What is the end result Israel must seek in Lebanon?
The intolerable pockets of violence and instability must be removed so that Lebanon can implement Resolution 1559 and relieve Israel of the threat that Hizbullah, with its policies and its missiles, has been posing.
Should conditions on the ground not be radically changed, should Hizbullah's terrorist and military capabilities not be degraded and Lebanon made free and peaceful, Israel will have fallen short.
Israel embarked on this offensive because it was attacked. For a cease-fire to be reached we need to have our kidnapped soldiers released and the complete cessation of Hizbullah rocket attacks against us. But the military response, in itself, cannot fully achieve Israel's objectives. The Lebanese government needs to assert its sovereignty. International statesmanship and diplomacy is also required, in which the major Western powers do what they can to deter Iranian and Syrian interference. Only if active diplomacy is pursued in conjunction with what Israel is now doing will the necessary results be produced.
There is no mathematical answer for how long this operation will last. It is a battle; the Syrians and the Iranians are being difficult and obstructive, and Hizbullah is continuing its activity. My guess is weeks, at least, rather than days.
Syria is clearly implicated in this whole crisis, in more ways than one. It has direct ties to Hizbullah, it has been allowing sanctuary to Hizbullah personnel, it has been supplying war mat riel through Syrian territory and it has maintained clerical and operational coordination with Hizbullah to this very day.
Syria is an ally of Hizbullah, an accomplice, but not a direct enemy in this context. To take military action against an indirect adversary is not a simple issue. If Syria had participated directly in these attacks on us, or if Syrian military personnel had been involved, that would be another matter.
Even so, Israel wants to ensure that Syria not resupply Hizbullah. But I would hesitate to engage Syria militarily at this time. Syria is not only Israel's problem. If there were a concerted option, led by the US, that would be another story.
As for the debate over the use of ground forces, limited and surgical ground operations against Hizbullah in Lebanon, either by special forces or by regular military forces, may already be taking place. As always, such action brings the possibility of losses. But to go for a massive ground offensive in order to occupy or retain territory in southern Lebanon would be politically and internationally difficult. To have a permanent presence on the ground, however justifiable, could run counter to the positive trend of seeing Lebanon free and independent without foreign presence.
The official policy distinguishes between limited incursions of ground troops for limited purposes and large-scale operations designed for a permanent presence. The Lebanese Army needs to be deployed in the South, and perhaps an international force, through UN Resolution 1559 - but not the Israeli army.
Furthermore, military doctrine has shown, both in Gaza and in Lebanon, that we should accomplish as much as we can through air force operations.
Finally, Israeli public opinion would not accept, I think, a long insertion of Israeli ground forces into Lebanon six years after we withdrew, especially when we are claiming that we have no territorial demands from Lebanon.
Israel rightly wants to see a security zone to the north of its border, free of any terrorist presence, be it Hizbullah or Palestinian terror groups. People tend to forget that the Palestinians retain some terrorist capabilities in Lebanon. They, too, should be dismantled, in accordance with resolution 1559.
The deployment of an international force in this area to oversee the buffer zone has long been debated in Israel. Many believe it might be a waste of time and even counterproductive. The United Nations forces in South Lebanon have not merely been a big waste of UN money and a failure over the years, but they have been impotent in preventing hostility against Israel. In many ways, they have become accomplices. That is why there is skepticism about another such force being deployed now.
I am not so skeptical. I think NATO, the UN and other forces have proved more effective of late in going beyond monitoring to enforcing. Look at the experience gathered in Afghanistan and in other parts of Europe and Asia. A NATO-type force, mandated to realize Resolution 1559, could serve a useful purpose. Properly tasked, it could assist the Lebanese army in freeing Lebanon from Hizbullah.
Uzi Arad is the Director of the Institute for Policy and Strategy, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. He was the former head of Mossad research and foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He was interviewed by Sheera Claire Frenkel.
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