|Israel Resource Review
||11th August, 2006
ISRAEL SLOWS ITS MILITARY'S ADVANCE IN LEBANON
Middle East News Line
The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has blocked
Israel's military from conducting a ground war in Lebanon.
Officials as well as several Cabinet ministers have acknowledged that
Olmert and his allies prevented the General Staff from conducting a rapid
conquest of southern Lebanon in an attempt to destroy Hizbullah and halt its
rocket fire. They said the government -- fearing both international
condemnation as well as a domestic backlash -- pursued a policy of
announcing major military operations and then suspending them because of
international efforts to reach a ceasefire.
"We shouldn't rush to war when we see the heavy price it is costing,
whether it is soldiers in the rear or citizens sitting in shelters for a
month," Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who opposed or abstained in the Cabinet
The Cabinet approved several resolutions that called for an expansion of
the war. On August 9, a ministerial committee voted 9-0 with three abstentions
for a military advance to the Litani River, about 20 kilometers north of the
Israeli border. The operation was designed to include 40,000 reserve
Officials said that within hours of the advance, entitled Operation
Change of Direction, Defense Minister Amir Peretz telephoned Chief of Staff
Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz and ordered a withdrawal of a division that was within
sight of the Litani. Peretz cited U.S. pressure.
"In war, there is a price," Halutz said on Thursday. "We have to clarify
in no uncertain manner that when Israel defends its house, it defends its
house -- that we don't go backwards, but forward."
Still, by Friday, the government appeared to have abandoned the
offensive and instead waited for the United Nations Security Council to pass
a ceasefire resolution. The proposed French-U.S. resolution, despite Israeli
objections, was said to retain Hizbullah's military capability and maintain
UN responsibility for the Israeli-Lebanese border.
"Today, it is perfectly clear that the [August 9] Cabinet decision was not
meant for one second for a military operation, rather to create pressure to
achieve a better [ceasefire] draft," former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom,
a member of the opposition Likud Party, said. "This is one of the worst
ceasefire drafts ever accepted by Israel and will be mourned by
Officials and military sources agreed that from the start Olmert, Peretz
and most of the Cabinet relied on the international community rather than
the military to halt Hizbullah rocket fire. They said the prime minister and
defense minister dismissed Northern Command's plan for a rapid ground
advance to the Litani, sealing of enemy supply routes and destruction of
Instead, Olmert and Peretz ordered air strikes against suspected
Hizbullah targets. Two weeks later, Hizbullah continued to fire rockets from
Shi'ite villages within a kilometer of Israel.
"There is no mistake Ehud Olmert did not make this past month," Ari
Shavit, a leading columnist, wrote in a front page analysis in the Israeli
daily Haaretz on Friday. "He went to war hastily, without properly gauging
the outcome. He blindly followed the military without asking the necessary
questions. He mistakenly gambled on air operations, was strangely late with
the ground operation, and failed to implement the army's original plan, much
more daring and sophisticated than that which was implemented."
At the same time, senior ministers bickered over tactics and strategy.
Cabinet sources reported disputes between Olmert and Peretz, Olmert and
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Peretz and his predecessor, Transportation
Minister Shaul Mofaz.
During the six-hour Cabinet meeting on August 9, Mofaz presented a plan to
capture the Litani River. From the Litani, Israeli ground forces would then
surround and destroy Hizbullah strongholds.
"You can get there in 48 hours and say we won, and south Lebanon is
surrounded," Mofaz, a former military chief of staff, was quoted by the
Israeli media as saying. "If you want, clean the area from south to north."
Peretz, who entered his post without military or Cabinet experience,
responded angrily. "Why didn't you do anything when you were chief of staff
and defense minister?" Peretz asked. "Where were you when Hizbullah created
During the same meeting, Halutz, himself under severe criticism for the
heavy casualties sustained by the military, proposed air strikes against
Lebanese power stations and other civilian infrastructure. Peretz cut him
off, saying this was not included in the defense minister's plan.
During a recess, Cabinet sources said, Olmert discussed the prospect of
a ceasefire with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Later, the prime
minister met Peretz and Ms. Livni and pledged to suspend any Cabinet
decision to expand the ground war in Lebanon. The sources said virtually
every minister in attendance knew the war proposal up for a vote would not
"I don't think you can stop the firing of rockets," Housing Minister
Meir Shetreet said. "You can't win this war by a knockout, only through
points. The diplomatic clock is ticking and there's no point in putting in
so many troops when we can't finish the operation."
Officials also reported disputes within the military and intelligence
community. They included Halutz and Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Udi
Adam, as well as military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and
Mossad director Meir Amit.
On August 9, Halutz ordered his deputy, Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski, to move
to Northern Command to oversee the war in Lebanon. Halutz's order came amid
increasing tension between the chief of staff and Adam, whose appeals to
widen the ground assault were dismissed.
Military sources report widespread equipment shortages as well as the
deployment of untrained reservists in Lebanon. They said reserve units have
been operating without armored or air support and came under numerous
instances of friendly fire.
"Commanders do not have clear orders of the operation and lack
situational awareness," a military source said. "Instead, they have specific
missions. They go from one place to another, leaving villages and areas to
be reoccupied by Hizbullah."
Cabinet sources said Olmert and most of his ministers -- many of them in
power for the first time -- have been haunted by the prospect that the war
would damage their political careers. They said these ministers, elected on
a platform of unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, regard the
ground operation as a sop to the 1.5 million Israelis who have come under
daily rocket fire since the war began on July 12.
"Look, there is a very complex reality now," Science Minister Opher
Pinas said. "On one hand, there is a risk, and there is a fear of a massive
broad incursion into Lebanon. We have been through things of this sort. We
have paid the price in the past
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Israeli Army Reservists Commission Poll: Should the IDF bomb from the air before a ground assault?
Yediot Ahronot, August 11th
In the midst of the tough battles, some Israeli Army reservists fighting on the front decided to commission a public opinion poll on the IDF's activity in southern Lebanon.
In wake of the IDF's many losses, the combatants and their relatives
approached the Dahaf Polling Institute under the management of Dr. Mina
Tzemah and asked to hold a poll that examines only one question: should
the IDF strike Hizbullah infrastructure in southern Lebanon from the air
before it brings in more ground forces-or should the ground operation be
expanded without a preliminary aerial attack. "We are a battalion that
has suffered quite a few losses in the fighting," one soldier told
Yedioth Ahronoth. "We asked ourselves a number of times, why bring in
infantry soldiers instead of flattening the area from the air. We prefer
for empty houses to be taken out from the air instead of we being the
ones who are taken out. Among the fighters in Lebanon there is a
consensus on this and this could spare many lives, without harming our
purity of arms and morals. These are abandoned villages and, therefore,
these houses should be demolished and the infrastructure of the
Hizbullah terrorists should be struck. This is not a question of
morality. The Lebanese civilians were given warnings, flyers were
dropped and they know this is a firing zone."
He said that the soldiers at the front feel great frustration over
how the war is being managed: "We asked our commanders several times why
were are going on foot into an area teeming with terrorists. They
replied that world public opinion would not tolerate demolishing the
houses from the air. We have nothing against the fighting. We are
motivated and we do whatever missions are given us, but the mood is that
we could be doing it differently. The families of those killed asked us
why their sons died, but I have no answer to give them."
Attorney Shmulik Yanai, a reserve officer in IDF Intelligence, was
one of those who commissioned the poll. A few days ago, he received an
emergency call-up order and is serving in Lebanon. "I don't understand
the considerations of the decision-makers," said Yanai. "It is a
disgrace that these villages are not bombed from the air. Do we have to
continue to pay the price every day in people's lives just so it will be
said of us that we are moral? If we put soldiers into the area, then
first the area should be pounded or weakened from the air." One of
poll's organizers said that the idea came up after the reservists
reached the conclusion that the cabinet ministers are influenced by
polls on the war. "A few days before the security cabinet decision,
there was a poll that examined the percentage of support for expanding
the ground operation in Lebanon. 80% of the public supported expanding
the military activity and immediately afterwards, the security cabinet
decided to go into Lebanon. Polls have enormous power."
Last night, when the poll's results were released, it became evident
that the majority of the public shares the feelings of these soldiers.
Among the Jewish respondents, 91% supported demolishing the Lebanese
villages from the air -and 8% preferred for the ground operation to
Question: How should the IDF act against Hizbullah infrastructures in southern
Destroy the villages from the air: 91%
Send in ground forces: 8%
The poll was held last night and questioned 506 people. The margin of
error is 4.4% .
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Why we should be Optimistic
Dr. Joel Fishman
Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
By the time of this article is published, Israel will have been engaged in hot war with the Hezbollah and Lebanon for nearly a month. The media have been covering the military story from hour to hour and in our democracy certain types of information have been reached the public at an unprecedented rate. We received detailed reports of cabinet discussions; one commentator announced in the pages of Ha'aretz that the troops were demoralized, and Zev Schiff reported that in his view the war had been badly managed. More recently, the Chief of Staff appointed Major General Moshe Kaplinsky as his personal representative on the Northern Front, which meant effectively that he had relieved Major General Udi Adam of his command. This means not only that the Chief of Staff was unhappy with the conduct of the war, but also the government of Israel failed to achieve the political military goals it had designated. Instead, a torrent of missiles has killed civilians and disrupted the life and economy in the North. Thus, we are now engaged a conflict in which we have been unable so far to disarm the enemy and force it to do our will. Our leaders have greatly misjudged the enemy and its military capabilities. But there is more to the story.
A democracy, after a long period of relative peace, namely not being involved in a major "hot" war, must undergo serious changes in order to wage war effectively. It is also known that at the beginning of a war a democracy which has been at peace for a long period of time experiences a temporary disadvantage. This interpretation applied to the situation of England and the United States at the beginning of the Second World War.
The person who made those observations was none other than the French historian and thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America whose second volume was published in 1838 [Vol. II, Part 3, Chap. 24]. He wrote:
I think … that a democratic people that undertakes a war after a long peace risks being defeated much more than any other; but it ought not to allow itself to be easily beaten down by setbacks, for the chances of its army are increased by the very duration of the war.
When prolonged, war finally tears all citizens away from their peaceful work and makes their small enterprises fail; and the same passions that made them attach such a price to peace turn them toward arms. After having destroyed all industries, war itself becomes the great and sole industry, and then the ardent and ambitious desires that equality has given birth to are directed on all sides toward it alone. That is why the same democratic nations that are so difficult to get into the battlefield sometimes do prodigious things when one has finally succeeded in putting arms in their hands.
Tocqueville also described another transition of a democracy at peace to a state of war. Younger, more capable, and more ambitious men begin to replace the older officers who during peacetime had become inflexible and unimaginative. According to Tocqueville's interpretation, the new appointment of Moshe Kaplinsky should represent the beginning of this healthy process in the Israel Defense Forces. For the same matter, a good shake-up of Israel's political echelon would definitely produce fine results.
War is not only a contest of armies; it is a contest between societies. Basically, Israel has a healthier and stronger society than the enemy but it responds slowly because it is a democracy. Of Israel's many advantages its main strength is the democratic society which stands behind its army.
Published in Makor Rishon on August 11th, 2006
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