Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Israel Cabinet approves wider war in Lebanon

The Israel cabinet today approved a ground offensive further into Lebanon, to get rid of the Katyusha launchers south of the Litani River. "It has also been agreed that the IDF will not enter Tyre, and the cabinet rejected a proposal by one of the ministers to target Lebanese government infrastructure, for fear this would undermine international support for Israel's moves." (Although is there any international support for Israel's moves, except from the U.S.? But I am glad that the idea to target the government infrastructure was rejected).

"The mood in Wednesday's cabinet meeting which addressed the situation in Lebanon was defined as difficult, even dismal. The meeting lasted six hours minus the half hour break which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert used to speak at length with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."

And the only thing which gives me any hope right now: "The foreign minister [Tzipi Livni] further noted that Lebanese President Fouad Siniora's idea to deploy the Lebanese army to the south was 'good in our eyes.' With that, she clarified that the Lebanese force must be reinforced by multinational troops with effective enforcement abilities. 'These forces are meant to replace Hizbullah in south Lebanon and not join them. The international community must help enforce this,' she stressed."

The Haaretz article gave other details:
The security cabinet approved Wednesday a broader ground offensive by the Israel Defense Forces in Lebanon, authorizing troops to push at least up to the Litani River some 30 kilometers from the Israel-Lebanon border. The IDF's goal is to significantly reduce Hezbollah's short-range rocket launching capabilities. Most Katyusha rocket launches take place from within this area.

The cabinet authorized Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to widen the offensive and to determine its timing. According to the decision, however, the two are not obliged to implement the decision.

The offensive would not begin for two or three days so as not interfere with ongoing efforts to broker a cease-fire at the United Nations, said one minister in the meeting.

Nine of the 12 ministers in the cabinet voted in favor of the move, while the other three abstained. There were no votes against the decision.

The left, in the form of Meretz and the Arab parties, harshly criticized the cabinet decision:
The political left in Israel slammed the Wednesday afternoon cabinet decision to widen the military ground offensive in Lebanon. Meretz MK Ran Cohen called the move "unfortunate and dangerous." He said continued operations will "increase the large number of victims and will not solve the problem." Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On added the decision "will distance the chances of a cease-fire and of quiet in the northern communities." Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin said the cabinet "made a tragic mistake that is liable to unnecessary lengthen the war? Rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to leave Lebanon and let its army deploy in the south, Israel is entering deeper into Hezbollah's trap on the verge of a war of attrition on the ground."

Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh said the cabinet decision is "insanity testifying to military arrogance." He said Israel was closing the window of opportunity that was opened by the Lebanese government. United Arab List MK Talab al-Sana said, "Now is the time for diplomatic initiatives and not for military adventures."
When I first heard about the cabinet decision, I also felt dismal - how long is this war going to last? How much longer will people in northern Israel have to suffer from the rocket attacks? How much longer will Israeli soldiers be killed by Hizbollah fighters? How much longer will Lebanese civilians be caught between Hizbollah and the IDF?

I'm not a military strategist, so I can't really say whether this is a wise decision or not. It seems to have been made out of the understanding that a cease-fire is not going to happen soon, which would stop the Katyusha fire, and perhaps also out of a fear that even if there is a cease-fire, there would be no guarantee that Hizbollah wouldn't just start up again whenever it felt like. The plans to put some kind of international force in southern Lebanon seem to be going nowhere - the Lebanese government wants to put its own troops in and Hizbollah is opposed to foreign troops, although they say they'll accept the Lebanese Army. But could the Lebanese Army prevent Hizbollah from firing its rockets? Would it replace Hizbollah, or merely stand next to them, open to attacks by Israeli troops and air power?

I don't see anything good happening now.

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