There is no other deterrent
The major advantage Olmert has over the generals who preceded him is his understanding that sometimes it is worth sacrificing a pawn to win the game.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's comments in interviews to the foreign press on the connection between a victory in Lebanon and the convergence plan demonstrate the existence of a rare phenomenon in our region. This is the first time in a long time that an Israeli prime minister's actions have been methodical, logical, justified and transparent. One can argue over the tactics of the current war, but the strategy is clear.
The "second Ehud" has internalized the only significant legacy of the "first Ehud," when Ehud Barak ended the occupation of Lebanon. The withdrawal from Lebanon gave Israel the international legitimacy to respond to rocket fire with a counterstrike that was unprecedented in force and hit Lebanon, its citizens and Hezbollah.
The current war sharpens the fundamental difference between Israel's activity in the territories and its conduct toward a neighboring country with which it does not have a territorial dispute. Olmert understands what has become clear to many over the last few years: that a solution in our region requires the evacuation of the territories that have been occupied since the Six-Day War and a "convergence" to the 1948 borders as the future permanent borders of Israel. When we reach that point, our situation in relation to the Palestinian state will be identical to the situation today in relation to Lebanon.
Opponents of this solution are using what is transpiring now in Lebanon as an argument against that solution. They compare the Katyusha attacks from Lebanon to the Qassam attacks from Gaza and warn us about Katyushas hitting the center of the country and Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Under the pessimistic assumption that the fundamentalist Muslim world led by Iran will continue to see the destruction of Israel as a central goal in its war for world hegemony, the concerns of the opponents seem very realistic. We are dealing with this reality today, and we will have to deal with it in the future, in one of only two methods. One is based on weapons defense systems to protect against the missile threat; the disadvantages of this method are the high cost of such systems and the possibility that many rockets will be fired simultaneously. The second method is based on deterrence. This depends on readiness to deal the enemy a particularly painful blow, and it appears to be cheaper from a financial perspective. In any case, the latter method is the only available one at the moment, and that appears to be why Israel chose it.
Iran understood that a "particularly painful" blow to Israel is the kind that strikes the civilian population. It therefore armed Hezbollah with rockets, funded its activities and bases in southern Lebanon, and activated it at a time that suited Tehran. The "particularly painful" response to the attack on the Israeli home front is a large-scope attack on Lebanon, as well as on its civilian population, for allowing a terror organization to play with its fate and for its continued support of this criminal group in combat. Olmert did well to say that he regrets, but does not apologize for, the civilian casualties in Qana. It is difficult to withstand harm to women and children, but in this case it is an inescapable necessity.
The major advantage Olmert has over the generals who preceded him is his understanding that sometimes it is worth sacrificing a pawn to win the game. The disadvantage he faces is that he is too attentive to the ideas of the army commanders, who believe that victory means conquering territory.
The response to the rocket barrage on population centers is a far harsher counterattack in the population centers where the attacker is based. Israel should have given Lebanon an ultimatum like this: "Until our abducted soldiers are returned and the rocket fire at our communities ends, we will destroy the communities of southern Lebanon via aerial bombardment, methodically going from south to north, and we will begin within 24 hours." In this way, we would not have endangered even one soldier in battle.
We could not have done what we are now doing in Lebanon had we still been stationed in the south of the country. We cannot do in Gaza or the West Bank what we are now doing in Lebanon, since, despite the disengagement, we still control Gaza and the fate of its citizens is completely in our hands. Only a complete withdrawal from the territories and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state that is neither demilitarized nor under supervision will allow us to deter the Palestinians from firing rockets on Ben-Gurion airport.
The writer is an architect.