Saturday, August 12, 2006

August 11 & 12 2006, Day 30 +31 War in Israel

August 11-12, 2006 Day 30 +31, War in Israel

Even though the UN voted for a cease-fire the skies above Jerusalem were still busy with Israeli jet fighters streaking to and from Lebanon. Our neighborhood was accommodating some families from the north. The local Or Torah girl’s religious school was used as a dormitory for about 20 families. The call went out to the local residents to help with food, or clothing. One e-mail asked for a child’s size three shoe.

An American-born rabbi with a modern orthodox community near Tel Aviv donated new boots to his future son-in-law’s paratroop unit. The mother of one of the paratroopers in the unit, who is a friend, requested that I mention that anyone who wants to donate things to the Army should do so. Of course it’s not that simple unless you send money. Mailing merchandise into Israel entails the payment of customs, purchase and sales taxes once the goods arrive in Israel. A $20 cable imported from Apple USA will cost $60 by the time it arrives at your home in Israel. Better off not sending stuff. But there are organizations like Friends of the IDF that will probably arrange to have any donations delivered to the proper address. Guess I have to mention that there are lots of rumors about lack of essential materials for the reserve and regular troops. About the looming scandals. But these are, so far, only rumors.

More people killed today. At least seven soldiers, so far. An anti-aircraft missile downed a helicopter. More Israeli forces landed beyond the Litani River, some in front of it. Israeli was apparently looking to secure advantageous positions prior to the cease-fire.

The fighting was fierce. Hezbollah doing it’s best. Israeli troops reported that they’d killed about 40 Hezbollah fighters. Many had the latest weapons reportedly shipped in from Iran. “It’s like fighting the Iranian Commando Units,” one soldier said.

We have too many friends and neighbors with sons in Lebanon. All are worried. Today I saw a chirpy little guy, usually full of wisecracks and funny jokes, dressed in an army uniform with officer’s bars on his shoulder. He was grim. No attempt at a wise crack got him to lighten up. Which unit was he in, he was asked. “You don’t want to know.” Later I discovered his job was to inform families of the loss of a loved one in battle.

My wife’s nephew, who was in an elite unit, has not yet been called up to reserve duty. But yesterday he too was in the hospital visiting a good friend who was wounded in the fighting. That’s what’s going on today in Israel. Fighting, wounded, dead. Not a time for relaxing around the pool, a quiet afternoon of golf, or a vacation hiking in the Galilee.

A report in the daily Haaretz newspaper with the ex-head of Military intelligence, Gen Kupwasser, was enlightening. He said that in fact Israel knew all about the missiles in Lebanon, and had known for years. He said Hezbollah didn’t in the least bit surprise Israel. The only thing that didn’t happen was that Israel didn’t deploy the Nautilus anti-Katyusha weapon, which the General had been advocating for years. He said Israel intelligence had known Hezbollah was out to kidnap soldiers, and had already been thwarted four times. In the past former PM Ariel Sharon would always negotiate a settlement, swap prisoners, and go about business. This time Hezbollah was taken by complete surprise at the ferocity of the attack. He thought that Nasrallah's misjudgements about Israel's retaliation would eventually be his undoing.

Hezbollah, he said, were an exemplification of the Arab mind. Like the Palestinians, the Hezbollah thought of themselves as victims, persecuted by the US and Israel. Each of Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah’s moves was meant to replace Arab honor. According to this general Arab honor was the most important thing in the Arab world. This fact was frequently neglected. Nasrallah was seen as redeeming Arab honor, and thus was a hero. The General thought that Nasrallah had ambitions to take over as leader of the Arab world.

He was optimistic, however, that when the fighting was over Nasrallah would no longer be along Israel’s border. That the international forces that be would make certain that a healthy strip of land existed between Israel and Hezbollah, a buffer zone, with International troops keeping the sides apart. But in his opinion Israel would eventually beat Hezbollah. This was a good time for the war, he said, since Iran had yet to develop its nuclear weapons systems. Syria, he said, wasn’t interested in getting into the fight. They knew it would be a futile gesture. The young PM Bashir Assad had, according to the General, sent Hezbollah the latest Iranian weapons, transported in a sneaky way. Syria had sent relief supplies to Iran after the 2003 earthquake. When the trucks returned to Syria they were loaded with weapons, which the Syrians then sent to Hezbollah.

He said that Israel knew all about the bunkers, just not their exact location. And he was harshly critical of the press for daring to question Israeli leaders at this time. Criticism, and talk of investigating committees were things best reserved for when the war had ended. Any other talk just undermined the war effort, weakened the soldier’s resolve and sent the wrong message to the world.

A couple of friends came to Shabat dinner. They were very anxious about the war. The discussion turned to criticism of Israeli leadership, and questions of the running of the war. At one point one of the army-aged boys at the table lost his temper. He was possibly to go into battle and the talk of how stupid the war was being run riled him. He said the war wasn’t being run stupidly, but wisely. The soldiers were doing their best under difficult conditions. And of course he was right. Armchair generals, like Monday morning quarterbacks, always know exactly how to win a battle or a game.

So far this war has been geared to saving lives, fighting when necessary, killing when necessary. And protecting Israel’s troops if necessary. If Lebanon manages to get support from a well-armed and robust international force to accompany the Lebanese army into southern Lebanon, the cease-fire may have some meaning. Cabinet Minister Rafi Ayton, however, thinks that unless the international force is included, all that will happen is that Hezbollah will set up a fundamentalist Islamic State in southern Lebanon. Ayton, by the way, is the leader of the Pensioner’s party that won a surprising 8 seats in the last Knesset elections, mostly as a protest vote. Ayton himself is an old Mossad agent. He’s the guy who ran Jonathan Pollard, and refused to let him in the Israeli Embassy in Washington when Pollard was on the run from the FBI.

Israel was insisting that Hezbollah be disarmed, according to UN Resolution 1559. Lebanon is now espousing new demands; one is that Israel withdraws from the Shaba Farms area of the Golan. Israel views this as surrender to Hezbollah and demands that the item be excluded in any peace agreement. One assumes that these two issues will cancel each other out at this stage.

Then there is Al Queda, looking to get back in the headlines. They were defeated with the attempted bombing on the planes flying out of Britain, but they won’t quit. They’ll look for another way to wage their holy war. Meanwhile passengers will be delayed on their travels. The British are even warning people not to travel, because, one assumes, the authorities didn’t get all the gang. Will attacks like these topple the British government? Be the end of England? No, but they’re terrifying and disruptive.

In Israel the entire north is mostly unemployed. Stores closed. Streets empty. The cost in loss of income is enormous. The cost of the war is estimated at about $5 Billion, so far. Tourism is dead. The impact of the rockets is much greater than just the explosion from the warhead.

Israel may have twice the population as Lebanon, have a Gross National Product greater than nearly all of the surrounding countries together, have more hi-tech start-ups than anyone else in the world but the USA, but that doesn’t mean that the Hezbollah isn’t having a disproportionate impact on Israel. That really upsets Israelis. Here is this pudgy Moslem cleric with the power to make Israelis scurry for shelter, get them to worry about their mortgage payments, force them to limit their movements; and in retaliation Israel can’t even get a good shot at the guy. Like hunting mosquitoes in the dark.

Nasrallah’s smugness is irritating. That’s what burns up the Israelis. The injustice of it all. The fact that the world’s media sees Israel attacking the illusive Hezbollah from the air, with their tanks and cannons, and sympathizes with the Lebanese. As if Hezbollah doesn’t exist. As if they’re not out there killing Israelis.

Israel doesn’t have a lock on terrorist attacks. They happen all over the world these days. And most of the world isn’t any guiltier than Israel. Did the British deserve the subway bombing, the Americans the Twin Towers? But that doesn’t stop a lot of the media from going against the Israelis with biased one-sided reporting.

Kupwasser, the ex- Army Intelligence chief was asked, “Do you think this conflict could precipitate World War III?” He shot back, “World War III started five years ago. This is just another battle.” The war is between two cultures, radical Islam and the West. Iran and Al Queda, Shiite and Sunni, wishing to impose an Islamic rule on the world. That’s what’s happening, he said. But the world tries to forget when it can.