US to Israel: don’t fight back

News item:

“Hizbullah has three times the ability it had before the Second Lebanon War and now has 42,000 missiles in its possession, as opposed to the 14,000 it had before the war,” [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak said in a Knesset speech, warning that Hizbullah’s recent maneuvers south of the Litani River were a liability for Lebanon. “In practice, UN Resolution 1701 isn’t working, and Hizbullah’s integration within the Lebanese republic exposes Lebanon and its infrastructures to a more massive hit in the event of a future standoff.” — Jerusalem Post

It’s doubtful that the US administration will see it this way. Rather, I think that Hezbollah has achieved sufficient ‘integration’ with (read: control of) the Lebanese government and army to do whatever it wants while still maintaining its status as a non-state entity from any point of view other than Israel’s.

As a result, there’s very little chance that Israel will be given a free hand to respond to almost any provocation as it was for a few weeks in 2006.  Even if there is a massive rocket attack on civilian targets in Israel, the US is unlikely to permit a response that targets Lebanese infrastructure or causes any significant civilian casualties. And since Hezbollah has gone to some trouble to build its facilities in civilian areas, this restriction will make an effective counteroffensive even more difficult.

The propaganda debacle of 2006 in which Israel received almost all of the blame for the war — although she was attacked first and became the target of literally thousands of missiles –  has almost guaranteed that restraint will be quick and sure if another round appears to be starting.

But it gets worse:

The US has requested that Israel refrain from embarking on any large-scale operations during the last weeks of the George W. Bush administration, Time magazine reported Monday evening. The magazine quotes an unnamed Israeli source at the Defense Ministry as saying, “We have been warned off.”

IDF officials hinted in the past that a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear installations might be timed to take place before the inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama. Obama is slated to take office on January 20…

The call for restraint, according to Time, also included a request to avoid a large incursion into the Gaza Strip – an option that has again been floated recently by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in light of signs that the truce between Israel and Hamas, which has held for five months, is beginning to disintegrate. — Jerusalem Post

Israel is a tiny country and highly vulnerable. Her enemies have numerically superior armed forces and the ability to absorb many more casualties. As a result a fundamental defensive strategy has always been preemption. Even more so than in the past, the current situation — in which Hamas is developing a capability similar to that of Hezbollah, Syria has chemical-biological warheads pointed at Israel and Iran is developing nuclear weapons — does not lend itself to a ‘let them hit first’ approach.

The Obama doctrine appears to be that Israel will not be permitted to preempt. Unfortunately, he will have plenty of leverage to control Israel’s behavior and very little on Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran.

What is missing from this policy — that is, the real policy, not the campaign statements about Israel’s security being paramount — is an understanding of the moral asymmetry of the conflict: the fact that Israel struggles for her life while her enemies fight to destroy her.

But Barack Obama will not hear this from Zbig Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Robert Malley, Samantha Power, James Jones, etc.

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2 Responses to “US to Israel: don’t fight back”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is very worrisome. I am hoping that a strong Likud victory will disabuse the Americans of their chances of forcing Israel in the direction of a phony agreement with the Palestinians. I am too hoping that Obama will understand that endangering Israel will be self- defeating for America.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    I am not sure that the outcome would be better with a Likud government than with Kadima. The Likud has been characterized as ‘extremist’ so its opposition could be summarily dismissed. And Bibi Netanyahu did not resist US pressure very well when he was PM in the late ’90’s.

    On the other hand, he is a very good speaker in English and could mobilize support for Israel in the US.

    Obama’s advisors are urging him to act as soon as possible. The damage might even happen while Olmert is still PM.