Strategic Planning / Lebanon Was Waiting

At the General Staff, senior officers are working overtime in search of a diplomatic out to the military confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.

In the upside-down world of the Israeli state, which lacks inter-organizational cooperation, the Israel Defense Forces not only retains control of the Home Front and prides itself at having a common language between those planning the fighting and defense, but also heads security arrangements.

The IDF repeatedly practiced the campaign in the North with all types of scenarios, but planning for a confrontation with Hezbollah at the Foreign Ministry was nonexistent. Who needs diplomatic planning when, without even issuing an emergency order, a certain affable lieutenant from the Texas Air National Guard in the form of George W. Bush appears for reserve duty.

After the double abduction last Wednesday, the IDF, with government authorization, proceeded to define for itself the aims of its operations in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. It would put an end to terror attacks from within Lebanon's sovereign territory, and would bolster deterrence by dealing a significant blow to Hezbollah and reasserting responsibilities for the Beirut government, as well as gain the release of the two soldiers. In Gaza, it would release Gilad Shalit, and regain its deterrence against Qassam rocket-launching militants.

But it turns out that sometimes a diplomatic move saves a military move. In Jerusalem they were still not interested in being particularly thrifty this past year. The military action is presented as being justified, one in which Israel had no choice. But two prime ministers failed in their duty, because they did have a choice and did not act to ensure that there would not be a war of no choice. They also gave up a chance to hold security-related negotiations, with diplomatic overtones.

The idea was proposed three times: twice to Ariel Sharon in 2005, and once this March to Ehud Olmert by Major General (res.) Giora Eiland. At the time, Eiland was head of the National Security Council. Both times the response was that Lebanon can wait.

In its updated version, Eiland's six points are as follows:

1. Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559 of September, 2004, calling for the disarmament of Hezbollah. Eiland said that it could be implemented in two stages: Hezbollah withdraws northward, and then is disarmed.

2. Resolving the territorial/border disputes over Shaba Farms and the village of Ghajar. Israel could present a minor concession, and Lebanon can claim a major success.

3. Deployment of the Lebanese army along the border, and setting up a mechanism for direct security coordination between Israel and Lebanon.

4. Mutual respect of sovereignty, which would include an end to Israel Air Force overflights of Lebanon.

5. Resolving water disputes.

6. Humanitarian issues: releasing IDF and Lebanese prisoners indirectly, to the custody of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora; South Lebanon Army refugees would be allowed to respectably return home.