Friday, August 11, 2006

The Loss of Israeli Invincibility

Time magazine has an excellent analysis of the problem now facing Israel due to its hubris and pride in its modern technology, and in its failure to defeat 4000 guerrillas in Lebanon.

Today's 'situation' is not one that agrees with most Israelis. Promised a swift, knock-out punch against Hizballah's Islamic militiamen, Israelis are now being told that in order to neutralize Hizballah — forget about destroying them — they must brace for a bloody ground attack in Lebanon that could cost hundreds of soldiers' lives. Increasingly, Israelis are asking: how could a militia force of only 4,000 fighters withstand a prolonged beating by the mightiest army in the Middle East — and still keep pelting Israeli cities with rockets?

Once the cease-fire starts, both sides will surely claim victory. Nasrallah will declare himself a new champion of the Arab world for having survived the Israeli onslaught and terrorized 1.5 million Israelis with his blindly flung rockets. (In Palestine's West Bank, recordings of his speeches and ballads of Hizballah warriors are hot sellers.) The Israelis can argue they pushed back Hizballah from the border, killed hundreds of their fighters and replaced enemy militiamen along the border with regular Lebanese army troops and tough international forces. Israel may even be able to exchange its own Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners for two captive Israeli soldiers.( A third soldier was kidnapped by Palestinians militants Hamas, and a senior Hamas official told TIME that his release will depend on what Hizballah decides to do with its two Israeli hostages.) But many Israelis are worried that if they stop fighting now, they will have lost a weapon far more valuable than any "bunker-buster" — the Israeli army's aura of invincibility. And for that loss in this Lebanese war, more than any other casualty, Olmert and his top generals may pay dearly.

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