vrijdag 5 september 2008

Israël en Hezbollah: Weten wanneer toe te slaan?

Ondanks VN Veiligheidsraad resolutie 1701 blijft Hezbollah - dat inmiddels is herbewapend terwijl Unifil, de VN en de Libanese regering werkeloos toekijken - een serieuze bedreiging voor Israël. De dreiging die van Hezbollah uitgaat belemmert Israël bovendien erin om op te treden tegen de echt grote bedreiging: die van een Iraans atoomwapen.
Israël is echter geen grootmacht zoals China, Rusland of de VS, en zal zich daarom waarschijnlijk geen 'pre-emptive strike' tegen Hezbollah kunnen permiteren, zoals Israel Harel vorige week bepleitte in Haaretz (zie hieronder). Het lijkt niet dat de VS haar daarvoor rugdekking zou geven zoals bij de oorlog in 2006 en zoals China en Rusland regimes als Soedan rugdekking geven.
Een volgende confrontatie met Hezbollah lijkt onvermijdelijk, maar Israël zal alleen kunnen reageren als Hezbollah een eerste zet doet.

Knowing when to strike

By Israel Harel
Last update - 13:54 28/08/2008

Ehud Olmert said during a visit last week to the Home Front Command that "the next war will also reach the cities and homes." "What we will be called on to do," he added, "is bring about a quick victory." But that decisive attack, he qualified, would only occur "if Lebanon turns into a Hezbollah state. [Then] we shall have no restrictions in this context."

In Tehran and Beirut's Dahiya neighborhood, they probably rejoiced at this commitment, and from now on will act in accordance with all it entails. To prevent a preemptive strike by Israel, which would wipe out the missiles threatening its cities, homes, and strategic facilities (Ehud Barak recently declared that Hezbollah already has some 40,000 missiles), Hezbollah (Iran will make sure of this) will not turn Lebanon officially into a Hezbollah state.

That will enable Tehran to utilize Hezbollah, while serving its purposes, to launch its missiles at Israel. And when the hands are the hands of Hezbollah (thus it was in the past and thus, to go by Olmert's statement, it will be in the future), Israel cannot respond to Tehran or Beirut.

Nasrallah, with his customary nerve, replies at once to Olmert: "The Zionists will think tens of thousands of times before attacking." And Mohammed Ra'ed, a senior Hezbollah member, confirmed publicly that the missiles were intended from the start for Iran's consumption. "The first shot at Iran from the Zionist entity," the cat came out of the bag, "will elicit a response of 11,000 missiles from Lebanon."

Israel does not have the aspirations of a superpower, nor is it fighting for the sake of economic interests. But precisely because it is fighting only for its existence, it must prove to every foe, and also friend, that when it comes to protecting the lives of its citizens, it will also resort to preemptive operations and will not take pressure and condemnation into account.

Israel is obligated to demonstrate independence even toward the United States. If Israel were to attack Hezbollah missile installations in Lebanon, presumably the U.S., and certainly the European Union countries, would condemn Israel for attacking a sovereign state. But that is the crux of the matter: Precisely because a terror organization, which bears no responsibility for the fate of Lebanon's residents, is threatening to fire missiles at the Israeli home front, it must be preempted and broken once and for all.

In contrast to the Second Lebanon War, this time Israel must present an ultimatum first: Either the missiles are destroyed, or it will attack. Israel will not permit Iran to attack Tel Aviv and Dimona from Lebanon, and will no longer refrain from repaying those who ordered the missiles launched, Tehran. Israel will also announce that it will not hold back, as it did in the last war, from responding with full force in Lebanon. This is because Hezbollah (Olmert's pronouncement foolishly grants it the promise that if it acts with restraint, Israel will not attack first) is Lebanon, and Lebanon, which capitulates to it and allows it to operate, is Hezbollah.

When the Soviet Union intended to deploy missiles in Cuba, U.S. president John F. Kennedy threatened that the U.S. would respond with all its might. The whole world panicked, and the Kremlin backed down. The Israeli ultimatum need not be aimed directly at Iran; also because it might react irrationally. Those next in line are the ones who initiated Resolution 1701 and failed to enforce its implementation: the United Nations, the U.S., the Middle East Quartet. They are the ones responsible for removing the missiles from Lebanese soil. If they feel that this time Israel means business and will launch an offensive, they are bound to find some way to deal with the missile threat.

If Israel is determined this time, actually only if it is determined, perhaps a preemptive strike will not be necessary. Barack Obama has already understood: Israel must not be made to feel, he said this week, that its back is against the wall. This applies to the danger of missiles from Lebanon as to the danger of missiles and nuclear weapons from Iran. But for others to feel pressured and go ahead and take action, Israel must project the message that if they don't hurry up, nothing will stop it from going ahead and taking action.

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