Israel Must Hold Off the (Inevitable) Third Lebanon War

In the last 40 years no Israeli leader got out of any war as a glorious victor.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Lebanese army soldiers watch as smoke rises from shells fired from Israel over al-Wazzani area in southern Lebanon January 28, 2015.
Lebanese army soldiers watch as smoke rises from shells fired from Israel over al-Wazzani area in southern Lebanon January 28, 2015. Credit: Reuters
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

Fact no. 1: Israel is prone to wars. This is not only because of the occupation and the settlements, but because of the conflict with the Palestinians and the head-on confrontation.

With the Arab extremism and Muslim fanaticism, a war breaks out here from time to time. That’s our fate. We can’t always blame ourselves. It isn’t always possible to direct the criticism and protest against prime ministers like Golda Meir and Menachem Begin and against defense ministers like Moshe Dayan and Ariel Sharon. The volcano on whose slopes we’ve built our national home erupts every few years, and we must know how to live with this tragedy.

Fact no. 2: Hezbollah is a strong, dangerous, aggressive fascist organization. While many Israelis may harbor understandable guilt over the national Palestinian movement, this is not the case when it comes to the sub-state Shi’ite army in Lebanon. There’s no room for comparison between our peace-seeking democracy and their terrorist totalitarianism. There’s no similarity between our desire to live in peace and their desire to enforce their religious faith by the sword. If we’re forced to go to war against Hezbollah, it will be a war of the sons of light against the sons of darkness, a free society against a fanatical order that threatens freedom.

Fact no. 3: Israel has no interest in war. The supreme Israeli interest is to preserve the quiet as much as possible and extend the time periods between the violent rounds. War is completely opposed to our basic values, disrupts our life and weakens us. The duty to preserve human life is sacred and preventing bloodshed is a supreme command. Israel also has an interest to avoid wars for strategic considerations.

The conclusion from the three facts is clear – sooner or later a third Lebanon war will break out. When it does, it will be our duty to mobilize completely and win a decisive victory. But no less important is our duty to make every effort to put off the war’s outbreak. We must not provoke, we must not act recklessly in a way that could lead to an uncontrollable deterioration. We must not take war-generating steps that could force a dangerous war on Israel.

It’s hard to understand what made the prime minister and defense minister do what was attributed to them last week. Over the years Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Ya’alon have not gone out of their way to obtain peace, but were impressive in the way they prevented war. In the summer they both displayed maturity, caution and restraint. Now, however, all of a sudden – wantonness.

Elections? If Likud leaders have any political sense in their head, they’re supposed to remember that in the last 40 years no Israeli leader got out of any war as a glorious victor. Golda, Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were politically destroyed following the violent campaign that erupted during their term.

This will also happen to a leader who finds himself in the third Lebanon war. The Israeli people will neither forgive nor forget the one who brings missiles to Ben-Gurion Airport, to the Kirya government and IDF compound, and to Tel Aviv’s skyscrapers.

Deterrence? If the heads of state had any strategic understanding, they would understand that the balance of terror between Israel and Hezbollah is a delicate one, which should not be disrupted with reckless and hasty moves. Precisely in order to keep our national security we must not embark on a military adventure. Nobody can tell what the results of such an adventure will be, but it’s clear that they won’t be good.

As these lines go to print it is still possible to stop the spin. There’s no telling what the situation will be when these lines are read. But at any point in time, Netanyahu and Ya’alon must try to put the genie back into the bottle they pulled it out of.

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