Avnery questions the results thus far of the following progression of Olmert’s purported strategic objectives: To destroy Hizbullah; To push Hizbullah away from the border; To kill Hassan Nasrallah; To return to the Israeli army the power of deterrence; Deploying an International Force along the border; “We shall create a new situation in the Middle East”. His rhetoric aside, these are legitimate questions, and it must be considered whether the current strategy will achieve any of them.
You and I, of course, agree on how much we dislike Hezbollah. Where we disagree is how it can be defeated. I’d like to stress that I’m not debating here the rights and wrongs of Israel’s incursion into the Lebanon. What we’re debating is what will work. Clearly Israel had to respond to the attacks upon it, but my point is that taking the war as far as Israel has done has strengthened Hezbollah, and it was always going to do so. So long as Hezbollah has sponsoring powers behind it (as it does), so long as Hezbollah is indifferent to the deaths of the civilians in its midst (as it is), and so long as Hezbollah is able to recruit new ‘martyrs’ (it still is) the only military question was how bloody a nose it was going to get. It was never going to be knocked out. Given those facts, Israel would have better advised to devise a method of retaliation that (a) minimized any propaganda advantage Hezbollah might derive and (b) boosted the indigenous Lebanese opposition to Hezbollah. Clearly, it did the opposite. The result of all this is that over the longer term Hezbollah will emerge strengthened from this affair, something that was, I fear, all too predictable. As I’ve said before, I will be delighted if I’m eventually proved wrong, but it doesn’t look like I will be.