Most Definitely a War

The military implications of this last war are tremendous, and they must not be minimized into a single military action between Israel and Hezbollah. In many senses, this was the first round of war between Israel and Iran.

In the first Lebanon war, in 1982, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon depicted the war as though it were an operation that would enter 40 kilometers of Lebanese territory to get rid of the PLO rockets, but from the outset he intended to reach Beirut. That is, an extensive war. Moreover, the Israel Defense Forces also clashed with the Syrian army in Lebanon and destroyed its ground-to-air missile system. Israel imposed a siege on Beirut and occupied part of the capital of Lebanon. Yasser Arafat and his army were expelled from that country, and the Christians who had collaborated with Israel sank. The Shi'ites, including Hezbollah, gained strength. That was ostensibly an operation, but Israel remained in Lebanon for 18 years.

In the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, the Israel Defense Forces and the defense minister's bureau believed it would be an extensive operation, but things developed otherwise. The operation developed into a war, and this was in effect determined by Hezbollah. For the first time since the War of Independence in 1948 the Arabs succeeded in striking hard at the Israeli home front. Thousands of rockets hit Israeli locales, and this cannot be called an operation.

The operation overflowed from Lebanon into Israel and became a war for which Israel was not prepared. To be precise about military definitions, this was a limited war. Nevertheless, at the strategic level it was conducted like a war and it had clear diplomatic aims. This too distinguishes it from an operation. It cannot be compared to previous operations in Lebanon like Operation Accountability in 1993 and Grapes of Wrath in 1996. The fact the IDF was not prepared for the war does not make it an operation.

In the Northern Command something extraordinary in the history of Israel's wars occurred, and it is to be hoped the Winograd Committee will investigate this. The command prepared a new operational plan called Waters of Heaven and included a large ground operation. Chief of Staff Dan Halutz did not approve the plan. The significance of this was that it was necessary to act in accordance with the previous plan, Shield of the Land. This had been planned over many months by Major Generals Benny Gantz and Eyal Ben Reuven. It determined that Israel would capture the territory up to the Litani River, with an option to go deeper to the Nabatiyeh heights. The assumption was that the actions would go on for about two months. This plan did not go into effect either.

The military implications of this last war are tremendous, and they must not be minimized into a single military action between Israel and Hezbollah. In many senses, this was the first round of war between Israel and Iran, which planned and built Hezbollah's huge rocket system, including long-range rockets. Syria also participated in the fighting, indirectly, by helping Hezbollah.

The broad military implications will no doubt be detailed in the reports the Winograd Committee publishes. The commission will broaden the view and will also examine the past, from 2000. The commission will not confine itself to an examination of the conduct of the war in the North, but will probe deeply, examine the decision-making process by the top political echelon and deal with future threat scenarios.

From the formulation of the committee's letter of appointment it can be assumed that while with respect to the political leadership it will determine "findings and conclusions," with respect to the military leadership it will "submit recommendations insofar as it sees fit." All this indicates that the Winograd Committee will not treat what happened in July 2006 as another IDF operation.

There is also an emotional aspect to the problem. Many bereaved parents whose children were killed, mostly in Lebanon and also in Israel by Katyushas fired from Lebanon, have demanded the operation be defined as a war and engraved as such on the tombstones of the fallen. Their demand is just, and their sorrow must not be increased. However, the demand of the parents who believe their disaster affords them extraordinary rights in calling for the resignation of government leaders or military commanders should not be accepted. Their opinion in this matter is equal to that of any other citizen.

Minister Without Portfolio Jacob Edery's committee on symbols and ceremonies has understood that it would be strange, even ridiculous, to call what happened in the summer by the name Operation Change in Direction. It is clear the direction has not changed, and a generation from now no one will understand what the intention of this name was. The name Defense of the North that was proposed is also nothing but a different formulation of Peace for the Galilee. The public would not have agreed to defining the events that occurred during the summer as another operation. This, as the committee has determined, is the "Second Lebanon War." And there is no certainty the Third Lebanon War will not break out in the future.