Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah made a strategic mistake in sparking the recent war with Israel, firing off one of Teheran's perceived "silver bullets" well before Iran intended, a former senior IDF intelligence officer said yesterday. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the Research Division in the army's Intelligence Branch, said Iran viewed Hizbullah as a strategic weapon that would deter either Israel or the US from taking military action to stop Teheran's nuclear program, or as a way to hit back at Israel if it did.
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He told the sixth annual conference of the Institute for Counter-terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, which focused on the recent war, that intelligence had not been the problem in the recent confrontation with Hizbullah.
On a strategic and operational level, meaning how Hizbullah fights and what weaponry they possessed, Israel had the necessary intelligence, Kuperwasser said.
What was lacking was tactical intelligence that would have helped the officers during the various battles, he added.
However, former Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uri Saguy said Israel had not been prepared for the war.
"Ground forces were neither ready nor sufficiently trained, and they did not know their goals," he said.
While Hizbullah miscalculated and did not think Israel would wage a war following the kidnapping of Ehud Regev and Eldad Goldwasser, they were prepared for the war when it happened. Israel, by comparision, was prepared for a reaction to an isolated event, but not for a full-blown war, he said.
Saguy also said that Israel was not adequately prepared for the potential of Syria entering the picture. While Hizbullah absorbed a significant blow, Israel's geo-strategic situation did not improve enough to justify the war, he added.
Others on the panel of experts who appeared at the conference agreed that the army had not achieved its goals. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoram Yair, author of a book on military strategy, argued that "in this war, we didn't advance, we just inserted ground forces, but didn't advance. If they had implemented the principal of land advancement, there would have been no problem."
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said that "Hizbullah is the model for terrorists; they have the structure of an army but the objectives of terrorists: to kill as many as possible, whether citizens or soldiers."
Reflecting on the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, Dichter said: "The Arab world has gone through substantive changes since 9/11, the terrorists have strengthened themselves.
"The terrorists have evil thoughts and intentions. Those who fight them must have pure intentions and must be determined in their actions," he added.
The minister stressed that we are not just fighting small terrorist groups, "we are fighting groups, armies, and countries of terror."
The center's founding president and a Kadima MK until Prime Minister Ehud Olmert backpedaled on a promise to appoint him education minister, Uriel Reichman called for a state commission of inquiry to examine the way the war was conducted.
"There is no substitute for a state commission of inquiry," he said, calling for "an end to the farce."
Reichman said that a committee probing the war needed to be established by the Supreme Court president, and not the person under investigation.
Former foreign minister Silvan Shalom blamed "deficient" results from the withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza. He said that while the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan had proven themselves, "the two unilateral withdrawals have not."
Former internal security minister Uzi Landau spoke of the need to realign the military establishment's goals with a political doctrine.
"Israel needs the rehabilitation of the IDF and of a political doctrine which maintains that any provocation by Hizbullah is a provocation by Syria, and therefore demands military action against Syria," he said.