'Israel may have to take alarming force'

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, other experts analyze northern escalation.

"Israel may have to take alarming force as an outcome of the latest attacks, which may even result in the disarming of the Hizbullah," Professor Gerald Steinberg, Senior Research Associate at the Begin Sedat Center for Strategic Studies said on Wednesday in response to the escalation on Israel's northern frontier. According to Steinberg, "Lebanon continues to allow these terrorist activities to take place within her borders and therefore the Lebanese government plays a key role in the reoccurrence of these events." "This is an expected escalation that will force the IDF to increase the scope of the conflict," he argued. "Today's events demonstrate the failure of the international community, in particular, the US and Europe to address Hizbullah's capabilities and impact on regional stability. The US and the UN are in no position to influence Israel's decision making, to call for Israel's restraint or to act as mediators." Steinberg added, "Israel's leaders will have to decide how to act next along its borders as well as with Syria. They cannot sit back and allow terrorist organizations to dictate the situation. The primary focus must be military." "Israel must not partake in a prisoners swap in order to bring home the kidnapped soldiers. Each discussion of this nature will only result in additional kidnappings." According to Steinberg, "Hizbullah's latest attack was initiated in order to show support for the Hamas and the situation in the Gaza Strip." Dr. Ephraim Kam, deputy head of the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, described several scenarios. "One option is that Israel would apply heavy pressure on the Lebanese government, both diplomatically and especially by attacking infrastructure and disrupting life in Lebanon," he said. "Another scenario, though less likely, would be for the IDF to locate the kidnapped soldiers. Past experiences proved, however, that once inside Lebanon, it is very hard to locate kidnapped troops." According to Kam, in the coming days and perhaps weeks, Israel would prefer to exhaust all efforts to release its troops directly or indirectly and only then seek negotiations with the Lebanese terror group. "Israel has released prisoners in the past even though it declared it would not negotiate," he said. "The problem is two-fold; it is difficult to fight against Hizbullah in Lebanese territory and at the same time operate against the Palestinians. The Palestinian front was the main reason in the past that Israel refrained from carrying out extensive operations along the northern frontier." "Israel would increase diplomatic pressure on the Syrian regime; I am doubtful, however, that it would launch a military operation against it," he concluded. Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom, former head of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Branch of the General Staff and senior research associate at the Jaffee Center, was of the opinion that it would be very difficult for Israel to make any sort of comprehensive deal with the Palestinians or Hizbullah. "Israel will no longer be able to absorb continuous terror attacks including the kidnapping of more soldiers and the firing of Kassam rockets into civilian populated areas. This may result in further action against Hamas as well as against Hizbullah, and perhaps against Syria. These actions will be taken in order to intimidate and cause those supporting terrorism to understand that Israel cannot allow these events to continue," he said. According to Brom, Israel will have no choice but to exchange Palestinian prisoners in return for the kidnapped troops. Professor Moshe Maoz, an expert in Middle Eastern affairs, believes that Israel has limited options for a response to today's attack, the most relevant lying solely on the negotiation table. Israel must hold secretive talks with the Lebanese government, and if possible, with Hizbullah. Maoz believes that in the end, part of the solution will include the release of prisoners. Maoz views any IDF attack towards Lebanon as "dangerous" and will not lead to a positive outcome. He argues that history has proven that neither the government of Lebanon, nor Hizbullah are affected by civilian pressure, and therefore IDF action against Lebanon will be less effective. Furthermore, no military action will lead to the release of IDF soldiers, he said.