Back to the preemptive strike
Unless Israel launches pre-emptive strikes on Hezbollah in Lebanon it will never be a place which is safe for Jews to live in.
The outcome of the war in Lebanon raised existential fears, even among people with deep roots in the Israeli experience, people who have fought in our toughest wars. Many of them wonder: What happened to us? The question arises because from the military point of view, this was not a war for survival. And if this was the result of a fight against a small guerrilla organization, ask those who are concerned about the future, what will happen when we have to fight the Syrians, the Iranians, or an even broader Arab coalition?
Most of the answers so far have concerned tactical failures. This has been so ever since it became clear, during the war, that the military and political establishments had completely lost their way. These failures consisted of choosing erroneous methods of action, faulty logistics, intelligence failures and lack of talent in the senior military and political ranks. The Winograd Committee will also apparently try to provide answers in these areas.
But both the official investigators and others are totally ignoring the social and cultural misconceptions that were at the heart of the "military concept" that collapsed in Lebanon. Therefore, we must not rely on the assurances of senior military and political officials that if a war were to erupt with Syria or Iran, "everything would be different." Until people change their way of thinking, and until the leaders are replaced, what happened in Lebanon will happen again.
If the prime minister and defense minister remain in office, and if most of the General Staff and the division commanders hold onto their positions, nothing will "be different." If we do not, in the spirit of the coming High Holy Days, observe the Jewish commandment of soul-searching, Lebanon's failures are liable to return, magnified. Unless the national security concept is altered, the operational thought patterns that prevailed in the Lebanon war, albeit perhaps with tactical and organizational improvements, will continue to dictate our mode of fighting, even in a war of survival against Iran. And there is widespread agreement that such a war will take place in the not so distant future.
The second Lebanon war was a few years overdue, mainly due to a perceived lack of legitimacy, which has constrained Israel for more than three decades. We ourselves gave up the doctrine that once formed the basis of Israel's security concept, and of our lives: the right to strike preemptively.
Because political correctness has even taken over military thought, we have placed the right to execute preemptive strikes outside the bounds of legitimate discourse - and certainly of legitimate civilian discourse. This began with our failure to react in 1969, following the cease-fire in the War of Attrition, when the Egyptians moved their surface-to-air missiles closer to the Suez Canal, in violation of the signed agreement. The catastrophic repercussions of this lack of reaction were evident in 1973. It continued in the Yom Kippur War, when Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan refused to approve a preemptive aerial strike, even though it was already clear that a combined attack by Egypt and Syria was imminent.
This was also the main reason for Israel's lack of response during the last six years to Hezbollah's amassing of thousands of rockets, and to the attacks and kidnappings that took place prior to the most recent abduction. The perception of illegitimacy was one of the reasons for Israel's inaction during the last war as well, and for its inability to defeat even Hezbollah. This might also be the case if we were convinced, as we were on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, that Syria were about to attack. And it would be all the more true were we to allow Iran to attack first. Once again, the home front would pay the price, and to an extent that we have never previously encountered.
Unless we repent and mend our ways on this crucial issue - i.e. unless we return publicly, without inhibitions, to the preemptive strike doctrine - the most dangerous place for Jews to live in, and perhaps even to survive in, will be "the safe haven for Jews" - in other words, the State of Israel.