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An act of war. This is how Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has correctly described the Wednesday morning attacks on soldiers defending Israel's sovereign border in the North. The words may also be applied to the escalating attacks across Israel's sovereign borders in the South. The responsibility of the Israeli government in such circumstances, the responsibility of any government, is to cripple the attackers and to restore security to its people.
Hizbullah on Wednesday killed three IDF soldiers on border patrol and captured two more in an onslaught that included heavy Katyusha and mortar fire. Four more IDF soldiers died when their tank was blown up as the IDF moved into Lebanon in response.
Olmert said, "The events this morning are not terror attacks but actions of a sovereign state that attacked Israel for no reason. The Lebanese government, of which Hizbullah is a member, is trying to undermine regional stability. Lebanon is responsible and it will bear responsibility."
Later, Olmert elaborated on the role of Syria in supporting Hizbullah. Indeed, not only Syria but Iran are also clearly responsible for these attacks, the former by preventing Lebanon from exercising its full sovereignty and the latter as Hizbullah's chief international sponsor. It is inconceivable that Hizbullah would carry out such attacks without the knowledge and acquiescence of the Iranian and Syrian governments, on which it is deeply dependent.
Defending Israel requires both military and diplomatic action. Hizbullah and Hamas must be dealt direct, heavy blows from which they will not quickly recover. The Israeli operation early Wednesday in which chief Hamas terrorist Muhammad Deif was reportedly wounded in Gaza is an example, and it is clear that the IDF's military pressure on Hamas continues to increase.
In the North, Hizbullah's rocket arsenal, army and terrorist training camps in southern Lebanon should be destroyed to the maximum extent possible, within the constraint of Israel's desire not to reoccupy Lebanese territory over an extended period. We can also expect, given Olmert's remarks, that the IDF will strike targets of importance to the Lebanese, and perhaps the Syrian governments.
It is Israel's responsibility to defend itself by destroying the capabilities of its attackers and imposing sufficient costs at all levels of responsibility. The government must also, however, call on the international community to reinforce, rather than undermine, the deterrent effect of such actions.
In the past, the UN Security Council has actually provided a vital incentive to Israel's attackers by standing silent when Israel is attacked and stepping in only to restrain the Israeli response. If the international community wants to prevent future crises, this pattern must be reversed.
The European Union has appropriately called for the immediate release of the IDF soldiers captured by Hizbullah, and it clearly regards this attack as an act of unprovoked aggression.
Israel should quickly demand that this position be expressed in a Security Council resolution condemning the attack and the governments hosting or supporting Hizbullah, demanding the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the border and the dismantling of Hizbullah's army, and supporting Israel's right to self defense. This resolution should also recognize Israel's withdrawal from Gaza of a year ago, thereby explicitly delegitimizing Palestinian attacks launched from the Strip.
The logic of the withdrawal from Lebanon, of last year's disengagement, and of Olmert's planned continuation of that strategy in Judea and Samaria, was and is the same: taking military risks, sometimes severe ones, to improve Israel's international position in a way that deters further attacks against us. If this international support is not forthcoming or is insufficient, as has proven to be the case so far, this strategy will continue to unravel, as we have seen in recent weeks.
Israel should do what it can on its own to restore deterrence and maintain its security. But the international community must also choose whether it wants, by refusing to speak out forcefully and unequivocally against aggression, to lay the groundwork for endless and escalating rounds of attacks. An international community that has continually demanded that Israel take risks for peace must do its part to ensure that Israel's security is increased, not decreased, as a result.