Five years ago this week, Iran’s Lebanese proxy opened war with Israel. The war
lasted 34 days, during which Hezbollah launched more than 4,000 missiles against
Israel. Now five years later, under US President Barack Obama, America is
pushing a policy that drastically escalates the chance that a new war between
Israel and Iran’s Lebanese army will break out again in the near
Back in 2006, Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s aggression was
swift but incompetent. While Israel scored some blows against the Iranian proxy
force, the war ended with Hezbollah still shooting. Israel failed to defeat the
terror army. And because Hezbollah survived, it won the war.
is exposed in all its ugliness by the political and military realities five
years on. Today, Hezbollah is not simply in charge of Israel’s former security
zone in South Lebanon.
It is in charge of all of Lebanon. The
Hezbollah-controlled government controls all aspects of the Lebanese state that
it wishes. These include the military, the telecommunications networks, and the
international borders, airports and sea ports, among other things.
Hezbollah has not merely refilled its depleted missile arsenals. It has tripled
the size of its missile arsenals. In 2006, IAF strikes in the first 24 hours of
the war knocked out all of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles. Today, not only have
those stocks been replenished, Hezbollah’s arsenal includes missiles with ranges
covering all of Israel, with larger payloads and many with guidance
The lessons of the war are easy to see. And the Israeli public,
which learned them five years ago, still hasn’t forgotten them.
SPEAKING, the war taught us three lessons. The first lesson is that you can’t
convince terrorists to lay down their arms simply by walking away. Israel
withdrew from its security zone in southern Lebanon in 2000. The withdrawal was
a precursor to its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. In 2006, Israel was attacked
from both territories.
In the lead-up to both withdrawals, Israel’s
national leadership told the public that the only reason terrorists from these
territories were attacking us was that we were there. If we went away, they
would stop hating us and we would be safe. We were the problem, not them, so we
could solve the problem by giving them what they wanted.
then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni continued
to push appeasement through their insistence that Israel surrender Judea and
Samaria, the war of 2006 showed the public the folly of their plans. And at
first opportunity, the public elected the Likud and other right-wing parties –
which oppose appeasement – to form the current government.
lesson the public learned is that when a nation goes to war against an enemy
that seeks its destruction, it must fight to win. You cannot fight a half-war
against an implacable foe. And if you fail to win, you lose.
This is not
how Israel fought the war of 2006. Partially due to pressure from then-secretary
of state Condoleezza Rice and partially due to his own strategic
incomprehension, Olmert believed it was possible to fight to a draw without
In the event, there was only one way for Israel to defeat
Hezbollah – by regaining control over southern Lebanon.
conclusion to the war would leave Hezbollah standing. And simply by surviving
intact, as Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt warned at the time, the road
would be paved for Hezbollah to take over Lebanon.
But Olmert – and Livni
– wouldn’t even consider retaking control of South Lebanon. The option was
discarded contemptuously as a delusional recipe for forcing Israel back into the
“Lebanese quagmire.” The fact that the “Lebanese quagmire” came to Israel after
we left Lebanon, and that it will only end when Israel defeats Hezbollah, was
Olmert’s and Livni’s reason for rejecting the one
strategy that would have brought Israel victory is explained by the third lesson
of the war. That lesson is that once a leader is ideologically committed to a
policy of appeasement, he is unable to allow rational considerations to permeate
THE OLMERT government was elected in 2006 on the basis of
its plan to repeat the Lebanon and Gaza withdrawals in Judea and Samaria. During
the war, Olmert told his supporters that victory in Lebanon would enable him to
carry out his planned withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. And this was true. But
because of the circular logic of appeasement, there was no way that Olmert could
fight to win.
If Israel had retaken control of southern Lebanon, Olmert
would have had a chance of convincing the public that unilateral withdrawal was
a viable strategy. He would have been able to argue that just as the IDF retook
control of southern Lebanon, so it would retake control of Judea and Samaria if
the Palestinians used the vacated lands to attack the rest of the
But because he was committed to appeasement, Olmert could not
fight to win in Lebanon. The appeasement agenda is predicated on the disavowal
of the notion of military victory and the embrace of the mantra, “There is no
If victory is an option, then surrender along the
lines that Olmert preached in Judea and Samaria is also an option.
is, surrender is an option, not an imperative, as he claimed. And if victory is
an option, then clearly it has much more to recommend it than defeat.
with their appeasement agenda reigning supreme – as appeasement agendas always
do – instead of fighting to win, Olmert and Livni sued for a cease-fire. That
is, they sought a diplomatic solution to a military problem. And since by not
losing, Hezbollah won the military contest, it also came out the victor in UN
Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the conditions of the
Resolution 1701 was a massive victory for Hezbollah. The
resolution placed the international terror group run by Iran on equal footing
with Israel, a sovereign state. The security arrangements in the resolution were
an invitation for Hezbollah to rearm. It was pure fantasy to believe that the
Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government would block Hezbollah’s rearmament. And
it was utter madness to think that European military forces would lift a finger
to prevent Hezbollah from reasserting full control over the border with
But again, if you accept the circular logic of appeasement – that
always puts the burden of proof on the non-aggressor – then you will never learn
these, or any other lessons. And as a consequence, appeasers will always and
forever foment wars in the name of peace.
THE ISRAELI public learned
these lessons and elected a government that understands them. Perhaps if the
American people had elected Senator John McCain to succeed George W. Bush in
2008, the US government would have learned these lessons as well. And then maybe
together the Israeli and the US governments might have set about fixing at least
some of the damage the war caused them both.
But in their wisdom, the
American people elected Barack Obama to succeed Bush in the White House. And
Obama has learned none of the lessons of the last war. Consequently Obama’s
current policies are increasing the likelihood of another war between Israel and
Iran’s Lebanese proxy in the near future.
Far from recognizing the nature
of Hezbollah, the Obama administration has tried to wish away its implacability.
Last May, Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan spoke of the
administration’s plan to cultivate “moderate elements” in the Iranian-run
The Obama administration’s notion that the US can
adopt a nuanced approach to the terror group is put paid by Hezbollah’s takeover
of the Lebanese government, its growing capabilities in the Western hemisphere,
its continued devotion to the cause of Israel’s destruction, its participation
in the killing of Syrian anti-regime protesters, and Iran’s clear control over
all aspects of the organization’s operations. And yet, by all accounts, the
administration refuses to acknowledge that there can be no nuance toward
The dangers of Obama’s rejection of these basic truths were
exposed this week. Sunday the government approved the demarcation of Israel’s
territorial waters along the border with Lebanon. The borders will be submitted
to the UN.
Israel’s move was forced on it by the Obama
The dispute over the sea border arose after Israel
discovered massive quantities of natural gas in its territorial waters in 2009.
Acting on orders from Hezbollah and Iran, the Lebanese government immediately
claimed erroneously that the waters belonged to Lebanon. Last August, Lebanon
submitted its claim to the UN.
Israel negotiated its maritime borders
with Cyprus in 2007. The same year, Cyprus also negotiated its maritime borders
with Lebanon. At the time, Lebanon did not claim the areas in which Israel has
discovered natural gas deposits or the areas abutting those areas, which are
suspected of similarly containing large natural gas deposits. Lebanon’s current
claim includes Israel’s territorial waters abutting the gas fields it discovered
In staking this false claim, as it did with the Shaba Farms on
Mount Dov in the Golan Heights in 2000, Lebanon is setting up a casus belli
Under the circumstances, the only rational policy that
the US can possibly adopt is to loudly and strenuously back Israel’s claim and
reject all Lebanese contentions to the contrary.
Only by completely
rejecting Lebanon’s claim can the US deny Hezbollah and Iran the ability to use
Israel’s gas finds in its territorial waters as a justification for
Rather than do this, guided by its appeasement ideology, the Obama
administration has refused to take sides. It urged Israel to submit its
counter-claim to the UN – where it can bully Israel into accepting arbitration
of the dispute by the inherently anti-Israel UN.
More generally, by
refusing to take sides, the US is in fact siding with its enemy Iran and Iran’s
proxy Hezbollah against its ally Israel.
According to media reports, the
Obama administration claims that by acting in this manner, it is seeking to
prevent a flare-up of hostilities. That is, the administration believes that if
it shows Hezbollah its good will by treating Israel’s honest claim as equal to
Lebanon/Hezbollah/Iran’s false claim, it will appease the latter into not waging
a war of aggression against the former.
But again, what the last war
taught us is that this sort of behavior is what emboldens aggressors to attack.
Obama’s even-handedness in the face of a US enemy’s aggression against a US ally
is placing Israel and Lebanon on a straight path to a new