Kidnappings deal strategic blow

Analysis: IDF lowered alert 3 days before attack that took Israel by surprise.

merkava tank 298 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
merkava tank 298 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel was dragged into conflict on a new front, along the northern border, on Wednesday and began preparing for a lengthy, large-scale military operation in southern Lebanon. But senior officers said that Hizbullah's deadly morning attack was directly linked to events in the Gaza Strip and the capture two-and-a-half weeks ago of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. The kidnapping attacks have dealt a strategic blow to the State of Israel. Shalit's kidnapping has brought Israel back into the Gaza Strip, evacuated just 11 months ago. Wednesday's kidnappings have placed the IDF on high alert in the North and call-up orders have been issued for an entire reserve division to begin moving toward Lebanon in preparation for an expected Israeli incursion into territory it withdrew from six years ago. Besides the common denominator of returning Israel to places it evacuated unilaterally, both kidnappings, senior officers said, were funded and directed by Iran. The IDF says it is not working on the basis of false premises. Senior officers in the Northern Command said they knew that the military operation against Lebanon alone would not bring the kidnapped soldiers home. In 2000, when three soldiers were kidnapped, Israel paid a heavy price to get their bodies back, releasing more than 400 Palestinian prisoners. As Carl von Clausewitz, the 19th-century Prussian military theorist, said, the military's job is to create the right conditions for the political echelon, and that is what the IDF says it is doing. "A military operation will not solve the Hizbullah problem," a high-ranking source in the Northern Command said. "The international community needs to get involved and place pressure on the Lebanese government to disarm Hizbullah. That is the only way." For Israel, the attack in the North on Wednesday was an act of war that officers said would not pass without a heavy response, one that would revive Israel's military deterrence. But as the army talked tough, claiming it would hit Hizbullah and Lebanon hard, several critical questions remained unanswered regarding the attack and how prepared the IDF had been. Without a question, the attack took the IDF by surprise. OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam admitted in his briefing Wednesday evening that Military Intelligence had not know of the plans for the attack and that no warning had been issued. In contrast, a month-and-a-half ago the IDF was more than ready for a Hizbullah attack. Then, the army destroyed all of Hizbullah's outposts along the northern border and the incident ended with only minor injuries. In what turned out to be a fatal mistake, Israel allowed the terror group to return to the outposts, used to launch Wednesday's fatal attack. As The Jerusalem Post reported last week, Israel raised the alert level along the northern border in the wake of the events in Gaza. But as Adam revealed on Wednesday, the Northern Command lowered its level of alert three days ago, following an intelligence-based security assessment. In addition to what appears to have been an intelligence screwup, the IDF was once more taken surprise when it sent a tank in after the kidnapped soldiers, right into a Hizbullah trap. After entering just a few dozen meters into Lebanon, the tank drove over and triggered a huge explosive device, killing the four soldiers inside. On Monday, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland presented the findings of his investigation into the Shalit kidnapping and called the IDF setup along the evacuated Gaza territory there an "operational failure." Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz will be under pressure to order another investigation - into what went wrong on Wednesday and why the IDF has not learned the lessons of the past.