Israel - An Escalating Conflict On Two Fronts
Israel’s retaliation against Lebanon with warplanes, tanks, and gunboats in response to the capture of two soldiers effectively opened up a second front in its fight against Islamic militants and marked the most decisive strategic moment for Israel in several years.
What Israel did then was to make a strategic decision to change its approach and reoccupy large sections of the West Bank to reinforce its own security. Right now we are seeing Israel again forced to make a strategic decision.
The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is being forced to decide whether the decision to withdraw from Lebanon and to withdraw from Gaza were the right ones. So far it seems that Israel has not been happy with the results.
And while the Islamic militants in Gaza - Hamas, and in Lebanon - Hezbollah, may believe that they’ve finally backed Israel into a corner, the reality of Israel’s superior firepower may quickly shatter any confidence they may have gained from their recent successes.
As Israel invades Lebanon after
Israel insists, though, that it has no choice. The security situation in both Gaza and the Lebanon border had passed the point of intolerability for Israel. So it has sent in the armed forces.
All of which means that Israel was forced to react to circumstances rather than create them. The real initiative is political, not military, and Hamas and Hezbollah, unjustly, hold the high ground there. I doubt that Israel's military actions will reverse that.
Israel under Sharon compelled Jewish settlers to vacate Gaza and destroyed their homes in an attempt to gain a political advantage. It didn't work. Hamas and Hezbollah will always revert to violence to subvert Israel's political gains. That's what they've done here. Israel loses the initiative to Hezbollah as well as Hamas.
Israel is again facing the same choices it faced in Gaza: Does it go back in? Does it re-occupy an area in southern Lebanon that it held, uncomfortably, for eighteen years? Does it want to do that?
What possible choice does Israel have at this juncture? Israel's entire history can be seen as a reaction to outside forces. Yet she never gets credit for it in the court of world opinion; instead, Israel is usually condemned for contributing to the cycle of violence.
However, what could be the Israeli exit strategy here?
They’ve tried that without solving the terrorist problem. They also can’t go the route that the U.S. has gone in Iraq: The current governments are, in both cases, the result of the democratic process.
Already, we’ve had the Syrian government come out in support of the Hezbollah action and there have already been suggestions that things could escalate quickly to involve Syria and Iran.
This is a potentially de-stabilizing situation, the likes of which we haven’t seen in this part of the Middle East for several years.
And of course, it’s all inter-related. Will history repeat itself?