Monday, July 31, 2006

Explosion at Israel-Syria Border 

Israel Channel 2's Roni Daniel is reporting exclusively that there was a large explosion in the Quneitra area at the border between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights. The report has two interpretations according to Daniel and Ehud Ya'ari:
1. That Hezbollah did it to entice Israel to attack Syria.
2. That with calls within Syria by religious and opposition leaders to open a front on the Golan, Syria detonated this device to show Israel that "they are around".

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Greater Syria 

With the break in major air and rocket action in the north, the conversation has shifted to Syria and Iran on the one hand and Western Europe and the US on the other. In the Hebrew Debka file, they paint a logical but alarmist picture of Iranian control over the re-supply of Hezbollah with all sorts of arms. They tell of Iranian control of the whole effort and of free use of Syrian territory.

In the Wall Street Journal there is an interview with Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt who seems worried about the pedestal that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is being put on:
"It is the Syrians, however, who feed Mr. Jumblatt's anxieties. As he surfs the Internet at night--a pastime for which he is known to depart early from dinner parties--he can read the mounting calls in the U.S. and at the U.N. to bring Syria into a deal to control Hezbollah. For the Druze leader, this has existential implications. It could mean a Lebanese homecoming for an Assad regime that wants his head. 'Syria and Iran have strengthened their cards in Lebanon today,' he insists. As for the Bush administration, its Syria policy is 'confused.'

In a WSJ editorial is subtitled "The Strange new respect for Syria's Bashar Assad".

They start off: "When Bashar Assad succeeded his father, Hafez, as president of Syria six years ago, hopes ran high that the British-trained ophthalmologist would bring a reform-minded sensibility to his repressive country. It hasn't turned out that way, yet suddenly the young dictator is being hailed as the man the U.S. must engage one-on-one to bring peace to Lebanon."

The editorial ends with this comment:
There is one diplomatic approach to Damascus that might get Mr. Assad's attention--call it the Turkish way. In the fall of 1998, the Turkish army mobilized for war with Syria. The Kurdish PKK had trained in Syria and its terrorist leader, Abdullah Ocalan, operated more or less openly in Damascus. The Turks made a simple offer: Either expel Ocalan and close the terror camps, or expect to be invaded. Within a year, Ocalan was in jail and the PKK had ceased its attacks. It was a similarly forceful message, delivered by then-U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in early 2005, that caused Syria to turn over Iraqi insurgent leader and Saddam's half-brother, Sabawi Ibrahim Hassan, to U.S. custody.

"In order to prevail against Hezbollah, Israel (with implicit U.S. backing) may have to make a similar offer that Syria can't refuse. Either Syria stops arming Hezbollah, or Israel will have to consider taking the fight to Damascus.

"No one wants to see the current conflict widen, but the worst possible outcome would be a cease-fire imposed by the world that allowed Hezbollah to survive as a potent military force. Equally bad would be a cease-fire that allows Syria to re-impose its will on Lebanon, while Hezbollah could re-arm and wait for the next time Iran or Syria needed it to create a second front against Israel--or the United States."

Syria is the key to the problem – of that everyone is agreed. But why is it that it is specifically Syria that is the problem?

It has to do with the fact that there are two countries in the Mideast with which Syria does not have diplomatic relations: Israel and Lebanon. That is because Syria has yet to recognize the fact that what they consider "Greater Syria" which includes Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and even Jordan will never exist. It is only when the Syrians are forced to admit that they have to give up on this mirage, that the violence can really end.

So why is it that everyone from the west (including the Israeli left) is so adamant on negotiating with and rehabilitating this ugly regime?

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Operation Name that Operation 

A computer program produces the names for Israeli military operations. For AI enthusiasts they ought to check out how IDF programmers gave their programs a sense of humor. After first announcing that the operation was called "Fair Wage" – our "Defense" Minister is a long-time union hack, it later changed the name to Operation Change of Direction – obviously knowing in advance that Prime Minister Olmert would change goals, tactics and pronouncements on an almost daily basis.

I went to sleep with the announcement that Israel was continuing with the battle and woke up to the message that we are stopping air attacks for 48 hours in order to conclude an investigation. Did the US stop in Iraq after they attacked that wedding by accident or in the Balkans when they bombed the Chinese Embassy?

The main question is why the change of heart in the US government? Did they all of the sudden become "cease fire at all costs" people because of pressure from Blair or the Arab governments, or did they lose faith in the ability of the Israeli government to see this through to the end and decide to cut their losses?

I just hope the IDF program doesn't change the name to Operation House of Cards.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Personal Updates 

When we re-started this blog we promised to give a bit of a personal look at the situation and I wanted to update readers.

Lt. "C", George's son who is in an elite unit of the Paratroopers was supposed to start a Company Commander course the first Sunday of the war. It was delayed and C. forced his way into an active unit and was in Lebanon until Friday. He is to get married in about 10 days and the Army let him go and prepare for his new life. What he did and where was I haven't heard yet but since he wants to borrow my van to move his stuff to his new home, I might charge him interesting information. George's other son, a supply officer for a tank battalion is still up north, but not in Lebanon, I don't think.

My own son and his friends have been unsuccessful in convincing the army to send them up north which is a good thing since those in the Central Front have been instrumental in stopping numerous terrorist attacks in the center, frustrating the Hezbollah-Hamas desire to attack the Israeli home front in the north, south and center. These troops also stopped the gang that killed Dr. Yaakobi last week.

It seems that morale is high amongst all the soldiers with the possible exception with those who have not been selected to go up north.

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Whose Munitions? 

The Israeli Air Force is claiming that its munitions did not cause the building in Kfar Kanah to fall - that it attacked around midnight and the building collapsed and exploded 5 hours later. Its hard to tell what really happened at this point but two things are worth remembering:

1. We wrote yesterday that: "In Hezbollah we have an organization that combines the 'best' of terrorism and an organized military. They have rockets and missiles instead of jets and helicopters and babies and young mothers instead of armored personnel carriers and tanks".

2. Perception is victory in a guerilla war and the perception has already been formed irregardless of the facts that may or may not be uncovered.

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Don't Increase the Tragedy 

The tragedy of Kfar Kana where the Israeli Air Force apparently bombed a building full of civilians living next to what Israel claims was a rocket launcher showering rockets down on Israel will only be increased if Israel now loses its nerve yet again in this war. The first time it lost its nerve was after last Wednesday's bloody battle at Bint Jbail where we lost 8 soldiers. We all but stopped the ground operation as the political leadership got cold feat.

The second time was last night when Condi has visited and told us that a cease fire is necessary and by the way, do you remember that we said that the status quo ante is unacceptable? Well, that still holds, but lest you thought that you be in a better condition than before Hezbollah aggression, now you must give back Shebaa Farms and agree to French troops that will protect the right of Hezbollah to rocket your northern cities when they deem it necessary.

Now, we are facing the lose of nerve a third time as Ha'aretz is sure to demand that we unilaterally stop shooting so the "world will not hate us". The Lebanese have upped the ante and we will be expected to withdraw all forces and stop shooting without having received anything in return.

For the sake of the War on Terror and for the sake of War of the North we can't let one tragedy lead to another - a victory for Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. What is it that the US and UK think will happen in Iraq and the rest of the Mideast if Israel surrenders at this point?

Yesterday, one of the questions we asked had to do with letting the terrorists on the West Bank re-group. We have been relaxing our hold there but last night we did manage in three different operations to stop five terrorists in Qalaqilya, kill a Jihadi in Shechem (Nablus) and stop another terrorist with bomb belt strapped on.

The appearance of weakness on any of the three fronts will encourage our enemies on the other ones. This is one war and it must be fought as one war. Relentlessly, forcefully and with one aim in mind – victory.

Yossi Beilin on the other hand, thinks that not only should we reward Hezbollah for their agrression, but Syria, too. He thinks that we should reward Assad, Jr. by opening negotiations with him - meaning, negotiate to return all of the Golan while we are at our weakest. I guess it makes sense - if we are to surrender, why not surrender to the daddy.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

10 Questions for a Saturday Night 

1. Did we pull out of Bint Jbail for military or political reasons?
2. If Bint Jbail was an objective military victory for Israel was it a subjective military victory for Hezbollah?
3. Is Condi's emergency visit to Israel tonight in order to impose a cease fire on Israel as the NY Times alludes or to present and not pressure Israel as Israel TV Channel 1 said tonight?
4. If a cease fire is imposed will this be considered Iran's first victory in its first mideast war?
5. Can we trust a French led military force to prevent Hezbollah from attacking Israel?
6. Can we trust a French led military force to prevent the resupply of Hezbollah from Syria?
7. Can we trust a French led military force to prevent the rebuilding of Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon?
8. Are we being aggressive enough in the West Bank to prevent Hamas and other terrorists from re-grouping?
9. Is there any pressure from any source for Amir Peretz to resign?
10. After the first few days there was talk of a national unity government. Where has that talk gone?

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Afula (and Beyond?) 

Long(er) range rockets landed in the wonderfully underrated (they have some of the best 'local' foods - such as sabich, shawarma, etc) town of Afula (town web site) today which is a Hezbollah escalation only in that the warhead in these rockets can reach 500 kgs. One has to wonder if their accuracy is better than the ones they have been firing, or if Hezbollah really cares. Would they rather hit the electric plant in Hadera or a neighborhood in Netanya?

In Hezbollah we have an organization that combines the "best" of terrorism and an organized military. They have rockets and missiles instead of jets and helicopters and babies and young mothers instead of armored personnel carriers and tanks.

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"Latet" and "the Joint" 

As another week in the war ends I would just like to point out two organizations (amongst many) that have been doing great work - and that the OOS family has been involved with: Latet (To Give), which has been working day and night preparing and organizing food packages and volunteers to go up north. If I could just point out for those in Israel, if you would like to donate foodstuffs to Latet for help up north, baby formula and instant cereals for babies up to two years old are lacking.

The second organization is the Joint (American Joint Distribution Committee) which this week, with the help of the youth of Kfar Saba (including the OOS children), packed up 5,000 boxes of materials for children to play with in the shelters. That has been a major problem for parents, as you can well imagine.

Thanks to both organizations and to those who are supporting them.

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On Loud Talk and Small Twigs 

The Israeli elite, from Chief of Staff to politicians to the "correct" opinion setters at the Ha'aretz editorial page have forgotten that victory in war, especially against a guerilla army is as much determined by perception as by the battle field results. One army's victory is not necessarily another's defeat. And sometimes victory is humiliation. Any sense of hesitation is taken as weakness and the Israeli delay in land operations since bloody Wednesday (and another Golani attack has been pushed off at least three days according to Golani troops) has been taken as a defeat in spite of the Chief of Staff's claim to have seriously weakened Hezbollah leadership and military capacity.

General Halutz, in his news conference yesterday, changed the "We will Win" boast of the Prime Minister in front of the Knesset last week to, essentially, "we will not lose". Whereas the original promise was to stop the rocket attacks on the north and to destroy the military capacity of Hezbollah, now the mission is to weaken their military capacity and to minimize rocket attacks.

The Arab world goes with winners – that has been obvious from the last 60 years. The myth of needing the Arabs to have pride of (even a pretend) victory in order for them to come to recognize Israel was burst a long time ago. When Israel was handing it to the Hezbollah, the Arab world was against them. When they saw that Israel was not in this to win – that it would not send the proper number of troops into battle and not make the economic sacrifices that a wider reserve call up would entail – the tide turned. The NY Times today headlines their main story "Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support Hezbollah".

The Times writes: "At the onset of the Lebanese crisis, Arab governments, starting with Saudi Arabia, slammed Hezbollah for recklessly provoking a war, providing what the United States and Israel took as a wink and a nod to continue the fight.
Now, with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements.
The Saudi royal family and King Abdullah II of Jordan, who were initially more worried about the rising power of Shiite Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor, are scrambling to distance themselves from Washington."

The government tried to turn its decisions on a limited reserve call up and no change in the scope of the war into a militarily tough stance. But the Israeli people and more important, the Arab people across the Mideast understand exactly what the decision means.

With apologies to Teddy Roosevelt, Olmert and Peretz seem to "talk loudly and carry a small (but noisy) twig".

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Up North, part 2 

Our second trip up north (pictures below), this time to Sefad and Hatzor Haglilit made its way up the Coastal Highway to Hadera and on through Wadi Ara and Afula until we took a pit stop at the perfectly timed Tzomet Golani. If you have stayed at Kibbutz Lavi or traveled to Tiberius from the west, you have passed through that famous Israeli crossroads.

From there one group went to Qiryat Shemona and the other (us) to Sefad through Rosh Pina. We arrived at around noon to empty streets and closed stores. I have been in Sefad in the dead of winter when there are no tourists at all, but it has never been as strange as this. Inns, hotels and restaurants were shuttered but in the distance we saw the smoke from a fire that was the result of this morning's katyusha attack. This is a mystical and artistic town, yet an artist and a mystic would have had a tough time coaxing the muse out of her shelter today.

We loaded up our cars, delivered boxes of food without being interrupted by sirens and blasts, although we did get to deliver food to a building that suffered a direct hit a few days ago.

Back to repack the cars run for cover from at least 5 katyushas whose blasts we counted and took our trip down to the mountain to that ever depressing town (in spite of the rustic name) Hatzor Haglilit. This town was not as empty as the others we had visited although ten minutes after we left another attack started – with no injuries.

I am not sure where this whole thing is going but the people up north are holding up particularly well. They seem to taking things with a bit of humor. Alluding to the fact that often the blasts come at the same time or even prior to the alarms, one person said that the alarms are not warnings but notices that you are survived this attack.

And congratulations to those who have donated the air conditioners for the shelters – they are a big help for them in this long hot summer.

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Tzomet Golani Posted by Picasa

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Smoke from a morning attack Posted by Picasa

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Taking a break and hoping for victory Posted by Picasa

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Direct hit Posted by Picasa

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All packed up Posted by Picasa

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Up North Again 

Will be going up north again tomorrow- this time to the Eastern Galilee - either Tzfat or Qiryat Shemona.

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Criticizing Whose Tactics? 

Often, criticism from the press about the tactics and methodology that the IDF is using in the current war is really a criticism of the government and its directives to the IDF. Veteran military reporters (like Roni Daniel of Channel 2, as well as many others) are either veterans of the IDF themselves or good friends with many of the senior officers, or both. The officers often use them (willingly, usually) in order to get their views on the war across to the people and hopefully (from their perspective) to change the government's directives.

Here is a summary of these types of criticisms:
1. Not enough troops have been committed to each battle.
2. Not enough individual battles in the various sectors have been started.
3. The IDF is not taking enough initiative in the land battles.
4. Not enough reserves have been called up for this battle.
5. Not enough reserves have been called up in order to be able to respond quickly enough to Syrian entrance into the war either in Lebanon or even in parts of the Golan Heights.
6. Tyre has not been attacked early enough since that is where the rockets being fired into Haifa originate.

I don't really know which of these critiques are true and which are not, but it appears that the IDF's senior officers are not fighting the war they want to fight.

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Golani Sheli 

We seem to be in the midst of a difficult few days. Today's fighting is bringing bad news from the front as the fighting of Golani soldiers in Bint Jbail – the unofficial Hezbollah capital - continues and the movement of other units toward the major port city of Tire begins.

Golani is one of the four infantry divisions (the others being the Paratroopers, Givati and Nachal) and one known for their toughness under fire. Many of the boys who serve in Golani are there by tradition – two and now three generations of men who know the song Golani Sheli (My Golani) and who fight almost as much for unit pride as for defense of their country and people.

Golani soldiers are known as much for being rebels and undisciplined soldiers as they are for their fighting ability. They have participated in some of the most difficult battles in the country's short history and would have expected nothing less than to participate in some of the toughest battles in this war, too.

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If you read the Hebrew press on the internet (reccomended if you can), take note: When it says about soldiers in a battle "yesh niftzaim" - they are only wounded. When its says "yesh nifgaim" - more than likely a soldier or soldiers were killed. The IDF does not report on deaths until the family has been notified. That is why the press does not report these things directly.

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The North 

Yesterday's trip up north (pictures below), to the coastal city of Acre (Akko) was interesting and eye opening. As we drove up the Coastal Highway from Tel-Aviv the traffic thinned with each passing mile. We exited to route 70 at the Zichron Ya'akov – Fouredis exit and headed toward Yokneam. From there to the Krayot (small towns that dot the northern approaches to Haifa) and up to Acre. After the Krayot, the roads were empty.

The turn into Acre was like driving into a ghost town. The sun was high in the sky so it was not the feel of early morning when the town is not yet awake. The stores were shuttered with only occasional passers-by, walking slowly as if enjoying themselves. We drove towards the center of town to finally see one or two small shops open with a handful of people sitting outside smoking cigarettes. No bicycles, no children playing ball.

After packing up our van with food in the main town square we were given a map and four shelters to go to. We thought this would take us just a short time, but we didn't count on being rudely interrupted by Nasrallah's katyushas. As we were searching for the first shelter on the list (Israeli road signs and directions, even the maps are often lacking in important details) we heard our first air-raid siren. Or at least the end of it.

This was our first lesson – don't drive with air conditioning on! With the air conditioner running and the radio on, you have to strain to hear the siren. We left the car in the middle of the road glanced around and finally hid under an entrance hall to a home. We waited about 5 minutes (which we later found out was about 10 minutes too little) and then started back on our way.

The first shelter was old, damp, but clean. There was only a mother and her two children there, eating lunch, as the others decided to go home to eat. She said that no one slept in that shelter as there were almost no attacks at night.

The next shelter was brand new and was organized well by the residents. A woman was making couscous for the 20-30 people there, there were one month old twins being bathed and taken care of by all the women (I am sure the mother never had so much help) and there was even a "Shelter Committee" which organized food and activities for the children. People slept in this shelter as well.

When we finished and went back to our car we sat down, put the key in the ignition and heard our next siren. We took off for the shelter and waited there about 15 minutes. Back to our car … another siren. This time, a few seconds after we entered the shelter we heard two large blasts – luckily they were at the beach on the other side of town. And before we had a chance to leave – there was a third siren – our last for the day.

After delivering food we helped in the delivery of mattresses, mostly to the poorer parts of town – where there is a mixed Jewish-Arab populace. This was a strange experience as the frustration of the situation combined with an utter distrust of everyone and everything under the best of circumstances put the four or us into the role of having to listen to yelling and screaming while deciding who would get which (limited supply) of mattresses.

And then, after 5 hours in Acre, back home.

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Empty road, traveling north on Route 4, from the Krayot to Acre. Posted by Picasa

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Taking books for the kids. Posted by Picasa

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Loading up in the Acre town square. Posted by Picasa

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Looking out from our "safe area" in our first siren. Posted by Picasa

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TV dinners in the shelter. Posted by Picasa

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Twins, one month old, "enjoying" their new life underground. Posted by Picasa

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Making couscous in a bomb shelter during a rocket attack. Posted by Picasa

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Heading up North 

The second OOS son and I will be traveling up north delivering food packages for a wonderful organization called "Latet" to those in bomb shelters.

If I had a laptop, I would blog from up there, but since I don't, you will have to wait until I return.

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Old Whine 

There are two (so far) immutable facts of Israeli political life:
1. Whatever is said on the Ha'aretz editorial page will eventually be the "accepted" opinion of the "enlightened classes" in Israel.
2. No matter their opening salvo, in the end Ha'aretz will oppose any effort of Israel to defend itself.

In their latest editorial, Israel's NY Times wannabe newspaper has become indignant with the fact that military officers are giving briefings directly to the people. They have the 'hutzpa' not to let the military correspondents filter and edit their words so that the (less enlightened) people will really understand what is going on. Worse, the people actually trust what is being told to them (maybe because they have all been in the army and can separate fact from fiction on their own) and the press will be losing their power to turn the people against this war.

Ha'aretz is consistent in one thing – not in the right of people to be heard but in the right of people they agree with to be heard. If an IDF officer is quoted as criticizing a policy they don't like and he is shut up by his political bosses, Ha'aretz cries and screams about freedom of speech. When an officer however criticizes a policy they support, well – that officer then has no right to get involved in politics.

But, like all absurdities that come from Ha'aretz, this too has an element of truth. Army briefings should be hosted by the civilian Defense Minister. The problem here is that the current Defense Minister, Amir Peretz has no clue what to say. Its not that he is not privy to what is going on (after all he had to approve everything) its that he does not understand what or why the IDF is doing what they are doing. The fact that we have the equivalent of a Teamsters boss as Minister of Defense is the fault of Ha'aretz who couldn't contain their glee at having a Peace Now original in the Kirya (our Pentagon). His professional incompetence was trumped by his apparent ideological orthodoxy. The fact that there is no direct civilian control over the IDF or over their press conferences is the fault of those who brought Peretz to his current position.

Well, you reap what you sow.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

The Pace and Scope of Operations 

We wrote earlier about the pace at which the IDF is executing its plan. From my speaking with soldiers in various units it appears that the army has adopted a character trait foreign to the Israeli personality: Patience ('savlanut'). When they look to capture a terrorist they surround the building and wait patiently until he surrenders. They enter the building only as a last resort. Usually the terrorist gives himself up or gets killed trying to escape.

With the mission of occupying, if not whole towns, then areas or neighborhoods within towns it seems that the modus operandi is similar – not that they surround a building and wait them out, but that they take there time and neutralize as many defensive barriers as is feasible before moving in. Engineering, reconnaissance and infantry units work closely together to achieve their objectives. This is a real war, not a Hollywood war and the pace must be deliberate even most of the "film" would bore your pants off.

With that said, Roni Daniel, probably the best military correspondent in Israel (he is on Channel 2) with the possible exception of the dean of military reporters, Ze'ev Schiff of Ha'aretz, has stated that he feels that since the IDF is only operating with extreme force in one region at a time that the message of overwhelming force is not getting through to Hezbollah. He feels that the IDF ought to increase the scope of operations and widen the front – and do it quickly.

The deliberateness with which the IDF is approaching this war will mean that when a place is 'clean' it is clean and it will result in fewer casualties. No one who knows much is arguing with that – the question is, should they do what they are doing on a wider scale? It could be that the general staff has been waiting for reserves to be mobilized and it could be that Chief of Staff Halutz's original plan of a war without reserves was a miscalculation.

One thing about Israeli officers of all ranks – they are always willing to change tactics midstream and the second time they usually get it right.

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Who is Your Best Girl? 

Let's say you are a nice Jewish boy and you just finished blowing up a Hezbollah rocket launcher and you have time for one phone call.

Who do you call?

Your Grandmother, Mother or Fiancee?

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Unconditional Surrender 

The main idea behind an Israeli unilateral withdrawal, whether from Lebanon, from Gaza or from parts of Judea and Samaria is to take control of our lives. The stated purpose is to decide for ourselves what is important for us from ideological, religious, moral and security perspectives and to tell the Arabs and the rest of the world that this is the way it is. The idea has a certain internal logic to it and satisfies the emotional needs of those on the left who feel a moral need to withdraw from control of Palestinian and other Arab lands and on the right from those who feel most at home when Israel decides its own fate, irrespective of the view of the Arabs.

Both views though fail to recognize that unilateralism has only been successful when preceded by overwhelming force. The unilateralism that has worked ever since modern warfare has begun is that accompanied by an "unconditional surrender" in which the war was "taken" to the defeated people. One of the main reasons for the failure of the Versailles Treaty that ended World War I was not that it was imposed upon the defeated German nation but that from the perspective of the German people, the army was forced to surrender when it had no reason to do so.

The decision by allied forces not to invade the German homeland at the end of the war and to occupy its towns and cities but to make due with a signed surrender gave the wrong message to the German people: That the army was duped by the politicians. Hitler and the Nazis used this mistake by the allies to build resentment against those forces within Germany who, they claimed, "forced" the army to unnecessarily give in - mainly the Jews and the socialists.

In World War II on the other hand the German people could see with their own eyes that their military was destroyed and humiliated and their country occupied by troops of not just one, but four foreign armies – the Russian, British, French and American. The country was divided into four zones and eventually two separate countries and the humiliation of the army was total and complete.

In Israel's wars though, starting in 1967 and up to this day we have let military victory go to waste by not demanding and receiving an unconditional surrender from our enemies. We always made do with our tactical victory and, as the famous post-Six Day War song went, had our then Chief of Staff Yitzchak Rabin, "wait for Nasser" to call and beg for peace. The call of course never came and rather than forcing the situation we waited and waited, until the next war came.

This continued in the Yom Kippur War with the decision not to destroy the Egyptian Third Army that then General Ariel Sharon's forces had surrounded and not to continue to Damascus to cause the falling of the Syrian regime. In Lebanon we let Arafat and his thugs leave Beirut with their guns so that they would not be humiliated. As the first intafada started, we were happy to make arrests and claim tactical victories and again waited for something to happen. That something was the Oslo accords which, had they been accompanied by overwhelming force in the face of the terror that accompanied it, might have brought a peaceful arrangement. But, like our other wars, we were satisfied to fight the Oslo terror wars with defensive and tactical measures designed not for victory but for time.

So too, with our current predicament in our three front war which is a direct consequence of our strategically challenged policies. In the West Bank and Gaza we are not willing to commit forces to actually win this war. We make arrests, kill terrorist leaders and generally leave the infrastructure intact. We even continue with the fiction of the army operating in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority (and let terrorist go free because of it). In Lebanon, it appears that we are using tactics to support a strategic victory by destroying the military capabilities of Hezbollah but as the press sniff out the "negotiators" it only a matter of time before the Ha'aretz editorial page takes its "rightful" place as the "consensus of the enlightened viewpoint" in the county.

When we left Gaza unilaterally without a military victory and unconditional surrender in our hands, we told the Palestinians that this is the way we want the border to look. The Palestinians reacted and said 'thank you for leaving this part of Palestine, but we want all of our land and will fight until we get it'. The attack on the IDF position at Kerem Shalom, was not a terror attack but a tactical military operation towards that strategic end. We may now be kicking up dirt and killing terrorists in Gaza but for the average Palestinian the operation and the taking of the prisoner was a humiliation for the IDF and the Jewish State. Ask any soldier and he will tell you that for the terrorist, escaping capture is itself a moral victory, even if he is caught on another day. Any further unilateral withdrawal – be it in Gaza, the West Bank or now Lebanon, without a clear and convincing military victory will be viewed in the same light.

If we want to act unilaterally then we must use a strategy of victory whose only end can be the unilateral surrender of enemy forces. This will require an iron political will of both the civilian and military leadership and a desire to see it through to the end. It will require the Labor Party to vote, for the first time in the last 20 years, against the wishes of Ha'aretz and the "international community". It will require Ehud Olmert and Kadima to force the issue with his coalition partners and be willing to dump them if necessary.

We can either continue to end our wars on the model of WWI and wait for the next war to erupt against a stronger, more viscous and more sophisticated enemy or we can fight for a complete, undeniable victory on the model of WWII and bring, if not peace, at least stability to our small but volatile region.

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Empty Suits 

There is a negative correlation between the quality of clothing worn by analysts on Israeli TV and the quality of their analysis.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

At the Right Pace? 

For those of you who read this blog I am sure that you also read the ever interesting Debka File. If you read Hebrew, check out their Hebrew site for more extensive reporting. With Debka though, you have to use the common sense test when reading their stories. Everything they write has some source, its up to the reader to give it the common sense test and to see if it is real or not.

They have one story today in the Hebrew site that makes no sense at all. It speaks of "US disappointment" with the allegedly slow pace of the Israeli military effort that has not yet managed to "destroy" Nasrallah and Hezbollah. If you look at the US effort in Iraq (and I am talking of the initial victory and not the insurgency) it does not take a military genius to realize that the US tactic of hoping over the cities to capture land and get to Baghdad, is of no use in this conflict.

Since Hezbollah use towns and villages in Lebanon as missile launch sites, weapons stores and troop barracks, Israel needs not only surround and capture each town but to go house to house. The Hezbollah have built special rooms in regular houses that are meant to be used as rocket launch pads. These must be located and destroyed, one by one.

Not only major cities like Tyre (from which most of the Haifa rockets are being launched) need to be taken and searched, but the little towns that dot the region south of the Litani River need to be taken one by one.

If there is disappointment at the pace of the Israeli military mission it is probably that it is going so well and at the pace that the IDF and the Hezbollah has determined.

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Back for Awhile 

After much consideration I have decided to re-open my blog in order to write and report about the three front war Israel is now fighting. As opposed to my previous foray into blogging, I will not write about religion per se but will try to give a perspective on the war that seems to be lacking from the blogosphere as well as the airwaves.

I live in town called Kfar Saba, about 15 miles northeast of Tel-Aviv, population around 90,000 which finds itself nestled between the wealthy Anglicized Ra'anana to the west and Qalqilya, the Palestinian town which has the dubious distinction of being the first town to elect a mayor from Hamas, to the east. Kfar Saba was a border town before 1967 and a major contributor to the Qalqilya economy from 1967 until the "first intafada" in the 1980's. We are now however counting on our proximity to that Hamas stronghold to keep Hizballah missiles out of our town, should they decide to threaten the center of the country. But one never knows. We have opened the bomb shelter in our building just in case.

Of my four children, one serves in the Israeli Army (IDF). He is in a special forces unit that specializes in anti-terror and urban warfare and is stationed in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). He, along with most of his buddies want to be sent up north, but to their dismay, will probably be kept to help defend the central front. My second son just finished high school and is about a year from his Army service. His dream at the moment is to receive a call from the Chief of Staff and be told that he was chosen to enter an accelerated, one week basic training and then be sent to the northern front. That is why we send 18 year olds to fight and don't let them make strategic decisions.

My good friend, former commenter here and fellow Anglo-Kfar Saba-ite, George, has two sons and a daughter in the Army. His two boys are officers and are up north at the moment. One is in an elite unit in the paratroopers corps and the other is the supply officer for a tank battalion. His daughter is stationed in Jerusalem.

I have a lot of complaints about the educational system here in Israel – but one thing I would like to point out. As opposed to the way the US system is going (at least according to this excellent blogger) in Israel we let boys be boys. Maybe its because we know that they have the army as an outlet when they finish high school, maybe its because we are more sexist than US society. But, we haven't (yet) criminalized boyhood out of existence or medicated our boys because they would rather get dirty than sit in a classroom. They don't go to five star hotels while on their version of spring breaks, but hitchhike their way up north, sleep under the stars, hike the most difficult trails and eat dirty, undercooked meat. They measure their pay by how many "laffas" they can buy with the money they earn and love torn tee shirts and dirty shorts.

I will try to keep these posts from getting too sentimental but pardon me here: War hits home here very quickly. We receive calls from friends concerned about our son and make calls to others. Of the 15 soldiers killed in action in Lebanon so far, one was a friend of my son (they were in medic's course together) and one was the son-in-law of a teacher in my children's elementary school. One wounded soldier prays in our synagogue.

We wrote in the past that Israel is not a toy where you can play little ideological games. The past two weeks have certainly had enough reality to convince the doubters.

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