Justified, Essential and Timely

Some experts, both authentic and wannabees, argue that Hezbollah 'has no Israeli agenda.' Does such a claim hold water?

Buthaina Shaaban, the Syrian minister of expatriates and a close adviser to president Bashar Assad, said last week that his country would not tolerate a situation in which Damascus would be in the range of Israeli artillery. She warned that Syria would take action if the Israel Defense Forces deployed within 20 kilometers of the Syrian border.

While Damascus is not prepared to countenance the presence of another country's artillery so close to its border, even though that country poses no threat to its security, Israel is supposed to make peace with 13,000 rockets and missiles threatening half of its territory and with the fact that this threat is coming from a terrorist organization that controls Lebanon and which takes orders from no one - except the dark regime in Iran, which seeks to wipe Israel off the map. And some Israelis wanted this situation to perpetuate itself.

Why did Hezbollah invest so much time and energy in creating a network of rockets and missiles that is the densest in the world (at least in terms of weaponry per square kilometer) After all, its leaders knew that Israel would never threaten Lebanon, and would never cross the Blue Line, the international border that both Israel and the world recognizes, unless provoked by Hezbollah.

One explanation is that this network was intended to deter Israel from intervening should Iran, busy developing its nuclear capability, be threatened. Another explanation: this is the basic phase that will prepare the stage for an offensive attack on Israel, supported by Iran, that is intended to liquidate the Jewish state - what its enemies call the "Zionist entity."

Some experts, both authentic and wannabees, argue that Hezbollah "has no Israeli agenda." Does such a claim hold water? Even in the movement's early days in 1980, its leaders - such as, for example, spiritual mentor Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah - declared that the "Zionist entity" had no right to continue to exist. In an article in The New York Times this week (July 21), Ted Koppel writes about his meeting, a few weeks before the war, with Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, whom Koppel refers to as the commander of Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon: "When Sheik Qaouk talked about Israel and Hezbollah, his organization's ambitions were not framed in purely defensive terms. There is only harmony between Hezbollah's end game and the more provocative statements made over the past year by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president. Both foresee the elimination of the Jewish state."

Nonetheless, there are those who genuinely believe that the confrontation - or, at least, the present showdown - could have been prevented. How? Through appeasement. Had Israel released Lebanese prisoners - as Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah demanded - and, if that concession had not satisfied him, had Israel handed over to Lebanon the Shaba Farms area - known in Israel as Har Dov and which is formerly Syrian territory - would Hezbollah have dismantled its missile network and avoided any provocations along the Israeli border? Hezbollah would then have come up with other pretexts: for example, a demand for the return of the Shiite villages in the northern Galilee whose inhabitants fled or were banished in 1948; or, for example, the demand that Palestine must be liberated not only to fulfill the goal of a jihad(holy war), but also to provide homes for Palestinians currently living in crowded refugee camps in Lebanon who are a thorn in that country's side.

And eventually Hezbollah (installed as Lebanon's formal regime), in collaboration with Iran, would have launched a war of annihilation against Israel. Should the confrontation with Hezbollah have been delayed until Iran had already acquired nuclear weapons? If Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz went into full gear given Nasrallah's provocative action and intelligence assessments of senior IDF commanders, they did the right thing at the right time.

Contrary to what the critics are arguing, the IDF is not fighting a small guerrilla organization. It is dealing with a trained, skilled, well-organized, highly motivated infantry that is equipped with the cream of the crop of modern weaponry from the arsenals of Syria, Iran, Russia and China, and which is very familiar with the territory on which it is fighting. In such a showdown, even when you have tanks and fighter planes, the going is very slow, and, sadly, you must also pay a heavy price in terms of casualties.

One of the claims being made by critics is that Israel is serving the interests of "American imperialism," and that our children are shedding their blood in the name of those interests. Is there no limit to malicious cynicism? There is a genuine congruence of Israeli and American interests in the war against world terrorism. Without America's political, economic, military and moral support, Israel would never have been capable of waging its war of survival against the evil axis of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and in the face of an indifferent world.

Some 2,500 critics of the war demonstrated Saturday night, claiming Israel was repeating the mistake of the first Lebanon war. However, that war achieved its goal, and in an impressive manner: the Palestine Liberation Organization's removal from Lebanese soil. Deviation from, and expansion of, that goal plunged Israel into the Lebanese quagmire, where we remained for 18 years. Does anyone genuinely believe that Israel will repeat that mistake in 2006?

The more vocal critics include, on the one hand, many naive individuals who believe that a weak-kneed policy of appeasement for dealing with blood-thirsty terrorists can guarantee Israel's continued survival and, on the other hand, a not inconsiderable number of genuinely evil people who pray for Israel's liquidation, whether through its transformation into a binational state or through its annihilation. Those who find it hard to believe that such evil people exist should read between the lines of the statements made by Arab Knesset members, and should listen to the sermons of muezzins in Israeli mosques (for example, one in Shfaram last Friday, who, as quoted in Maariv on July 25, declared: "We back Nasrallah's struggle").