A Policy of Disaster

Olmert's approach is an expression of the strategy that has governed Israel's response to Muslim terror for a decade and a half, an approach I call 'concede-punish-retreat.'

Jared Israel,

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The Israeli cabinet has approved the UN plan for a ceasefire and multinational force in Lebanon. This plan: grants Hizbullah the same legitimacy as Israel; calls for a 15,000-strong UN force that could render future Israeli military action against Hizbullah an international casus belli; outrageously rewards the Hizbullah-Lebanese government policy of terror regarding the phony issue of Shebaa Farms; lets Iran off scot-free after it sponsored Hizbullah's attacks; and is predicated on the pro-Hizbullah Lebanese military being trained to protect Israel, with the training carried out by Germany, which has itself played a treacherous role.

The acceptance of this plan caps a policy of disaster that:

a) has seen Prime Minister Ehud Olmert woo intervention by foreign governments and the UN, which consistently encouraged Hizbullah's Lebanon-backed anti-Israel terror;

b) has involved a military offensive relying primarily on air power, thus preventing the IDF from destroying Hizbullah, which can only be accomplished with massive ground forces. At the same time, the focus on air power has given Hizbullah a crucial propaganda advantage. (As we shall see, Olmert's approach is an expression of the strategy that has governed Israel's response to Muslim terror for a decade and a half, an approach I call 'concede-punish-retreat.')

Wars cannot be won from the air. To win, ground forces are needed to control terrain and defeat the enemy military. The partial exception is an air war of terror. Israel has - most fortunately - conducted the opposite kind of air war, destroying enemy weapons and facilities while trying to protect civilians (e.g., Israel drops leaflets to warn civilians away from targeted areas, even though this alerts Hizbullah). Conducted in this principled fashion, wars cannot be won from the air.

This is especially true when fighting terrorist forces; more so when the terrorists don't care about civilian casualties; and even more so when they are supplied by very wealthy Iran.

Thus, when the Israeli government decided, after six years of Hizbullah's Lebanon-backed attacks - including terrorist incursions, the firing of antiaircraft guns at Israeli towns, the murder and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, and the arming of Palestinian Arab terrorists - to counter attack, the Israeli air assault needed to be followed by a massive ground incursion to crush Hizbullah's forces, seize its weapons, and arrest its military-political leadership.

This approach has been staunchly resisted by the Olmert government, which even now has only some 30,000 troops in southern Lebanon. What is needed is a force ten times that size.

As I have documented, the US State Department called the 2005 Lebanese elections a victory for democracy. In fact, Lebanese elections have been conducted under the merciless eye of Islamist Hizbullah, which has, we are told, 6,000 armed men supported by a disciplined, Nazi-like political/media apparatus. With Israel having withdrawn from Lebanon and doing nothing to protect Lebanese who oppose Hizbullah, with Hizbullah armed, trained and financed by Iran and holding monster rallies with thousands of chanting fanatics - in such an atmosphere, Lebanese opposed to Hizbullah's Iranian Islamism are intimidated, and those without clear ideas may express unfelt support. But a huge Israeli ground force would shatter Hizbullah's local and international image of invincibility. Anti- Hizbullah Lebanese would be emboldened, coming forward to identify Hizbullah's local enforcers. The IDF could arrest them and install de-Nazified local governments in liberated areas.

However, relying on air power, the opposite occurs. Hizbullah has in effect politically directed the Israeli air war. Knowing Israel will attack any area from which rockets are fired, Hizbullah can launch and hide rocket launchers in densely populated areas and force civilians to "take refuge" in buildings near launchers or kill civilians themselves, then place them in areas from which rockets have been fired, knowing that Israel will counter attack. To the extent that Hizbullah controls the ground, they can bring in collaborating "news" people to broadcast this staged morality play to the world.

Israel's policy of warning civilians to leave areas from which Hizbullah is attacking is honorable, but Israel can then alternately be blamed for forcing thousands of Lebanese from their homes.

The Olmert government's reliance on air power - absurdly defended by Justice Minister Haim Ramon's claim that this maximizes Israel's advantage - fits Olmert's stated goal, which has been not to destroy Hizbullah, but to get a UN-brokered cease fire with a multinational force in southern Lebanon. This, supposedly to keep Hizbullah's rockets away from Israel, while the Lebanese are trained to protect the border. Expecting the UN and the Lebanese government to protect Israel from Hizbullah is like expecting wolves to guard hens from foxes.

A case in point is the Shebaa Farms dispute, regarding which the UN has consistently acknowledged that Israel did everything the UN asked, while Lebanon openly flaunted the UN. Nevertheless the UN has, for six years, facilitated Lebanese recalcitrance and attacks on Israel. Now, not only does Olmert advocate this UN-controlled solution, but he calls for Lebanon to police the border from which it has supported attacks on Israel. And who is to train these suddenly transfigured Lebanese security forces? The same Germany that, after the October 7, 2000 kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers, boosted Hizbullah by publicly endorsing its call for "mediation".

German Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder toured the Middle East, endorsing the pro-Hizbullah government in Beirut, praising Syria, and pressuring then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak to allow "mediation". When, under German pressure, Israel traded 429 Palestinian and Lebanese terrorists for the bodies of the three kidnapped soldiers - murdered by Hizbullah - and a single living Israeli, the head of German intelligence accompanied the Lebanese terrorists to Beirut and publicly congratulated Hizbullah for their role in the so-called "prisoner exchange", calling it a ?humanitarian operation."

Responding to a six year war of terror by Hizbullah, Lebanon, Syria and Iran with air attacks and a relatively small ground force, projecting as his goal not victory, but a ceasefire to be guaranteed by hostile forces, Olmert has acted in accord with Israel's post-Oslo strategy: concede-punish-retreat. Thus, Israel withdrew unilaterally from Lebanon in May 2000. Hizbullah and Lebanon responded by: a) declaring they had vanquished the evil Zionists; b) promoting Palestinian Arab terror; and c) conducting low intensity war on Israel's northern border, while importing Iranian weapons. Israel has now answered with air strikes that cannot destroy, but only punish Hizbullah, allowing the anti-Israel media to claim Goliath Israel is bullying heroic David (Hizbullah-Lebanon). And now, Israel is to withdraw without crushing Hizbullah, allowing Hizbullah's worldwide supporters to claim Israel has been defeated.

This approach - concede (the May 2000 withdrawal), punish (the air strikes and insufficient ground force), and retreat (agreement for a cease fire administered by a UN force, with German "training") - facilitates Islamist recruitment. Islamists teach that super-powerful Jews are trying to humiliate Islam (i.e., the evil Jews punish), but that they are also weak and can be defeated (i.e., the Jews concede and retreat). It also plays into Western-style anti-Semitism, which likewise teaches that Jews are monstrous, but cowardly.

This disastrous policy can be corrected in one way: the people of Israel must topple this government, reject the cease-fire, and empower the IDF to destroy Hizbullah. As the May 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon demonstrates, if that job is not done today, it will be a good deal harder tomorrow.