Rattling the Cage: When in doubt, bomb

This was the stupidest, most reckless thing Israel has done in a long time.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
When I heard the news that Hizbullah's number one terrorist had been blown up in Damascus, I thought: This wasn't Israel's doing. We've had a year-and-a-half of cease-fire with Hizbullah, nobody wants to ruin that. We still haven't gotten over the last war in Lebanon, nobody's going to risk starting another one now, not when there's been 18 months of peace and quiet on the northern border. Well, imagine my surprise. With all the gloating and back-slapping and winking going on in this country, I thought they were going to start passing out candy. "The smile that says it all," read the Yediot Aharonot headline under a picture of Olmert smiling. Barak was smiling, IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi was smiling. I don't remember seeing a photo of Mossad head Meir Dagan smiling - he always looks grim in photographs - but his grim expression said it all. If Israel didn't kill Imad Mughniyeh last week, then this country is even more blind than I thought, because we seem to be doing everything we can to wave the assassination in Hizbullah's face, to taunt them, to dare them to try to take revenge. I don't understand. Everybody knows they're going to hit back, or at least they're going to try as hard as they can, and, based on experience, they probably will succeed sooner or later. Mughniyeh was evidently very special as terrorists go, but as we've seen over and over again, no terrorist is irreplaceable. We're waiting for the other shoe to drop. And then what will Israel do? Invade Lebanon again? Yet everybody is happy and proud that, as far as anyone can tell, and according to some of those good old foreign media reports, our guys got him. Mazel tov. L'chayim. THIS WAS the stupidest, most reckless thing Israel has done in a long time - and if our guys didn't do it, they might as well have because all of Israel is acting like they did. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Syrian President Bashar Assad would have to be crazy to believe Israel didn't kill him. It's not that I'm against assassinating terrorist leaders. In principle, I'm favor of killing them - if their side and our side are in the middle of a war in which we're killing each other anyway. But even then, it's risky. In Israel's battle with Hamas terror, the assassination of the very special bombmaker Yihye "The Engineer" Ayyash brought on a string of suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. When the IDF was fighting Hizbullah in south Lebanon, the killing of Abbas Musawi led Mughniyeh to bomb the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, and allowed the more ambitious Nasrallah to take Musawi's place. The failed attempt on Khaled Mashaal's life compelled Israel to release Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin from prison, which in turn prompted any number of suicide bombings. BUT SOMETIMES, killing terrorist leaders - during wartime - pays off. The assassination of Yassin and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, didn't bring the spectacular revenge that was promised and expected, but instead caused a sharp downturn in Hamas's attacks. And the targeted assassinations of one terror commander after another in the West Bank is one of the most important reasons why the intifada effectively ended three years ago. So killing terrorist leaders is a high-stakes weapon of war - it can save you a lot of lives, or it can cost you a lot of lives. When the enemy is killing a lot of your people anyway, it may be worth the risk of assassinating someone special for the chance to bring the killing down. But when the enemy isn't killing you? Then the risk carries a relatively small upside - you get revenge, you demonstrate your prowess to the enemy, you temporarily damage his warmaking potential. Yet look at how huge the downside is - you risk ending the cease-fire and starting the war again. You immediately put your people's lives in much more danger than they were in before. Yediot's banner headline for this last rub-out read: "Mughniyeh was preparing another mass terror attack." The headline was based on Israeli speculation that Mughniyeh had been given the job of paying Israel back for its bombing in September of a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria. THAT WAS another stupid, reckless, wildly popular move by our leaders. We'd just gotten through the summer without the war with Syria that everyone was worried about, people here were starting to think the danger had passed, and boom - Israeli jets, ATFMR (According To Foreign Media Reports), bomb Syria. Even if that was a nuclear reactor in the making that they wiped out, it was a very, very long way from being a threat to Israel. "My guess is that in the worst case, North Korea gave Syria the most embryonic sort of equipment needed to manufacture nuclear weapons, which would take dozens of years of work by thousands of technicians that Syria doesn't have." That's the view of Yiftah Shapir, an expert in missile warfare at Israel's Institute for National Strategic Studies, and there are lots of other experts in the world who said basically the same thing. No matter. We have a delicate situation on the Syrian border? Again, no matter. We just had to bomb that big, suspicious-looking cube that showed up on the satellite photos. So now Syria owes us one. Who would they give the payback assignment to? Naturally, to Imad Mughniyeh. So we just had to bomb him too, and in Damascus, yet; and if we didn't do it, let's pretend we did. Now Hizbullah owes us one, and Syria owes us two. It seems that any day we're going to invade Gaza. And it's becoming harder and harder for us not to bomb Iran, what with all the stressfulness of restraint. You know what? Let's start the Third Lebanon War. Syria missed the second one, so let's see if we can bring them in with Hizbullah for the next round. It's too quiet around here. A tense quiet, as the tabloids say. The tension is eating us up. And the surest, simplest way to stop worrying about whether there's going to be a war or not is to start one.