that critics like Mr. Netanyahu appear to have been correct
- that the disengagement provided little security or stability.

The plan to hand over more territory in the West Bank to a
as/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Hamas-led
estinian_authority/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Palestinian Authority that
could use more sophisticated rockets to hit Tel Aviv is now being
dismissed as folly by many in the center, not just on the right - an
unexpected gift to the settler movement.

"A year after the withdrawal of Gaza, there is a huge 'I told you so'
hanging in the air, and it's hard to argue with, when Qassams are still
flying out of Gaza and nothing has moved forward," said Tom Segev, an
Israeli historian. "Like Oslo, Gaza disengagement was a good idea, but
it was managed very badly. But instead of criticizing the management, we
criticize the thing itself."

Itamar Rabinovich, a former ambassador to Washington, said bluntly: "Two
notions have died. First, unilateralism, and second, separation by the
fence. Missiles dwarf the fence."

Israelis also fear there has been damage done to their relationship with
the United States, where some may complain that the Israelis were given
time to clobber Hezbollah and did not get the job done.

Mr. Rabinovich is more sanguine. "Part of the reckoning will be our
reputation as a strategic partner, when we tell the Americans, 'Give us
the tools and we'll do the job,' " he said. "Part of our self-image is
of military miracle workers, and we didn't do that this time."

Still, he said, Lebanon reinforces Israel's view that the real danger in
the region is Iran, Hezbollah's patron, and that the threat of a
nuclear-armed Iran is aimed at Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan too.

For Mr. Segev, the Lebanese war seems like a side show to Israel's main
and persisting problem: the Palestinians. Israel still faces a crisis in
Gaza, including the unknown fate of a soldier captured June 25, and
unresolved disputes over the Hamas-led government.

"This war is a huge detour from the real problem, like an accident that
shouldn't have happened," Mr. Segev said. "The Palestinian problem
persists, and again the government looks to be bad managers."

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