The weekend the war got complicated

Analysis: Defense Minister Amir Peretz had hoped that Hizbullah would be broken in the space of a week.

david horovitz 224.88 (photo credit: )
david horovitz 224.88
(photo credit: )
Defense Minister Amir Peretz had hoped that Hizbullah would be broken in the space of a week. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz had hoped Hizbullah could be dramatically disabled without the extensive use of ground forces. Although the IDF insists it is still working within the framework of its original battle plans, plainly neither of those two initial aspirations has been realized. Overwhelming reliance on air power has proved incapable of shattering the Hizbullah military infrastructure, significantly reducing Hizbullah's capacity to fire rockets into northern Israel or sufficiently weakening its fighting force as to enable the speedy "clearing" of a buffer zone all the way along the northern border. Halutz, only too aware of how deeply Hizbullah has dug in across the terrain, how familiar it is with the territory and how widely it has peppered the area with immense explosive devices, has been understandably reluctant to move beyond the use of relatively small elite commando units. While overseas critics on the left, led by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have accused Israel of wreaking intolerable damage to Lebanon in the course of its anti-Hizbullah offensive, international critics on the right blame Halutz's army for not being prepared to risk the wider use of ground forces necessary to achieve decisive victory. With US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice making her leisurely way to Israel, Washington is evidently not about to close the window on further Israeli military action. Even the leaders of western Europe, publicly dismayed by the impact on Lebanon of the conflict, are not yet ready to insistently demand that Israel ceases its assault on the Hizbullah terror group before it is battered enough to be incapable of claiming victory. But they want the Israeli victory to come as quickly as possible. And, unlike Halutz, they are not losing sleep over how many Israeli combat soldiers may lose their lives in the process. If the only way to decisively prevail is to dispatch a vast ground force, then they would emphatically have Israel do so sooner rather than later. Halutz's IDF, by contrast, would rather "soften up" southern Lebanon as much as is possible from the air and via long-range artillery before exposing the troops to the dangers on the ground. But Hizbullah's all-too evident resilience these past two or three days in the Maroun al-Ras area, across the border near Moshav Avivim, clearly confirmed the limited impact of all that Israeli air power. The heavy fighting and the IDF fatalities there demonstrated precisely why Halutz is so concerned about the premature use of too many ground troops.