Cease Fire Immediately

In this confrontation, we will not emerge clear winners. Hezbollah is about to emerge from the battle smoke with the aura of one who did not succumb to the IDF.

On the morning of 22 October, 1973, the United Nations Security Council ordered a cease-fire along the Suez Canal, effective at 18:52 PM that same evening. The shooting did not stop at the predetermined hour, and took another day and a half, during which time the Israel Defense Forces made a desperate, but failed effort, to surround and destroy the Egyptian Third Army and conquer the city of Ismailia. Even from this perspective, from the way in which the fighting came to an end, the current war in Lebanon reminds us of the Yom Kippur War.

Just like in October 1973, so it is in August 2006 that the High Command is frustrated by its inability to meet its own expectations and those of the public. During the first days of the Yom Kippur War, the home front hoped for news of the lightning strike that was supposed to smash the armies of Syria and Egypt. People waited for the moment that the secret plan (which everyone spoke of) would be put into effect, engulfing the canal in flames and trapping the Egyptian army on its eastern bank. People attributed the delay in the decisive counter-attack to tactical guile, which was meant to draw more and more of the Egyptian forces into a trap the IDF was preparing for them in Sinai. People blamed the powerlessness of the air force on temporary organizational problems. This was so until, gradually, the reality of the conditions on the battlefront struck home.

In the current war in Lebanon, the expectations are also gradually shrinking. The public really desires an unequivocal defeat of Hezbollah and offer the government and the IDF unreserved support for the way in which they are running the campaign. However, deep inside, a reversal is taking place: In this confrontation, we will not emerge clear winners. Hezbollah is about to emerge from the battle smoke with the aura of one who did not succumb to the IDF.

In view of the fact that this is the expected outcome of the battle, it is best to end it immediately. The aspiration of reaching the finishing line in this difficult campaign, through a victorious charge that will leave no doubts as to who has won is understandable, but the chances of achieving this are minimal. The experience of the past three days, in which a broader ground operation has unfolded, has also involved an increase in the number of Israeli loses - both at the front and the rear - and in the number of rockets landing inside the country.

The operational logic guiding the introduction of ground forces into this campaign is inferior when compared to the life experience and political wisdom that indicate this should stop immediately. It does not matter how you look at it: If, according to the version that is currently being disseminated by the government and the IDF, Hezbollah learned its lesson and will not dare raise its arm against Israel in the future, what is the added value of taking over a few more square kilometers of territory? If the aim is to stop the organization's ability to launch short-range rockets, that can also be achieved by a cease-fire. In any case, the situation will not be fundamentally altered: Hezbollah will be able to replenish its missile stockpile and also operate them from the depths of Lebanese territory. The chance of deterring or convincing Hezbollah to stop doing so lies in an arrangement that will follow the end of battle - not necessarily the occupation of more land in Lebanon. After all, according to the IDF's own version, Hassan Nasrallah suffered a blow to his mind-set in the first hour of the war, when a significant portion of his long-range arsenal of missiles was destroyed.

A war is brought to an end not by comparing the initial aims to the results achieved in practice, but by comparing the available options at the end of a cycle in the operation. On 24 October, 1973, the government had to decide whether it was trying to turn the wheel back to a situation that had existed along the canal three weeks earlier, or would make the most of the conditions created by the fighting. It was clear to the government that the heavy losses entailed in forcing the Egyptian army back onto the western bank, the farfetched chance that this could actually be achieved, growing diplomatic pressure, and morale at home demanded their acceptance of the Security Council decision. Ehud Olmert should reach the necessary conclusions and agree to an immediate cease-fire.