When I posted yesterday, the troops were on the march. Later last night, they were halted by order of PM Olmert, responding to tremendous pressure from President Bush, who asked that we hold off on the massive invasion in the hopes that there might still be a diplomatic breakthrough at the UN. That’s called hanging by a thread, I guess: hoping for a diplomatic breakthrough at the UN.
Word unofficially is that Olmert will wait no longer than the weekend. If UN resolutions are not forthcoming that are satisfactory to Israel, we will move to the Litani and perhaps beyond. Were Hezbollah to launch a major attack, we’d likely go in even sooner. We’ve got some 40,000 troops waiting.
Were a diplomatic miracle to take place, with a UN resolution that put an empowered international force in southern Lebanon and required the disarmament of Hezbollah, I, along with most other Israelis, would be ready to give it a chance. We would be grateful for the opportunity to bring our boys out, although I expect that we would want to maintain our right to return if the diplomacy failed on the ground. In my deepest heart of hearts I don’t believe any force will do what we are poised to do, but maybe, maybe… The right troops with the right mandate…
This is not a war we fight with eagerness or glee, it is being fought because it must be fought, and thus with full determination. It is with enormous heaviness of heart that the death of our young soldiers is contemplated. That heaviness is exacerbated by dire warnings that this is what Nasrallah wants — to trap our troops in their territory, with their guerillas in hiding, and waiting.
Post columnist Evelyn Gordon helped provide necessary perspective today. She reminds us that six years ago we pulled out of Lebanon because we were losing 20-25 soldiers a year and this was a cost thought to be too high; once we were out, went the argument, there would be no more Israeli deaths on Lebanese soil. Twenty to 25 a year? We’ve lost now some 60 plus soldiers in a month (soldiers: not counting the civilians, who were not at risk six years ago). Says Gordon, we focus too much on preventing short term casualties, without sufficiently assessing the long term. And so it is: The 100 or 200 we may lose now, as unbearably painful as it is to contemplate their being killed, might end up being a small number compared with what would come down the road if we didn’t do this. This is the reality that is fueling us.
What has become clear today is how reluctantly the Security Cabinet voted to give permission for the major invasion in Lebanon, and how glad they would be if a Security Council resolution made it possible to turn to diplomacy, such as that might be.
What I am understanding is that, while the need to move forward to stop Hezbollah was the first and overriding consideration, there was also another: It was thought that once the international community saw that Israel was not going to sit still for a watered down resolution and was not going to agree to just pull out, but would move ahead on an invasion, there might be more motivation to strengthen the resolution. And Lebanon might be more inclined to agree to that international force if they knew Israel would be moving in otherwise.
We will see in the next 48 hours or so. The problem is that the Lebanese are in the hands of Hezbollah, and the French are the worst sort of appeasers, who somehow imagine that they will be safe in this world of terrorism if they do the right sort of stroking. There is another problem with the French, as well: They harbor enormous hostility to the US, and will sabotage American diplomatic efforts out of perversity, even if it works against their own long term best interests. This would not be the first time. All told, I harbor a special contempt and antipathy for Chirac.
The news that is coming through as I write is that a new proposal is on the table that might stop the war. I am uneasy about what I am reading. This is where we face our greatest danger — being pushed into accepting something that is less than genuinely satisfactory, but is close enough so that we’ll be told we must compromise in the interests of peace.
I am reluctant to report precise details here, as I am picking up different versions from different sources because this is still a work in progress. The French would provide a major contingent of forces, but in concert with UNIFIL (UNIFIL??) and the Lebanese army. Apparently arrangements would be put in place to allow the IDF to remain until the first French forces arrived (if Lebanon will agree to this). Other nations (Germany? two or three other nations?) would also provide forces following the first French contingent; all would be empowered and genuine fighting forces, which is to the good. Their exact mandate, however, is not clear. While there would be an embargo on transfer of weapons from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah — whatever an embargo means in this context — there seems no stipulation that the international fighting forces in concert with the Lebanese army would actually stop the smuggling of arms. Words are easy — the question is what force will be mandated. Will soldiers from that appeasing nation of France actually take on Hezbollah as necessary? The BIG sticking point is that there is no immediate disarmament of Hezbollah called for. Whether resolution 1559, which calls for dismantling of all militias, would be ultimately enforced is also not clear.
US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch is in Jerusalem and pressuring our government to accept this proposal. According to YNet, he is stressing the immediate return of the kidnapped IDF troops, the preserving of Israel’s right to retaliate in case of rocket attacks, and the withdrawal of Hezbollah from south Lebanon. Withdrawal is not dismantlement, however. It leaves them potentially able to fight another day, and to claim victory.
Apparently Olmert is balking at any suggestion of giving Lebanon Shabaa Farms, which is good, but I’m picking up hints of "negotiations on prisoners," which is bad. We should have our kidnapped soldiers back without exchange of Lebanese prisoners, which would give Hezbollah a prize for the kidnapping, and, once again, allow them to declare themselves victorious.
For the record, the nine members of the Security Cabinet who voted to expand the war:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Kadima)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz (Labor)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livini (Kadima)
Transportation Minister (former Defense Minister) Shaul Mofaz (Kadima)
Minister of Justice Haim Ramon (Kadima)
Minister of National Infrastructure (former Defense Minister) Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor)
Minister of Internal Security(former head of Shabak) Avi Dichter (Kadima)
Minister of Tourism Isaac Herzog (Labor)
Minister of Pension Affairs Rafi Eitan (Pensioners)
Not exactly a right wing group. How strong will they be now?
The fact that the war effort has not yet been expanded does not mean the fighting has stopped; there was heavy fighting today.
All further comments — and I have many — will be tabled until tomorrow.
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2006/8/10/posted-august-10-2006.html