Israel Resource Review 16th July, 2006


Middle East News Line Conducts Interview with MK Yuval Shteinitz:

The Middle East News Line conducted Israel's air war in Lebanon has already caused strategic damage to the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah, a leading parliamentarian said.

The Middle East News Line conducted Israel's air war in Lebanon has already caused strategic damage to the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah, a leading parliamentarian said.

Yuval Steinitz, deputy chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Israeli air strikes have destroyed Hizbullah weapons arsenals and military capabilities. At the same time, Steinitz said Hizbullah rocket strikes demonstrated the emerging rocket and missile threat to Israel. He was interviewed on Sunday by the Middle East News Line.

Q. What does the current campaign indicate regarding the effectiveness of an Israeli air war.

A. The air force has very limited absorption capability for counter-fire. What is done by an air force can also be achieved by precision-guided missiles. The helicopter is a missile launching pad, but a very expensive one. The air force is effective, not 100 percent effective.

Q. Was the Hizbullah rocket campaign a surprise?

A. This was not a surprise. Over the last two years, we conducted exercises based on scenarios even worse than this. It doesn't mean that the preparations were complete. We didn't invest in interception. We didn't invest in intercepting rockets. It costs money to develop this. It is in the infancy stage.

Q. Could the Israeli military have prevented the Hizbullah war?

A. Over the last year, Israel's deterrence has been badly damaged. It began with Hizbullah strikes from Rajar to abduct Israelis, which was met by a tactical military response. It continued with Hamas and its Kassam missile strikes on Sderot. Over the last year, there was a range of provocations in which Israeli responded tactically and with great restraint.

Q. Did Israel know that Hizbullah had acquired the Chinese-origin C802 cruise missile?

A. We were surprised [by the C802]. We didn't know of cruise missiles in Lebanon. It was not a pleasant surprise. It is a land-to-sea missile. We have to examine this with Israel Navy. We have to make changes in the navy. The Saar-5's Barak-1 [missile defense] system did not work. It didn't even detect it. The Barak-1 system was not operating.

Q. Has Hizbullah been hurt by Israeli air strikes?

A. We have already harmed Hizbullah strategically by destroying its warehouses in Beirut and damaging Hizbullah's status in Lebanon and the world. There is a realistic chance that this operation could being about [Security Council] Resolution 1559.

Q. Is there U.S. pressure on Israel for a ceasefire?

A. I don't believe there is real U.S. pressure on Israel.

Q. Does the lack of an experienced prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff count in such a war?

A. It's not a lack of experience here that counts. It's a lack of interest. Moshe Arens was the best defense minister over the last 20 years and he was a civilian. The issue is to build the force over the next 20 years. It is not so much what to do in crisis, but what to do today for the next 10 and 20 years. And there the defense minister makes a great difference.

Q. Does Israel have to reassess its combat doctrine after this missile war?

A. We have to reassess our combat doctrine. Hizbullah has shown that if a small group can cover the entire northern Israel [with missiles], then Arab countries can do 1,000 times more. The question is whether we take this into account in our combat doctrine and logistics? Should we invest in greater efforts to absorb punishment? If Hizbullah can strike in Haifa or Tel Aviv, then Syria and Saudi Arabia can strike us much more effectively. =

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David Bedein

The Hizbullah has launched a war of extermination against the Jewish people in the land of Israel.

The Hizbullah has launched a war of extermination against the Jewish people in the land of Israel.

Yet in terms of US policy, the question must be raised: Does the Bush administration now advocate two dissonant policies towards Israel, at one and the same time?

While Bush is not communicating directly with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at this time, the President is making strong statements to the media in favor of Israel at this time, repeatedly calling on Israel to take all necessary steps to defend itself against the Hizbullah aggression from the north.

US Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice, the US official who does communicate directly with all levels of Israeli leadership on behalf of the Bush Administration, delivers an entirely different message. She openly implores Israel NOT to dispatch ground troops into Lebanon to knock out the 12,000 missiles now at the disposal of Hizbullah in Southern Lebanon .

Rice's stated goal: a "cease fire" as soon as possible.

That would leave Israel short of its goal of neutralizing Hizbullah .

After all, even though there have been over 1,000 Israeli Air Force sorties into Lebanon, the Hezbollah missiles continue to hit Israel.

Israeli intelligence estimates that despite the pounding at the hands of the IDF, the Hizbullah has only lost 25% of its military capability.

In other words, without a ground operation, it will be impossible for Israel to strike accurately and to actually take out these missiles, at a time when Hezbollah threatens key strategic facilities throughout Israel. .

There are other sources of major concern: The C-802 rocket that hit an Israeli ship on Friday was a sophisticated radar-guided weapon that comes from Iran via China. Israeli authorities were surprised: they didn't know Hezbollah had such capability.

Clearly, Iran is testing the waters.

Indeed, long-range Iranian supplied rockets held by Hizbullah are said to be capable of reaching the Tel Aviv area. Sources in Israeli intelligence assesses that the Zelzal-1 and Zelzal-2 long-range rockets, which can reach Tel Aviv , were moved by Iran into Lebanon to deter Israel from attacking Iran. If these rockets are fired deep into Israel, Israel will understand that this means that the government of Iran will be directly engaging in battle against Israel .

What now mitigates against Israel from conducting a solid land sweep into Lebanon with the purpose of soundly defeating and disarming the Hizbullah remains the firm opposition of the person who communicates with Israel on behalf of the Bush Administration: Condeleeza Rice .

If Israel does not "take out" Hizbullah and eliminate it now , this dagger at Israel's throat will be almost impossible to remove in the foreseeable future, and Israel would have to live with an Iranian menace at its northern border.

Hezbollah is far from a rag-tag operation. It acts as an Iranian expeditionary force.

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