Josef Olmert

Between Hizballah, the West Bank and Gaza- how to end the war

8 years passed since the end of the second Lebanon War and it is time to learn some lessons from that war, so that we may
have a realistic perspective about the current war. First, it is most significant to remember that since then, for 8 full years,
Hizballah maintained complete peace and quiet along the border. There were some incidents , but ALL of them between us and fringe Palestinian
factions still stationed in Tyre and Sidon. In fact, Hizballah made it a point to ALWAYS clarify that they were not involved.
Have the leopard change?, not really. The Sh’iite terrorists are preparing for the possibility of another war with Israel, and I ,for one, takes both
their rhetoric and preparations very seriously. They have been heavily involved in the sectarian Sushi war in Iraq and Syria[Sushi=Sunni-Sh’iite…], and
they have suffered a lot of casualties. In the process , they lost much of the support they enjoyed in Lebanon among non-Sunnis. All
these are good excuses NOT to engage in another war with Israel, but then there is another reason, something that somehow is hardly mentioned
in Israel. This is the famous statement by the ”hero” Sheikh Nasrallah right after the end of the war, that had he known its results, he would not have
triggered it in the first place. Well, since then he hardly has shown himself in public, and from the depth of his bunker in Beirut
he makes his ritual statements against Israel. He knows however what REALLY happened, and so do the Sh’iite residents of the Dahiyya in South Beirut.
The statement he made in itself was not so important, but what has followed has been very significant. 8 years of a quiet border.
And this was after a bloody war, in which we bled a lot, both the civilians and the I.D.F, and when we bleed it is always bad, very bad, like it is now when we mourn the loss of 13 Golani heroes.
Israel is always winning militarily, but almost always losing the psychological warfare, which is such an integral part of
the actual war. We cannot expect the vanquished Arabs to hail our victories. Had it happened as part of a genuine process of soul searching
in Arab societies, we would be on a road to an historic reconciliation, but there are cases in which Arabs recognize how severely they were defeated and
draw the conclusion , that a war was a mistake. But for Hizballah, it also happened with the Palestinians , but those in the West Bank after ”Defensive
Shield” operation, nearly ten years ago.
It is a stretch to define the last ten years as years of peace and quiet in the West Bank , but they definitely do not even remotely
resemble the Gaza situation.
Yet, the central fact which stands out is, that we can end a round of hostilities with a clear military victory and enjoy a reasonably long period of quiet.

And this is where we can turn to Gaza. If we had 8 years of quiet after the first Gaza war , we would feel so lucky, but we have not enjoyed them.
Maybe only 8 days of quiet… so, it is clear, that this round HAS to end differently, in a way which will put an end to the military power of Hamas.
Easier said than done, but this time there are internal, regional and international conditions which are much more favorable to the Israeli government
than before.
The operation in Gaza enjoys a near universal public support. I do not pay attention to the extreme left with their hatred , nor to the ”newspaper
for thoughtful people”, a.k.a Ha’aretz or Al-Ard in Arabic. I hear Herzog, Livni and Lapid, and even Zehava Galon, a woman I always personally
respected amid a total disagreement with her politics.I am worried by displays of hatred among some Israeli Arabs, a subject to be dealt with seaparately.
The regional setting cannot be better, and the Egyptian position is the strongest indication that there maybe a somewhat ”new” Middle East, one
in which the Palestinian problem is VERY low in the list of priorities.
There are hardly any demonstrations in Arab countries, and their attention is much more tuned towards Iraq and Syria[where today 205 were killed.
where are CNN when they are needed…?].

There are demonstrations in Europe, but European governments, Germany, France, Britain[even Russia], Canada , Australia, and importantly the US are giving Israel the green light to defeat Hamas.
It is to be hoped, that Netanyahu , whose handling of the situation until now is COMMENDABLE, will with Ya’alon on his side, do what it takes NOT
to end the war prematurely.

At this point though, I stand the chance of losing some of my readers… as I feel , that along the line of ”betahbulot ta’ase lecha milhama”-BY WAY OF DECEPTION -THOU SHALT DO WAR, we should show that the war is against Hamas, not the Palestinian people.
Is it that crazy to release NOW Fatah inmates without blood on their hands? and this is just one example.
Beyond that, it has to be clear, that there should be plans on foot for the political/diplomatic day after.
We have good case about security, exactly why we need to destroy Hamas militarily, and we are inhibited in doing that[at least until now],
but Egypt , for example, wants us and will more so want us later, to make concessions to Fath and Abbas.
Are we ready?, I doubt, but I strongly feel that it may be needed, and hopefully we will then enjoy a long enough period of quiet in the South.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina