I have been asked, with reason, why it should be considered that we lost the war with Hezbollah when we gave them a solid beating. My answer, first, is that we failed to achieve our stated goals — we did not vanquish Hezbollah nor did we get our kidnapped soldiers back, and, second, that it is a matter of perceptions.
If Hezbollah — using sophisticated PR — has promoted the perception that we’ve lost, then this rebounds on us seriously within the Arab world, which will be ready to see us as vulnerable and will be more eager to rely on terrorist and guerilla techniques rather than negotiations. A sign of the perception on the Arab street is an inciteful pro-Nasrallah song that has become tremendously popular in Palestinian Authority areas: "Hey, you, hawk of Lebanon. Hey, you, Nasrallah. Your men are from Hezbollah and victory is yours with God’s help."
But it’s not just Hezbollah PR that has promoted the perception that we caved: many analysts, looking at the horrendous terms of the UN resolution that we settled for, have concluded that this represents a failure for Israel.
Much still depends on how that UN resolution is enacted. While there have been some good signs — such as more clearly defined rules of engagement for the enhanced UNIFIL forces that permit them to open fire on Hezbollah — the overall picture is not encouraging. As we’ve already seen, Hezbollah will not be disarmed and will not even be pushed back north of the Litani. And now it turns out that UNIFIL may not be deployed along the Lebanese-Syrian border to stop weapons smuggling — the Lebanese army alone may do it. UNIFIL is to join the Lebanese army to provide assistance only at Lebanon’s request, and Lebanon isn’t requesting — they’re up to it themselves, they say. Seems Assad has said foreign troops along his border would be considered a "hostile" act (which the State Department has called "preposterous"). Israel is insisting that it will maintain an air blockade until troops — including UNIFIL — are in place at the Syrian border. Israel believes that even if Hezbollah isn’t disarmed, it remains essential to prevent re-arming. The entire issue is still under discussion.
The make-up of the UNIFIL troops is in process of being defined, as well. After France said it would lead the troops but send only 400 of its own soldiers, Italy offered to step in both with leadership and troops. But France wasn’t having it. Now the French have said they will send an additional 2,500 troops and provide leadership for the mission, which Kofi Annan has agreed to. What happened here is fairly obvious: France wants to be a major player in the Middle East and was not about to relinquish a leadership role. Having France — the most anti-Israel of European nations — in that role is not good news.
The Europeans jointly will be sending close to 7,000 troops as the backbone of the force — a step in the right direction; for a while there it looked like no Europeans wanted to sign on. However, Italy’s Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema has given an interview to Time Magazine, in which he says: "Our objective is not to destroy Hezbollah, which by now is an important part of Lebanese society. We hope Hezbollah transforms into a legitimate political movement, but now if it wants to resume hostilities, it knows that it must face the international community." So there you have it — no dismantling of Hezbollah and the pipedream of it renouncing its terrorist tendencies. If D’Alema is serious about Hezbollah having to face the international community, that is a major change; but he makes it clear he’s looking to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement next and may be intent on meddling (pressuring) in ways that are not positive.
It should be noted that Kofi Annan is overriding Olmert’s objection to including forces from Muslim countries that have no diplomatic ties to Israel: Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh having volunteered. Says Annan, we don’t have so many offers to choose from that we can afford to turn anyone away.
With all this said, let me note that Hezbollah’s Sheikh Naim Kassem told Al-Nahar — a major Lebanese paper — that, "We were surprised by the size and strength of the Israeli reaction. We expected that the IDF would bomb areas close to the border for several days and only cause minimal damage…The size of the aggression was beyond our expectation."
And now that the dust is settling there are reports of Lebanese Sunni hostility to Nasrallah. The Post reports on responses from the village of Marwaheen, where several hundred fighters in civilian clothes (again, note this, please!) entered and set up rocket launchers. "Nobody wants Hezbollah here," said resident Adel Abdallah. "They don’t want to fight for Lebanon. They fight for themselves, for Iran, for Syria."
Of even greater interest is an interview the Mufti of Tyre, Sayyed ‘Ali Al-Amin, has given to Al-Nahar, translated and reported by MEMRI (http://www.memri.org/), in which he declared: "The Shi’ite community [presumed to be pro-Hezbollah] authorized no one to declare war in its name or to drag it into a war that was far from its wishes…What happened in the south does not represent the will of the Shi’ite community, and is not its responsibility, but was caused by the vacuum that the Lebanese state left for years in this region… What happened is the natural result of a state relinquishing its duty to defend a region and its citizens."
The more all of this is publicized, the less Hezbollah’s "win" seems clear.
Disturbing information: UNIFIL — the "old" UNIFIL, not what is projected to be the new, enlarged and improved version — posted on its website during the Lebanon war specific information in real time on IDF troop movement, weaponry, and materiel. This is from an ostensibly "objective" peacekeeping force. Nothing parallel was run with regard to Hezbollah, and a high ranking Israeli military official says the UN would never provide such information about any of Israel’s enemies.
This posting can be found at: https://arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2006/8/27/posted-august-27-2006.html