A decade later, are Hezbol­lah and Is­rael learn­ing lessons?

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - [Yossi Mekel­berg is an As­so­ciate Fel­low at the Mid­dle East and North Africa Pro­gram at the Royal In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs, Chatham House, where he is in­volved with projects and ad­vi­sory work on con­flict res­o­lu­tion, in­clud­ing Track II ne­go­ti­a­tion

LYOSSI MEKEL­BERG AST week’s 10th an­niver­sary of the 2006 out­break of war be­tween Is­rael and the Hezbol­lah was a rel­a­tively sub­dued one. Putting aside ver­bal ag­gres­sion, both sides have lit­tle in­ter­est in fac­ing each other di­rectly in the bat­tle­field. They are both fully aware that the con­se­quences might be more de­struc­tive and blood­ier than the one a decade ago, which is still as in­con­clu­sive in its out­come.

A last­ing mem­ory of the hor­ren­dous con­se­quences of the last round of hos­til­i­ties, com­bined with both sides’ new and en­hanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties and chang­ing of re­gional political cir­cum­stances, serve, for now, as de­ter­rence from a new and wide­spread mil­i­tary clash.

Most strik­ingly is the fact that the deadly vi­o­lence of June 2006 was un­planned and mis­cal­cu­lated. In re­sponse to Hezbol­lah’s killing of eight Is­raeli sol­diers and the ab­duc­tion of two oth­ers, Is­rael un­leashed not only dis­pro­por­tion­ate force on the Hezbol­lah, but also on the peo­ple and in­fra­struc­ture of Le­banon. For the Hezbol­lah it was a painful and fool­ish mis­cal­cu­la­tion that cost the lives of hun­dreds of its com­bat­ants, the destruc­tion of con­sid­er­able part of its mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties and deep­ened the rifts within the Le­banese so­ci­ety.

Yet, its abil­ity to main­tain the fir­ing rock­ets into Is­rael un­til the very end of the 34-day war, left them as a cred­i­ble force to be reck­oned with, de­spite the fact that their leader Has­san Nas­ral­lah spends most of his time in hid­ing fear­ing for his life since then. For the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment, led by Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert at the time, the rushed de­ci­sion to un­leash the might of the Is­raeli air force and later send in ground troops, proved to be one of the cat­a­lysts that brought down his gov­ern­ment and abruptly ended his pre­mier­ship.

An of­fi­cial com­mis­sion, ap­pointed to in­ves­ti­gate the Is­raeli fail­ure in achiev­ing a con­clu­sive vic­tory, wrote a scathing re­port that ac­cused the gov­ern­ment and the mil­i­tary for a de­fi­ciency of strate­gic think­ing and op­er­a­tional short­com­ings, in­clud­ing a lack of pre­pared­ness. I would has­ten to say that the com­mis­sion it­self fell into a per­cep­tual trap by ex­press­ing their sur­prise that, “A semi-mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tion of a few thou­sand men re­sisted, for a few weeks, the strong­est army in the Mid­dle East, which en­joyed full air su­pe­ri­or­ity and size and tech­nol­ogy ad­van­tages.”

If, when and how a fu­ture war with the Hezbol­lah were to take place, would also de­pend to a large ex­tent on how it feeds into the Ira­nian-Is­raeli ri­valry, es­pe­cially as Iran’s pres­ence is edg­ing closer to the Is­raeli bor­ders

Un­der­stand­ing of war­fare: A deeper his­tor­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of mod­ern war­fare, and not so mod­ern, would have driven the mes­sage home that mil­i­tary su­pe­ri­or­ity in man­power or tech­nol­ogy does not guar­an­tee ei­ther mil­i­tary vic­tory or the at­tain­ment of political ob­jec­tives. More alarm­ing in the case of Is­raeli De­fense Force (IDF), was its in­abil­ity to pro­vide an ad­e­quate re­sponse to the bar­rage of rock­ets aimed at civil­ians in the north of the coun­try and con­se­quently be­ing able to pre­vent the se­vere dis­rup­tion to daily life there.

Since 2006 Is­rael has found by and large an an­swer for rocket and mis­sile at­tacks through its new and so­phis­ti­cated air de­fense sys­tems. Nev­er­the­less, its flawed strate­gic out­look of mainly re­ly­ing on its mil­i­tary might has not changed. In three rounds of hos­til­i­ties with the Hamas in Gaza, since the end of the war in Le­banon in July 2006, a very sim­i­lar ap­proach was adopted. In both cases force was used with lit­tle or no re­gard to civil­ians’ lives.

Ad­mit­tedly, both the Hezbol­lah and Hamas were tar­get­ing civil­ians, but this surely can­not serve as an ex­cuse. A state can­not af­ford and should not im­i­tate the be­hav­ior of non-state or­ga­ni­za­tions, which are legally con­sid­ered ter­ror­ist by large parts of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Harm­ing civil­ians and in­fra­struc­ture in hope that the pop­u­la­tion will turn against th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions and blame them for the pain caused by the Is­raelis, is un­re­al­is­tic, im­moral and usu­ally achieves the ex­act op­po­site.

In­creas­ing mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties on both sides, in the decade that has elapsed since the end of the war, as­sists in main­tain­ing a high level of mu­tual de­ter­rence, in which they are con­tent with clash­ing ver­bally and ex­change threats, but care­ful to pre­vent an­other all-out con­flict. It is es­ti­mated that the Hezbol­lah pos­sess up to 100,000 rock­ets and mis­siles, how­ever, its em­broil­ment in the civil war in Syria lim­its its ca­pac­ity to pro­voke Is­rael into an­other war.

The Syria front: In Syria it­self con­fronta­tion be­tween the two is de­mar­cated with very clear bound­aries. Is­rael has re­port­edly as­sas­si­nated a num­ber of Hezbol­lah’s se­nior mil­i­tary per­son­nel and at­tacked con­voys of weapons in­tended for the or­ga­ni­za­tion in Le­banon, yet the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s re­sponse was sure to avoid es­ca­la­tion. The Shi­ite or­ga­ni­za­tion is build­ing its forces both in Le­banon and along the bor­der with Is­rael in the Golan Heights, but was hes­i­tant to at­tack Is­rael, even in cases such as the killing of Samir Kun­tar in De­cem­ber of last year. —Cour­tesy: AA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.