Global, Israel, Politics

Could Olmert be leading Israel down the road of self-destruction?

SamsonI’m seriously beginning to worry that Israel is heading down the path to self-destruction based on a series of tactical errors and fundamental misunderstandings. The Hezbollah-Israel battle has entered it’s 25th day and not one single military target has been reached. The same army that took just six days to rout three big Arab armies in 1967 has not succeeded in overcoming a small “terrorist organization” in a time span that is already longer than the momentous Yom Kippur War.
Anyone who has an interest in the future of the region should think carefully about the direction this conflict is heading.
Here are some of the things I’ve been reading that lead me to this conclusion:

Zbigniew Brzezinski: “Neocon prescriptions [of use of force to try to change things unilaterally] of which Israel has its equivalents, are fatal for America and ultimately for Israel. They will totally turn the overwhelming majority of the Middle East’s population against the United States. The lessons of Iraq speak for themselves. Eventually, if neocon policies continue to be pursued, the United States will be expelled from the region and that will be the beginning of the end for Israel as well.”

Beginning of the End for Israel?

AS HEZBOLLAH’S missiles continue to rain across the Galilee, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, faces growing concerns that Israel may be on the verge of losing the war.

Concern mounts that this is a war Israel is not going to win

The very clear winner, for the moment at least, was Hezbollah and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. […] As the only Arab leader seen to have defeated the Israelis — on the basis of their withdrawal in 2000 from an 18-year occupation — he already enjoyed wide respect. Now, with Hezbollah standing firm and inflicting casualties, he has become a folk hero across the Muslim world, apparently uniting Sunnis and Shiites. […] Yoel Marcus, a columnist for Haaretz who had earlier acidly asked if this was the same army that had defeated all of the Arab forces in just six days, ended the week writing: “It is unthinkable to walk away from the battlefield with the depressing sense that out of all the wars Israel has ever fought, only Hezbollah, a mere band of terrorists, was able to bombard the Israeli home front with thousands of missiles and get off scot free. […] “I think this is a loser,” said Augustus Richard Norton, an expert on the Shia of Lebanon who teaches at Boston University. “Time is working against us, not with us. The options stink.”

Israel Is Powerful, Yes. But Not So Invincible.

ISRAEL is losing this war. For a lifelong Israel supporter, that’s a painful thing to write. But it’s true. And the situation’s worsening each day.
[…] The situation is grim. Israel looks more desperate every day, while Hezbollah appears more defiant.

Can Israel Win? Not the way it’s fighting

JORDAN’S King Abdullah said Israel’s offensive against Hezbollah had turned its fighters into heroes among ordinary Arabs. […] The staunchly pro-US ally said Israel’s three week bombing campaign against Hezbollah guerrillas had given a boost to radicals fighting to end occupation of Arab land.
“The war will not solve anything and Arab peoples see now in Hezbollah a hero facing aggression and defending their land,” the monarch told al-Ghad and al-Rai newspapers in an interview released by the state news agency Petra.

Hezbollah ‘heroes to Arabs’

Russia’s Sovetskaya Rossiya says that “a strategic change” in the region’s power balance is emerging. “The myth of Israel’s invincibility is evaporating before our eyes,” it states. “This has created a fundamentally new situation in the Middle East”.

European press review

Judges in Egypt called upon the government to dissolve its peace agreement with Israel, on the grounds that it is inconceivable for Egypt to coexist peaceably with Israel while the IDF operates in Lebanon. The judges expressed support of popular resistance against Israeli
advances, which, in their eyes, is the only way to protect the Arab ummah (greater nation).

Judges in Egypt: Scrap peace deal with Israel

Also on Monday, former Egyptian deputy prime minister Mansour Hassan urged Mubarak to revoke the peace treaty with Israel, signed for Egypt by former president Anwar Sadat who was assassinated by Muslim extremists opposed to the treaty.
“Israel has proved that it is not interested in peace … it is a duty to declare the peace treaty as null and void,” wrote Hassan, who was a key aide to Sadat and closely involved in the Camp David peace accord between Egypt and Israel.

Assad calls on Syrian army to prepare for ‘regional challenges’

The anger in Egypt ranges across the spectrum from the Muslim Brotherhood – which has offered to “send immediately 10,000 mujahideen to fight the Zionists alongside Hizbullah” – to business associations. Chambers of commerce and trade unions have organised gala dinners to raise money for war victims and the two mobile operators, MobiNil and Vodafone, have set up a premium-rate hotline whose profits are sent to Lebanon.
[…] Whatever qualms Arabs once had about Hizbullah they have since been dissipated by Israel’s attacks, the hundreds of deaths, the sight of up to a quarter of the Lebanese population fleeing their homes, and especially the bombing of UN observers and the massacre at Qana.
The Shia organisation and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, have become symbols of resistance even in such unlikely places as the Gulf countries where Sunnis and Shias have been spotted waving the yellow-and-green flag. Christians are joining in as well. In Damascus yesterday, a Catholic church held a special mass. “Pray for the resistance, pray for Hassan Nasrallah. He is defending justice,” Father Elias Zahlawi urged his congregation.
Unlike al-Qaida, admiration for Hizbullah stretches beyond disaffected militants to take in teachers, writers, broadcasters, and doctors many of whom, under other circumstances, would be pressing for democracy and reform.
[…]Khaled Almaeena, editor-in-chief of Arab News, a liberal daily based in Jeddah, has been expressing his anger in a series of columns since hostilities broke out. “There is a surging tide of bitterness and alienation,” he said. “It is not simply because of Lebanon, but Lebanon may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Militants merge with mainstream

It takes neither a Bush-basher, nor even a cynic, to wonder if Hezbollah/Syria/Iran has orchestrated a brilliant winning strategy against Israel as well as the USA.

Israel moving into its own quagmire
In order to embark on a new course, the only one that will solve the problem: negotiations and peace with the Palestinians, the Lebanese, the Syrians. And: with Hamas and Hizbullah.
Because it’s only with enemies that one makes peace.

19 thoughts on “Could Olmert be leading Israel down the road of self-destruction?

  1. How exactly does one negotiate and make peace with groups sworn to destroy you? Please explain what negotiations with Hamas and Hezbollah would look like, given their open commitment and determination to return Israel to its pre-1948 borders.
    You’re right that things don’t look good. But one could take the same passages you cite and conclude that Israel needs to up its response, or at least to persevere in order to decisively defeat Hezbollah. That’s the conclusion of Leonard Fein, lifelong progressive and peace activist:
    Hence, the one answer to both questions is for Israel to persist, for the time being, in its bloody assault — bending every effort to render it less indiscriminately bloody than it has been, but doing its best to dull the scope of Hezbollah’s victory, to restore its war-making reputation.

  2. Let’s see:
    1) A journalist whose valid points have already been overtaken by events – Israel has begun its ground invasion, and the formerly fearsome Hezzies are folding when directly engaged by well-trained and equipped Israeli forces.
    2) A Soviet News agency – JB, you nostalgic fool, you….
    3) Egyption judges – going public for obvious political reasons – and we all know that the peace agreements with both Egypt and Jordan have never had much traction in the general populace.
    (oooh, let’s just give up now – Egyptian Judges Don’t Like Us!)
    4) Saber-rattling by baby Assad – again, pure political posturing.
    5) The Guardian – basically that Soviet News Service, in better English.
    6) and a news report that finally misapplies the “Q” word to the Israeli situation – just as it is misapplied in Iraq.
    Sorry, JB, you’ll have to do better than this – couldn’t you even make a token attempt to quote sources outside your own ideological bubble?
    1) People don’t pursue cease-fires when they are winning. So who’s pursuing a cease-fire?
    Iran has embarrased itself by publicaly calling for a ceasefire, and Nasrallah has gone from castigating the Arab world for not standing with him – to begging the Arab world to press for a cease-fire.
    2) The Hezzies have made the enormous mistake of engaging a standing army in a territorial conflict.
    Now, from the very start, they’ve lost the psychological war that really counts – they’ve gone from a large and menacing shadow across the Israeli psyche to a menace all are united against. Oslo-era defeatism has almost totally evaporated. Israeli unity about the justness and necessity of this war is almost unanimous.
    As reports come in of their lackluster performance against Israeli infantry, they are shrinking even more in stature.
    3) Despite the dithering about how the war is being conducted, Israel is proceeeding just as it should – first an aerial cleansing of the theatre of operations, cutting off supply lines, etc. – and now a ground invasion, which so far has been very successful.
    Sorry if all this evidence of success depresses you, JB…

  3. Ben-David wrote: “couldn’t you even make a token attempt to quote sources outside your own ideological bubble?”
    If you think Zbigniew Brzezinski, Yediot Aharanot and the NY Post are “my ideological bubble” then I guess you aren’t paying very close attention
    Have you stopped to consider that perhaps you might be guilty of the very thing that you accuse me of?

  4. Ben-David, no matter how much you bang your ruby slippers together, the reality won’t change. It’s really scary when Zbiggy sounds sane (or when Bush I looks like a great politician).
    Olmert is sounding so much like idiot-boy that I fear some shrink will diagnose him as an echolaliac.
    Israel is winning? And, I guess Hizbollah is in its last throes, just like the Iraqi insurgency?
    A couple of weeks ago, Uri gave some excellent advice: Declare victory, and leave.

  5. “Because it’s only with enemies that one makes peace.”
    But it does not follow that one makes peace with every enemy, at any time. It takes two to make peace. If one wants to keep fighting and the other stops, the one who has stopped has ipso facto surrendered. AFTER one side surrenders, THEN the other side dictates terms. If the terms are such that they other side doesn’t start up another war, then you have PEACE.
    Ben-David is right about Hezbollah, they have been begging for a ceasefire, and Israel has been eviscerating them. And Iran just gave them longrange rockets – is Israel supposed to “make peace” with Iran?
    “‘Holocaust victims would decry the slaughter of innocent children during attacks on Hizbollah”
    A sweeping generalization which is almost entirely untrue. I would bet you money that if you gathered all remianing Holocaust survivors, including those in Israel, and polled them they would decry the slaughter but also understand that the necessity of the war means that you try to keep civilian casualties to a minimum and some slaughter of innocents is unfortunately going to happen, especially when the enemy uses them as shields. And that’s what our sages would say too. I don’t think there is anything in Judaism that says in war you are allowed zero civilian casualties. Our sages were practical realistic people. Their laws were stringent but also doable, and were designed for survival of the people. It is contrary to all Jewish values to prefer being morally pure to being alive. That doesn’t mean you throw your principles out the window, but it does mean you apply them in the real world. ex: you fast on Yom Kippur, but if you are sick or pregnant, you don’t.

  6. ….. so miriam adds “holocaust survivors” – actually, one leftie survivor publishing on a leftie website – to JB’s list of secondary, tertiary, tangential “evidence”.
    Since so many of you folks on the left are, uh, unaccustomed to factual reasoning, I’ll describe briefly how The Rest Of Us go about figuring who is winning and who is losing, based on factual reports. We ask questions like:
    1) Who is inflicting more damage?
    Right now the casualties are 8-to-1 in Israel’s favor, thank G-d – not counting civilian deaths, just “militant freedom fighter” to “militant freedom fighter”.
    (note that this has nothing to do with the blather about “disproportionate response” – this is how defensive wars are won.)
    2) Who is begging for a cease-fire?
    People who are winning don’t try to broker cease-fires.
    Well, Iran has made the enormous, embarrassing climb down of starting to publicly seek a cease-fire. Nasrallah has gone from haughtily lecturing Arab leaders to get behind him, to begging them to use their pressure to force a UN-sponsored cease-fire.
    Meanwhile America, the US, and Israel are steadfastly insisting on very tough conditions to any cessation of hostilities – basically scuttling any unrealistic ceasefire that keeps Hezbollah a viable threat.
    3) Who has the tactical/military advantage?
    The Hezzies – still a loose terrorist milita, after all – have made the great blunder of engaging an army in a land war. Despite the fretting by those who think all Israeli wars are supposed to take just Six Days – the Israelis have methodically cleansed the area of conflict, established air dominance, cut of the Hezzie’s lines of supply and command, and scooped up lotsa intel.
    The long-range missiles – and the fighters skilled enough to fire them – have been taken out.
    The Hezzies have proven to be very poor fighters on the ground, and the Israeli advantage will continue as the ground war expands.
    And, JB – all of these facts are gleaned from – and confirmed by – several mainstream news sources. Including some of the same Israeli papers from which you chose to quote tangential opinion pieces rather than facts about the conflict.
    That’s the difference….. I believe the term is “reality based”.

  7. Ben-David: that holocaust survivor’s story originally appeared in long island Newsday, which is surprising.
    also, everything I read says hezbollah wants to draw the IDF in on the ground, where its guerilla tactics, including tactical retreats, are effective.

  8. and ben-david — as far as thier lines of supply and command being cut — they use a decentralized command structure that allows their fighters autonomy in the field. they use ATV’s for re-supply — cutting the bridges won’t make a difference. they’ve only used 3,000 missiles out of 13,000. the’ve taken out merkava’s with wire-guided missiles.
    hezbollah is even better trained and equipped than when they drove israel out of lebanon six years ago — iran has spent hundreds of millions preparing for this.
    Olmert bragging about depleting Hezbollah’s missile supply, and then the largest missile volley took place the next day, is a prefect example of the sort of hubris you’re falling for.

  9. Hey, I and some others are making an intercampus group called Jews against War in Lebanon in response to many of the same concerns. We feel that this war is immoral and impractical. We have over 300 members now and are starting to grow. We’re looking for people to actively campaign for groups on their own campuses. We’re planning to run an ad in a Lebanese paper expressing our support for the people of Lebanon, and may be setting up a cafepress shop soon as well. If you’re on the folowing campuses: Harvard, McGill, Concordia Canada, UC Berkeley, NYU or Columbia, you may be seeing us around. If you’re on another campus, get in touch with us to spread the word there too. We have members from all different campuses too. Stop by if you’re interested.
    or on facebook at
    or under the name “Jews against War in Lebanon.”
    You can email me at my address or the leader/founder Roman Torgovitsky at [email protected] for more information or suggestions.
    PEACE brothers

  10. 10 more Israelis dead.
    History shows no army can win guerilla warfare.
    Immediate ceasefire. Immediate withdrawal. Immediately back to the table. Marshall Plan for development projects for the area (see Tikkun ad and other places).
    Too many dead. Too many.

  11. Oh, yeah. Might the warfare of the various factions of the Jewish Underground, not also be considered ‘guerilla?’

  12. 1. Brzezinski is a crackpot who has only proven to be wrong about nearly every foreign policy decision that he was involved in (Iran, USSR).
    2. If one was willing to be militant, would they ever really be mainstream?

  13. History has shown that guerrillas have been defeated, time and time again (just not recent history). After WWII armistices were signed, remnants of the German Nazi army attempted an “insurrection” against Allied troops. The difference is, right or wrong–it is certainly morally ambigous at best–they were bombed so far into oblivion that they did not have the resources to win their guerilla struggle. Guerrillas win precisely because of the tactics that Hez. is using that people buy into (hiding in civilian areas, hiding behind “populist” talk of representing the people, etc…). Not all wars are winnable in 6 days; in fact most wars last for an insanely long time. Not optimistic, but if the public was so easily swayed by loss of both military and civilian life then the Union would;ve never won the Civil War (where individual BATTLES would kill upwards of 20,000 people), and the Allies would’ve never defeated Nazism and Facism.
    Oh, and the world is not really concerned with the less of innocent souls. If it was they would be far more fixated on the situation in the Sudan, Congo, etc…than in Israel.

  14. “also, everything I read says hezbollah wants to draw the IDF in on the ground, where its guerilla tactics, including tactical retreats, are effective. ”
    I also read the “guy with the green helmet” is a rescue worker

  15. Ben – David — you twisted my words (so unlike most right-wingers). That post was the title that the author gave to her piece, NOT my remarks. Anyway, here is another survivor, living in Israel: Hava Keller. Google her.
    Adam — Begin cleaned up quite nicely, don’t you think?

  16. “If you’re on the folowing campuses: Harvard, McGill, Concordia Canada, UC Berkeley, NYU or Columbia, you may be seeing us around.”
    What about U of Madison ? That’s the only ultra-lefty Israel-hating campus not on your list. (I used to assume Harvard didn’t fit in that category, but after meeting a lot of Harvard-grad Upper West Side Jews, I now realize it does).

  17. Yehudit,
    I think you’re a little bit confused, and drew the wrong conclusions from the Upper West-Side Harvard graduates you’ve met. You somehow came away with impression that the academic institutions referenced in Isaac’s comment are peopled with ultra-lefties that hate Israel.
    Let me assure you that’s not the case.
    What they hate are grubby, ignorant rightwing apologists that are consumed with resentment at having to attend Brooklyn College, because they lack the brains or the talent to get into anyplace more competitive. Learn some manners, and how to have a conversation using arguments instead of personal smears, and maybe the “Israel-haters” will become somewhat less inclined to cross the street when they see you coming.

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