Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hezbollah Officer Says His Fighters Would Have Surrendered in 10 More Days


Evidence mounts that poor leadership on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (shown at left performing a characterisic choke) caused the failure of Israel in last summer's Lebanon War. The Jerusalem Post reports that a Hezbollah officer, in an interview aired today by Israel's Channel 10, stated that Hezbollah's fighters would have been forced to surrender in 10 more days, had the ceasefire not stopped the combat.

"The cease-fire acted as a life jacket for the organization" the Hezbollah officer said. He explained that the organization's gunmen had been running low on food and water and facing rapidly diminishing arms supplies.

The Hezbollah officer also said that its gunmen were forced to fire katyusha rockets from inside populations, because of the efficiency of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in destroying launchers minutes after a launch had been detected. He said that when the gunmen relocated to cities and villages, they knew innocent civilians would be hurt as a consequence.

Prime Minister Olmert and his Defense Minister (since resigned) Peretz precipitously launched the war against Hezbollah a year ago, following an across-border raid by Hezbollah, who killed several Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two others. (The fate of the kidnapped soldiers remains unknown.) Misled by the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. General Dan Halutz (also since resigned), a former commander of the Israeli Air Force, into believing that a war against Hezbollah could be won employing air power alone, without the large-scale commitment of ground forces to take and hold ground, Olmert began the war with little advance planning and no diplomatic effort. Ground forces made only limited forays into south Lebanon, and then withdrew from the villages they captured, allowing Hezbollah fighters to quickly return to them and resume shelling and rocketing of Israeli towns and cities. Planning for a ground campaign was so poor that IDF soldiers suffered shortages of food and water themselves, although they were only a few miles north of the Israeli-Lebanese border and had open supply lines. No effort was made to land ground troops north of Hezbollah's forces, to cut off their retreat across the Litani River.

Israeli air strikes against Hezbollah launch sites sheltered within civilian populations predictably dissipated the initially strong diplomatic support of Israel by the United States, and turned world opinion against Israel, as if it had been the agressor, despite the fact that Hezbollah began the war by launching shells and rockets at Israeli civilian targets, and never stopped. Stung by the outcry about alleged Israeli atrocities (many of which turned out to be completely fabricated), suddenly the Bush Administration was pressuring Olmert to accept a negotiated cease fire.

After finally realizing that his limited war strategy would not work, Olmert and his security cabinet authorized the long-delayed large-scale infantry offensive, only to almost immediately put the attack "on hold", to await the outcome of ongoing diplomatic efforts. After the UN Security Council passed a U.S.-sponsored ceasefire resolution, Olmert initially indicated that he would ignore it, and then belatedly ordered the full-scale ground attack to proceed. Then he switched direction again, accepting the resolution, with the ceasefire scheduled to take effect only a few days later, while he continued the ground offensive. He literally ordered Israeli soldiers to continue fighting with the knowledge that their gains--at the loss for some of their lives or limbs--would be turned back to Hezbollah as soon as the ceasefire took effect.

The time for diplomatic effort was before going to war. That would have been the time to seek a Security Council resolution condemning the unprovoked attack by Hezbollah, launched from Lebanese soil, and demanding that Lebanon disarm and control Hezbollah. If that diplomatic effort had failed-and it almost certainly would have failed--Israel could have gone to war, asserting its right under the UN Charter to self-defense, having used the interim time period to adequately plan a ground offensive and position its troops.

In the past, when Israel had strong wartime leadership, it resisted diplomatic pressure, even from the U.S., until it had achieved its military objectives. The Channel 10 interview with the Hezbollah officer strongly suggests that despite the Olmert government's early hesitancy and mistakes, Israel could have actually won a military victory if it had persevered with its ground offensive for only 10 more days.

One hopes against hope that this latest development will finally lead to Olmert's resignation.

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