This weekend's commando raid in the Bekaa Valley was a model for a war of attrition against Hizbullah.
Most political analysts have envisaged the "Day After" in Lebanon as one of continuous diplomatic negotiations. Military experts have emphasized preparations for the next round.
The UN, despite its good intentions, couldn't produce an agreement that was both acceptable to the parties and would stabilize the situation in southern Lebanon and northern Israel. The Security Council chose an agreement over substance.
From the moment the cease-fire went into effect, those acquainted with the facts on the ground were aware that the fire never entirely ceased. First there were sudden, local bursts caused by misunderstandings. Then, more importantly, essential parts of the UN resolution were ignored, bypassed or evaded.
Crucial from Israel's point of view is an embargo on weapons transfers to Hizbullah from neighboring countries, i.e. Syria. A few hours after the resolution was approved by the Security Council, a convoy crossed into Lebanon from Syria, loaded with weapons and ammunition destined to replenish Hizbullah's empty warehouses. On the other side of the hill, Israel declared that the IDF was determined to "search for and kill" Hizbullah leaders, using any means available.
It is not surprising that special forces and air force units executed a raid deep into Lebanon this weekend, not far from the Syrian border. Decision makers approved the raid mainly for political reasons: to broadcast Israel's determination to enforce crucial parts of the resolution until such time as the multinational force assumes its responsibilities. The raid also makes clear that no place in Lebanon is safe for Hizbullah leaders and, finally, that Israel is not deterred by the threats from President Bashar Assad and other Syrian officials. There was also a hint here of a new approach for the next stage of military operations.
Unsuccessful all-out frontal assaults and the partial achievements of the aerial campaign forced commanders and planners to shape a different approach. The command raid could be part of a new, prudent strategy expected to be adopted by the IDF and the cabinet.
Senior IDF decision makers should develop a new strategy entailing a long-term, pinpoint, campaign of attrition that emphasizes painstaking planning, surprise and covert operations. It would integrate intelligence, special forces and various IAF elements into special task forces. Units providing near real-time intelligence would play a pivotal role in both planning and during the actual operations.
The use of special forces would be increased significantly, becoming the basis of the ground operations. The IAF would take more responsibility for all dimensions of the campaign - data gathering, planning, fighting, rescue and debriefing. It would take command of most special operations.
Regular ground forces would have many responsibilities under the new strategy, including playing a dominant role in guarding the borders, and controlling Lebanese villages close to the border. The Home Front Command would be trained to assume responsibility for the civilians in southern Lebanon. The navy would continue with its current missions and participate in special operations near the coast.
Although the proposed operational framework is promising, it would require careful planning, cautious decision making and vigilant execution of low-level operations. And care must be taken to prevent escalation.
Pieces of paper approved by the UN Security Council have the potential to reshape a horrible situation if they are backed up by the power and determination of its members, but based on the first days after the cease-fire, this is not happening.
Cato the Elder, senator of Rome, always finished his speeches with the same declaration regarding Carthage. Let me imitate his practice by saying again: No stable agreement will be achieved without involving Syria.
Dr. Shmuel L. Gordon, a colonel (res.) in the IAF, is head of the Technology and National Security program at the Holon Institute of Technology.
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