|Editorial - September 2006|
|By Roland S. Süssmann, Editor in Chief|
34 minutes! That’s the time it took for the Israeli Airforce to destroy 95% of Hizbullah’s long-range launch sites and missiles in Lebanon. Thanks to amazing work by the Mossad, Israel knew their exact locations. So Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem were spared. Through my various contacts in the army I learned that, contrary to certain incorrect opinions expressed here and there, military intelligence knew exactly the range, type and positions of Hizbullah’s 13,000 small rockets. However, in order to spare Lebanese civilians, the Israelis did not bomb enough Hizbullah’s command and control centers, which were frequently located in residential areas.
Rather than harping on the lapses and mistakes of this war, such as the hesitations to immediately launch a ground operation in order to put an end to the deluge of Katyushas that were falling on the north, let us take a quick look at the gains for Israel from this conflict. Firstly, Israel has destroyed the idea, widely held in the Arab world, that the Jewish State would not launch a major military operation in response to a small incursion such as the one on 12 July 2006, where in fact “just two soldiers were taken prisoner and eight killed” or to the “handful” of missiles fired at Nahariya on 13 July. Secondly, Hizbullah was pushed back far from the border; thirdly, the home front, in particular the population under attack in the north, stood firm without flinching and national solidarity was exemplary; and lastly, militarily the IDF achieved a remarkable victory. Israel did not lose a single battle, and the Hizbullah terrorists fled, were killed or taken prisoner. It is true that according to Hizbullah rhetoric the fact of not having been wiped out constitutes a “victory”, which motors the illusion that Israel could be beaten militarily. Basically Hizbullah suffered another, strategic defeat of major importance: the destruction of its ultimate aim and that of Iran, to turn Lebanon into an Iranian front against Israel. The deployment of an entire arsenal of long- and medium-range missiles on the Israeli border was meant to deter the US and Israel from destroying the Iranian nuclear sites. A long-range attack on the USA appears difficult; one must be perpetrated by terrorists on American soil. However, an attack on the heartland of Israel using Zelzal-2 missiles with a range of 250km is can be done. Such a plan was in fact clearly confirmed at meeting held in London behind closed doors on 11 May 2006, to which a very select group of western diplomats had been called. A very highly placed representative of the Iranian government delivered a very clear message. “Hizbullah is an essential pillar of our security strategy, it is Iran’s first line of defense against Israel. The idea that it be disarmed is unacceptable to us”. It was in fact thanks to Iranian experts that a complete network of subterranean, booby-trapped tunnels was constructed in southern Lebanon, making the task of Israel’s infantry extremely difficult. Despite the hesitation and mistakes of Israel’s political and probably its military leadership, 50 years after the Sinai Campaign and 30 years after Entebbe Jewish heroism was again put to the test and prevailed. The soldiers of the IDF never faltered, their morale and fighting spirit were as tough as steel.
The key question that must be asked today is to know what were the lessons from this war. On the military level, the army is in the process of drawing the conclusions it must, to be prepared for the next conflict. In internal politics, even the Prime Minister has acknowledged that unilateralism is dead. It is not the creation of a Hizbullah-Hamas-PLO-Al Qaida state on Israel’s doorstep that will ensure quiet. The Oslo Accords and the destruction of the Jewish settlements in Gush Katif have been acknowledged as a major error; intelligence, prevention and deterrence can only be truly effective in those places where there is a Jewish population and the army is present. Israel left Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005. Those areas are no longer “occupied”, but have become launch pads (Kassams and Katyushas) for attacks on Israel’s civilian population. This proves that is not the Israeli presence that causes terrorism, but rather terrorism that is the cause of what some wrongly call “occupation”. This recent war has shown that if it proves necessary, Israel will not hesitate to go back into evacuated areas, whatever the government.
In this vein, the latest Arab attack on Israel is reason to promote construction in Judea and Samaria, which incidentally the Olmert government has understood by providing new building permits to expand settlements and towns on the West Bank. The inhabitants of the Jewish parts of Judea and Samaria are no longer the pariahs of Israeli society; their political fight to ensure a Jewish presence firmly anchored on as much territory as possible has been deemed right, and the proportion of soldiers killed from among their ranks was enormous (11 out of 115, out of a population of 200,000).
Many questions remain unanswered: how useful will UNIFIL be? With Hizbullah temporarily weakened, what will be the power of Hamas? Will there be civil war between Fatah and Hamas? Is Europe, which in the 1930s sacrificed its Jews in the belief that Hitler would then give up his aim of world domination, today inclined to accept that Iran will not be satisfied with the destruction of Israel and Lebanon, but that the entire West should be Islamized, and at any price? In this connection a passage from the precepts of Khomeini, taught today in Iranian schools to 11 year olds, is very revealing: “I am announcing clearly to the world that we will fight anyone who opposes our religion, and annihilate them totally. Either we shall free ourselves of the infidels, or we shall achieve a higher form of freedom, martyrdom. In either case we shall be victorious”. Faced with the acceptance of mutual destruction, there can be only one approach, firmness. For the time being neither Europe nor the UN has displayed it.
A difficult year is ending. Let us approach the new year with gratitude to the soldiers of the IDF, who once again have fought for us, the Jews of the Diaspora, facing on the front line international terrorism and Islamo-fascism, which threaten every country where the guarantee of individual and collective liberties is the supreme value.
With a special thought for the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and their families that the entire team of SHALOM wishes you an excellent New Year.
Roland S. Süssmann, Editor in Chief