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A problematic governmental policy of failing to react to repeated attacks despite voicing threats to do so was the single greatest Israeli failure leading up to the war in Lebanon, a retired colonel said Tuesday.
"It would have been better not to make such threats then to make them and not act on them," said Col (res.) Kobi Marom, who served as the commander of the eastern sector of Lebanon before Israel's pullout six years ago.
Marom opined that Hizbullah, which carried out intermittent unprovoked cross-border attacks in the six years since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, grew emboldened by Israel's lack of response and what it saw as Israel's declining power of deterrence.
He noted that public declarations notwithstanding, two former Israeli governments failed to respond to an October 2000 cross-border Hizbullah attack in which three soldiers were killed, nor did it react to a cross-border raid in April 2002, during the height of the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign, in which six Israelis were killed.
"We preferred the false quiet in the North," he said."Our trauma from Lebanon was much bigger than we admit."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to go to war against Hizbullah last month following the July 12 cross-border attack in which two soldiers were kidnapped and eight others were killed was a "courageous" decision following years of diplomatic double-speak, including vis-a-vis continued Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza, but the delay in calling up the reserves, the chief of staff's erroneous over-reliance on air power and the government's decision to delay the massive ground invasion until the eleventh hour led to a lesser victory than the government had hoped for, he said.
"It would have been possible to attain much more on the diplomatic level if the ground operation had progressed further," Marom said.
Marom said that a few extra days were needed to complete the mission, and that the government had clearly erred by delaying the launching of the ground operation by two and half critical days during the last week of the war.
At the same time, Marom noted that the main threat Israel faces today is from Iran's nuclear program, which he said must be stopped at all costs, including by an Israeli air force strike.
"The only way to really stop this threat is an air strike," he said, adding that it was preferable to bear an Iranian missile counter-attack than to face a genocidal threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Marom said he backed the public demands for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the government's handling of the war, noting that a sweeping independent war probe was needed after such a traumatic event, and that such probes have been launched in the past over "less severe issues."
At the same time, he said the reservists' demands for the resignation of the country's wartime leaders was premature, and such a dramatic move should be dependent on the findings of the commission of inquiry.
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