Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I was Wrong before I might be Right

Israel's security cabinet has just approved an expansion of military operations with the aim of occupying southern Lebanon up to the Litani River and even beyond. Furthermore Peretz and Halutz were vociferous and relentless in pressing for its adoption. So I was wrong in predicting the plan would not be approved and for suggesting that Halutz and Peretz were less than fully committed to it. However, the decision added that the timing and extent of the operations would be at the discretion of Defense Minister Peretz and Prime MInister Olmert and with consideration of the diplomatic steps toward settlement of the conflict. So I still might be right to have doubted the expansion will actually happen. (I should remember that making predictions about the Middle East is a very humbling.)

The approval raises the stakes for the diplomatic moves. Israel now can accept nothing less than a ceae-fire that effectively guarantees the goal of the plan -- the suppression of Katyusha fire into northern Israel. Thus Peretz argued that only be capturing the sites from which the rockets are launched can Israel extract maximum gain from a diplomatic settlement. That means Israel and the US will resist a proposal for a cease fire that demands an Israel withdrawal from southern Lebanon before the full deployment of an international peace keep force. It might even try to raise the stakes by calling for the disarmament of Hizbullah as a pre-condition for the withdrawal.

Officers of the two mobilized reserve divisions that are designated for the expansion are reportedly critical of its plan. They fear, like Olmert himself, that it can go awry with considerable loss of soldiers. On the other hand, the announcement itself considerably stresses Hizbullah. Its planners now face the problem of whether, where and how to challenge Israeli advances, under considerable resource constraints. They have only several thousand first class fighters and dwindling armament. Their vehicular movement has been inhibited by the IAF. Of course their problem would be worse if Lebanon whose army will be mobilizing to their north and Israel to their south were on good terms.


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