The situation with regard to Lebanon has been shifting in our favor. When I wrote, just days ago, about the intention of the U.S. to shut down the Israeli military operation, I was securing information from the Middle East News Line, which in turn was relying on its best information. At that point, Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice was calling Israel twice a day, pressuring us to cool it. Now, at instructions from President Bush, those phone calls have stopped and — as reported here yesterday — Rice’s plans to come have been put on hold. At this point, MENL is reporting that Bush is supportive of what we are doing.
A great deal has transpired in the last few days that may have factored into the new U.S. stance:
 The Olmert government — in spite of all predictions to the contrary — has held firm. This is not only something to be enormously grateful for, it should provide a lesson on what’s possible. When Condi speaks you don’t have to jump.
 Arab states have actually come out with criticism of Hezbollah actions, and, according to the MENL report, Saudi Arabia has expressed concern to the U.S. about Iranian involvement. This likely has made a considerable difference, as Bush is not being forced to make a choice between mollifying Arab allies (so to speak) and supporting an Israeli military action. Anxiety about Iran has shifted the equation. Taking out an Iranian proxy becomes an acceptable thing to do. (Whereas, you understand, taking out a terrorist element just because it is an existential threat to Israel might not be.)
 There has been pressure from inside of the U.S. on Bush. This is most notably from Congress, but I would not discount all of you wonderful people who communicated your concerns to the White House. Numbers count.
At any rate, operations are continuing.
Exactly when Rice will come here and what will follow remains to be seen — there are conflicting rumors on this. White House spokesman Tony Snow says Rice’s schedule is not yet in place.
There is no definitive word as yet on whether there will be a ground operation, either.
Certainly the pressure on us is going to build. The international cry in certain quarters is that we are generating too much civilian damage in Lebanon. The point must be reinforced again and again: Hezbollah places its weaponry inside of civilian areas. Responsibility rests with them. They care no more about their people than Hamas does in Gaza. It’s the same gambit. Israel is operating with restraint and is seeking to warn civilians to move out. But Israel cannot refrain from going after this weaponry.
The words of Bob Rosenshein, who did a piece for the Washington Post, are worth noting here: "The operative emotion in Israel right now is sadness, sadness for what is being done to us, sadness for what we must do to defend ourselves….We hate this conflict, but we will not commit suicide." To which I say, Amen.
Meanwhile, Kofi Annan, that vile man, has now called for an immediate ceasefire at a speech in the UN in which he denounced Israel. US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton (bless him!) says he doesn’t understand a call for a ceasefire agreement with terrorists.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora has given an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Hezbollah has created a "state within a state" in Lebanon and must be dismantled, he says.
"The entire world must help us disarm Hezbollah. But first we need to reach a cease-fire. The important thing now is to restore full Lebanese sovereignty in the south, dismantling any armed militia parallel to the national army. The Syrians are inside our home and we are still too weak to defend ourselves. The terrible memories of the civil war are still too alive and no one is ready to take up arms." (emphasis added)
My thoughts here: Taking out Hezbollah then, by his own admission, is in the best interests of a free Lebanon and not just for Israel. However, this notion that we need an immediate cease-fire and then to focus on dismantling is still backwards. He has now admitted that his army (such as it is) cannot do it.
Nor do I see the call to the broad international community (read UN) as productive. Our soldiers were kidnapped not far from a UNIFIL post inside of Lebanon! In fact, Hezbollah has in the past shown a preference for stationing itself near UNIFIL posts; they have used the UN as their shield and the UN has put up with this. On one occasion when an Israeli was kidnapped, UNIFIL had a video of it but refused to turn it over to us because this would "diminish their impartiality." When I wrote the other day that UNIFIL has been less than useless, it was this sort of one-sided behavior I had in mind.
And so I ask again: Who then, but Israel, will take out Hezbollah and what happens if we don’t?
What Saniora said was significant, but then he went a step further and weakened his whole position: Israel, he claims, must now release Lebanese prisoners and get out of the Shebaa farms. When Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, it was done with care that it be to the international line. In fact, the UN declared Israel to have done so. At that point Hezbollah claimed that a region known as Shebaa Farms was actually Lebanese territory, even though the UN had declared it to be Syrian (i.e., in the Golan Heights and an issue between Syria and Israel). It was Hezbollah’s rationale for hostility against Israel: We were still an occupying force. And now the Lebanese prime minister makes the same claim??
Fighting in and near the border with Lebanon continues. Three more Israeli soldiers met their deaths today. Barrages of Katyushas into Israel persist. Israel is doing more of those selective special forces sorties inside Lebanon to take out Hezbollah positions.
Take a look at the website of David Frankfurter http://dfrankfurter.livejournal.com/76739.html for some pictures of shrapnel placed inside the Hezbollah rockets and the sort of damage it can do. Useful to share to give people a clear idea of what we’re fighting. Don’t believe Annan condemned this today.
Traffic in Jerusalem today was terrible as people move from the north to escape shelling. My daughter and her family in Beit Shemesh are hosting a family of five from Nahariyah for the duration — and many others are doing the same.
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2006/7/20/posted-july-20-2006.html