Live from an Israeli bunker

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Will the cease fire hold? I doubt it - some breaking news

Last night I put up a picture of a rocket hitting Haifa right around the time the cease fire went into effect, I did that for a number of reasons: to remind us what has been going on (as we so easily tend to forget and move on), and because I seriously doubt this will hold.

The IDF has received clear instructions to hold their fire unless absolutely necessary, three hours in they opened fire and killed a Hezbollah fighter as they were threatened, a similar event occurred again later in the day. Approaching the 20th hour Hezbollah fired a number of rockets (from what I hear it was 4, CNN says 10) into Israel that fell short and hit south Lebanon instead. No one was injured. While the people in both Lebanon and Israel decided the situation deescalated quickly and decided to return to normal life as soon as possible, not so. Events such as that can trigger wider hostilities and we might get back to what we had before quite fast, at any moment.

The Hezbollah of course declared a glorious victory and announced that it will not disarm. The Lebanese army has no intention of disarming Hezbollah, an advisor to the Lebanese PM and government official went on CNN and dodged the issue entirely but did utter the above statement. It's becoming painfully clear that the situation will remain as it was before all of this started, differing in only two things; An expanded UNIFIL and Lebanese force, and two of our kidnapped soldiers still missing.

But the effect of this month long war is significant. Lets start with some background on Israeli politics. Ariel Sharon, the former PM of Israel created a new political party called "Kadima" (forward) to carry out his plan of disengagement. It was a major political event in Israel, the new party's main purpose was to "end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieve two states for two nations will be the road map. It will be carried out in stages: dismantling terror organizations, collecting firearms, implementing security reforms in the Palestinian Authority, and preventing incitement. At the end of the process, a demilitarized Palestinian state devoid of terror will be established." Shortly before the elections Sharon's health deteriorated and he basically fell into a coma (there is virtually no chance of him recovering), Olmert took over as PM until the elections. Sharon was a major political force in his own right and it was unclear if the new party would survive without him, nonetheless It emerged as the prominent force in Israeli politics and won the elections, and the most seats in the Knesset (cabinet). In my opinion, Kadima enjoyed the momentum it gathered and an extra block of voters who ironically enough would not have voted in support of it with Sharon as it's leader.

This landed us with an Olmert as PM, and Peretz as the defence minister. Peretz up till now concentrated on social issues such as unemployment, worker rights, and education, but I suppose that's what political turbulence can do. Neither of them are experienced military men. The election was also the one with the lowest voting turn out in Israel's history.

The effect of this war on Israeli politics is probably not smaller then Sharon's breaking from the Likud and his subsequent illness. 65% think that Peretz didn't do a good job (which is correct), a similar percent think that Israel did not achieve it's objective and lost, if elections were to happen today the Kadima and Labour party's would lose badly. Making a comparison here with the Iraq war and Lieberman's loss for supporting the war which was used as political ammunition by both Republicans and other Democrats (oh you know it's true, come on - Lemont won because his not Lieberman, what kind of a campaign is that?) - The Likud party is probably sharpening it's political weapons as we speak, but out of respect for the casualties they choose to take the high road and show unity, for now. In my opinion, elections are eminent and will happen in the next 12 months or sooner. And so it is that Nasrallah (and Ahmadinejad) who claimed victory and who is supposedly fighting for the benefit of the Palestinians, has managed indirectly to create a political shift where the party who's leading political agenda I quoted above have lost power. Sometimes I wonder if that scarf of his isn't on too tight.

At least we will have what might be a stronger and better government in place, because this conflict obviously effected more then just us.
Enter stage right Assad, the Syrian president, a man who needs no introduction since he has been there all along. Ynet has learned that in a press conference his about to hold he will use the situation to push for his own interest, aka The Golan Heights. Hezbollah is very popular in Syria, it will be more so after these events. Assad said that: "The chances for peace has decreased and that the Golan will be freed by Syrian hands, if the political road won't be successful it will open the road to resistance." Last couple of days he has been saying: "The coming age is the age of resistance for the liberation of Arabian lands." It's not hard to figure out whats going on here, Israel has backed down, Hezbollah's tactics "worked out" in a way, and he can and will easily use this to his advantage.
If your wondering what was in it for him, by supporting Hezbollah he not only increased his popularity domestically and with other Arabs but set the stage for his play for the Golan heights, and that play is eminent. I won't be surprised if a branch of Hezbollah might suddenly turn up in Syria and start firing rockets into Israel (covering a whole new geographical area, Haifa perhaps targeted again but instead of the northen towns having it the worse, towns around the Kineret lake) demanding the stop of Israeli occupation of Syria, why not? It worked once, it might work again.

He also threatened to attack Israel if Israel strikes anything on Syrian territory, have the conflict drag on for a month while the UN gets it's pitiful act together, at one point declare that the Syrian civilian toll is too great for him and perhaps invade Israel on that premise. On one hand the cost for him would be very high, on the other this past conflict showed that perhaps the cost is not too much to bear as Israel grew softer. All of these smoke and dagger tactics might drag on for quite a bit, it's not impossible to envision one conflict dying down and another restarting, in sync. With all the attention focused on that, guess who gets more and more time to finish their nuclear weapons? If you think this is all far fetched read some quotes by the Syrian and Iranian leaders, they have made their intentions clear.

This is not over, it's not over by a long shot. The best we can hope for is this cease fire holding for a long enough time until we have a government in place that can deal with the situation, if I get to vote by that time I'm voting for Mr. Netanyahu.

Update: I know of somebody that was killed in the fighting. If on the off chance that one of the people concerned are reading this you have my sympathy.

17 Comments:

  • Thanks for your wonderful post! Did you catch this line in Kofi Annan's speech to the U.N. just prior to passing 1701? He said,

    "We have just had a terrible lesson in the dangers of allowing problems to fester. We must by now all know that, unless we address unfinished business, it can and will take us unawares."

    There's seems to be a wind of change blowing in the U.N., driven by the late realization of what the consequences of years of inaction might be.

    As for who you're voting for:
    Iran pays careful attention to upcoming elections, especially in the U.S. and Israel. To understand why, one has only to imagine how Newt Gingrich and Benjamin Natenyahu would deal with the Iranian threat. Even a madman like Ahmadinejad knows the answer to that one. I'd vote for Natenyahu too if I could! I watch him every time he's on Fox, and he always seems to have a real understanding of what's really going on.

    Thanks again for the post. Truly sorry about your friend.

    By Blogger Hurricane Harry, at 7:31 AM  

  • Hey, first of all. you might not believe me, but i am really sorry about your loss.

    honestly, i think/hope you're being too pessimistic about the situation.

    i think hizbolla refuses to disarm as long as israel occupies lebanese land. israel on the other hand doesn't feel safe if it leaves the land. so i don't know, i guess we're all screwed in that sense.

    i also think direct attacks on israel from syria is extremely unlikely. so far officially, the syrians have condemned the attacks and provided aid and places to live for displaced lebanese.

    syria is under so much scrutiny that i really don't think they would dare do any of the things you were suggesting. seriously, you can practically see Bush drooling at the idea of bombing syria.

    i won't say any more about this. but i do have a direct question i'd like to ask you. what is your view on the golan heights? in the post, you have stated that syria might push to get their land back, and that they said they would retaliate if israel attacked them. how is this unreasonable? please elaborate.

    also, if you'd like to answer, i've asked this question several times before, but still no reply: why does israel have nuclear weapons?

    By Blogger qzx, at 9:07 AM  

  • You're right.. this conflict is not over. The politicians want to rely on diplomats and foreign troops to disarm Hezbollah. I'm afraid this is pie in the sky!! I do not expect that Israelis will want to die for France and French troops will not die to protect Israel.

    Hezbollah will remain a sore issue for the IDF who will want very badly to "finish the job" at some point in the future. Hezbollah will walk away from this conflict feeling emboldened and confident they can withstand anything the IDF can throw at them. This is not a recipe for lasting peace.

    Peace for Israel will not come from dropping bombs or unilateral withdrawals. Peace will only come from negotiation however distasteful this may seem. Israels refusal to talk to the PLO has left them with Hamas. Destroying Hamas will make things worse not better, BELIEVE ME!!!

    By Blogger olufela, at 11:43 AM  

  • I know of somebody that was killed in the fighting

    I am sorry to hear that Eugene. Very sad. I'm sure some wonderful people have given their lives in this. I am so absolutely disappointed in our politicians right now. Hezbollah may think they have won (and they do appear to be so stupid they really think that) but they have not. People here that I know are angry ... let Israel do what Israel must do. One thing that is confusing me is why it was not demanded that the soldiers be returned.

    By Blogger support4israel, at 5:09 PM  

  • support4israel said...

    Hezbollah may think they have won (and they do appear to be so stupid they really think that) but they have not.

    Actually it is more accurate to say that Israel has lost rather than Hezbollah won but Hezbollah has won a victory of sorts and surely you must see that whatever side you are on.

    What were Israel's war aims? To destroy Hezbollah, get the captured soldiers returned and end the rocket fire. Failed on all three!! I have no doubt that Israel will feel a huge sense of unfinished business and will want to take Hezbollah on again to finish the job at some point in the future.

    By Blogger olufela, at 5:56 PM  

  • olufela, first of all I was not addressing you, I was addressing Eugene. Secondly, I seriously doubt this is over just yet so no, I certainly do not consider it a victory for Hezbollah (apparently you do though). Difference of opinion and what we look at as far as victory.

    By Blogger support4israel, at 8:03 PM  

  • "the syrians have condemned the attacks and provided aid and places to live for displaced lebanese." - The Syrians are praising Hezbollah for their great victory.

    "i think hizbolla refuses to disarm as long as israel occupies lebanese land." - I'm sorry, but that's nonsense. I've talked about the Shebba farms before, they are used as an excuse for all of this, 90% of Lebanese don't even know what they are and Syria has an equal or great claim to that 20 km square area.

    "what is your view on the golan heights?" - They were given the Golan heights by the French, they lost it not once but three times, in 1948 (part), six day war, and 1970's I believe. It's not ours but it's of such strategic importance that we can't just hand it over, that's geography for you. Time and time again they proved that they will try and use it to attack Israel, they shelled people from there, 'etc. Giving it back right now is simply not possible, it has nothing to do with desire.

    If in some point in the future, Syria stops being a threat and normal relations will ensue then I'd have no problem with an agreement that clearly states that it will be a military free zone. They are not to be allowed to build up any forces there, and if they do then it's all null and void.

    I don't see a Syrian regime that does not pose a threat to Israel any time soon.

    Oh, and by the way I've been there and it's the most beautiful place,
    on par with the grand canyon. (It's a plateau actually, a km high, huge drop)

    "why does israel have nuclear weapons?" - To prevent countries such as Syria and Iran using chemical weapons, I'm not going to elaborate much because its so self explanatory. Is there something specific about this that you want to know? (I bet it's the "double standard" of not allowing Iran to have them as well, but I don't want to put words into your mouth)

    "Hezbollah has won a victory of sorts and surely you must see that whatever side you are on." - Of sorts is right. They won some popularity with some people, hopefully they lost or became more unpopular with others. Take into account the large toll on Lebanon, it's civilians, economy, and infrastructure. Are you suggestion it's worth the lives of 159 Israeli's? The cost turned out to be lower for them then in previous wars, but victory is a very sketchy term here.

    You are correct however about Israel not achieving it's objectives, I share the view of what seems to be most of my fellow Israeli's that we did in fact fail. I believe it is a leadership failure.

    One thing that can be said with any certainty however is that their propaganda war was effective.

    By Blogger Live from an Israeli bunker, at 8:08 PM  

  • gxz:

    the Golan Heights are strategic for Israel's defense. If they let it go Syria can fire into the valley and kill many people.

    Nuclear weapons are deterrant. Their message is: don't try to eliminate us.

    By Blogger Hettie, at 8:33 PM  

  • "...90% of Lebanese don't even know what they [shebaa farms] are..."

    sorry dude, but that is absolutely 100% false. most (if not all) lebanese know about the shebaa farms. there are lebanese families who have homes there and haven't been able to return. shebaa is their village, just like any other village in the south of lebanon.

    the wars of 48, 67, etc were in a completely different situation than today. the '48 war started because the arab countries were opposed to the fast israeli expansion. back then, israel didn't exist and the arabs didn't want it to exist.

    please, let's not go back that far. otherwise, we'll be lost in a much larger debate. the point i'm trying to make is that the dynamics today are not the same as those of the wars you mentioned.

    most arabs today, regardless of how they feel about israel, would be quite happy if the borders specified by the UN were implemented.

    "...by the way I've been there and it's the most beautiful place..."

    that would explain why the syrians are pissed off about it.

    i can't say i agree with the deterent argument. but here's a specific question: why doesn't israel sign the non-prolification declaration? and why don't they allow UN inspections of their facilities?

    By Blogger qzx, at 10:25 PM  

  • sorry dude, but that is absolutely 100% false. most (if not all) lebanese know about the shebaa farms. there are lebanese families who have homes there and haven't been able to return. shebaa is their village, just like any other village in the south of lebanon. -
    It was captured from Syria, not Lebanon.. It is used as an excuse for all of this. For Syria, it means Hizballah can still be used to keep the Israelis off balance; for Lebanon, it provides a way to apply pressure over issues, like the return of Lebanese prisoners still held in Israeli jails. For Hezbollah, it is a reason to keep its militia armed and active, providing a ready new goal for a resistance movement that otherwise had nothing left to resist.

    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf11.html#h

    As for the %90 sentance, that I got from a Lebanese blogger.

    "the wars of 48, 67, etc were in a completely different situation than today. the '48 war started because the arab countries were opposed to the fast israeli expansion. back then, israel didn't exist and the arabs didn't want it to exist.

    please, let's not go back that far. otherwise, we'll be lost in a much larger debate. the point i'm trying to make is that the dynamics today are not the same as those of the wars you mentioned." - I was just explaining how we we ended up there. But one part you got right: " back then, israel didn't exist and the arabs didn't want it to exist." They still do.

    "most arabs today, regardless of how they feel about israel, would be quite happy if the borders specified by the UN were implemented." - Back that statment up please.

    "that would explain why the syrians are pissed off about it." - They are pissed off about it because they lost it and because it's of strategic importance.

    "i can't say i agree with the deterent argument. but here's a specific question: why doesn't israel sign the non-prolification declaration? and why don't they allow UN inspections of their facilities?" - Need to know basis. If Iran gets nuclear weapons there is a very good chance they will use it, we well resort to it as the very last option.

    By Blogger Live from an Israeli bunker, at 11:13 PM  

  • hey, i will reply later to the other stuff, but i was just reading haaretz and got this:

    But he said the army would not be disarming Hezbollah, who have controlled the area for six years. "The army is not going to the south to strip Hezbollah of weapons and do the work Israel did not," he told LBC Television.

    "The resistance is cooperating to the utmost level so that as soon as the Lebanese army arrives in the south there will be no weapons but those of the army."


    this sounds more to me like the lebanese govt is saying that they will not forcefully disarm hizbolla (as israel has tried). instead, hizbolla will disarm itself...

    i can't guarantee i'm right about this, but that's what the statement sounds like to me.

    By Blogger qzx, at 12:40 AM  

  • To be very honest with you, I really think that the cease-fire will not hold because we still don't know if the international community is intending to disarm the Hezbollah.

    By Blogger Anh Khoi Do, at 2:02 AM  

  • No the Ceasefire won't hold.......to prove it just look at the airlift of "peacekeeping troops" from France, Germany, Italy, Russia..........soon there will be just the unifil troops on the ground as before..........

    Noone is going to spend billions of dollars putting real armies on the ground to have Iran send suicide bombers at them and see losses for such a mess.

    The pity is that Israel tried air power without having any. Strategic bombing is super if you have strategic bombers - Israel does not.

    By Blogger Voyager, at 2:04 PM  

  • voyager,

    if you haven't noticed, it's not Hizbolla that's been killing the UN soldiers :-). I think they're far more worried about Israelis getting their people.

    and yeah, after all the "collateral damage" israel incurred with "only F-16s", that's exactly what needs to be done. give them B-2s and B-52s! the world's pretty ridiculous, but i'm hoping it won't get THAT ridiculous.

    one thing that is for sure is that Hizbolla will not disarm as long as israel occupies lebanese land. if and when israel withdraws, then hopefully they will disarm.

    you never can tell or course. it is possible they won't disarm, but they might disarm. but israel can say nothing as long is it keeps giving them excuses NOT to disarm.

    By Blogger qzx, at 10:09 PM  

  • Informative, especially if read in conjunction with blogs from your opposite number in Beirut. I hope Europe will finally make good on their perceived importance, but somehow I doubt it.

    By Blogger Cicero, at 7:02 PM  

  • By Blogger Deep, at 5:21 PM  

  • By Blogger Deep, at 5:22 PM  

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