Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Day Before the Day After

The IDF responded to the Security Council's declaration of a cease-fire by tripling its forces in Lebanon, bringing the total up to 30,000 troops. This is both a bit surprising and bad faith. Everyone expected, on the basis of precedents and military logic, some forward movement by IDF forces already in Lebanon. US Secretary of State Rice greenlighted that with her remarks to the Security Council yesterday. However, the introduction of so many new troops signals that
  • IDF will occupy as much area in southern Lebanon as it can, until the Lebanese army and expanded UNIFIL are deployed there;
  • IDF will continue to attack Hezbollah fighters and facilities anywhere in Lebanon, even after the government accepts the cease-fire.
Even if Israel, under the cease-fire, must eventually rely on the Lebanese army and UNIFIL to contain Hezbollah, it wants to make sure that there are as few as possible Hezbollah for them to contain. However, I continue to believe that the expanded operations are more a cover your ass move by the General Staff than they are a concerted step toward a strategic victory that would warrant the use of so many troops and material. The Chief of Staff, I believe, is purposefully setting up a phoney basis for telling the Israel public "I could have won, but the government stopped me."

We might therefore get an Israeli version of the confrontation between American General Douglas MacArthur and President Harry Truman over policy in the Korean War. I'll call that a mini-MacArthur moment. Tomorrow the government will accept the cease-fire, effective as of 7 AM, Monday. But the army will continue actions that violate it. The international community will holler, the government will then order the General Staff to stop. The General Staff will find some pretext to continue the advance in defiance of government orders. And then? I have asked several students of Israel government and laws whether the Prime Minister could fire the Chief of Staff. I received several different answers but no one seemed to know. The joke now going around Israel is if Prime Minister Olmert fires Chief of Staff Halutz it will have been on Halutz's orders.

Unfortunately while this farce or constitutional crisis plays out, Israelis and Lebanese will continue to kill and be killed.

One more note on tensions in Israel's government: Josh Marshall notes that Olmert clipped Foreign Minister Tsippi Livni's wings, by denying her permission to fly to New York for the Security Council meeting. Livni, a moderate and potential rival to Olmert for leadership of Kadima party, opposed escalation early in the war. We should add that Livni is the only government leaders who now enjoys high (61%) approval by the Israel public. If the Olmert government falls, she would be the most likely candidate to put together a new one. It would not be the first time a female Foreign Minister became the Prime Minister of Israel.


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