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Ira Sharkansky



Israelis back the war in 
Lebanon by 9-1 margin, July 26, 2006

By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM—Some commentators are calling this the war most widely supported in Israel since 1967. Surveys find over 90 percent of the public supporting Israel's operations. In response to the call up of reserves, some units reported more than 100 percent coming to duty. Those not called wanted to join the fight. Yossi Beilin, the leader of the left of center Meretz and co-author of the dizzy Geneva initiative (claimed to be a way of making peace with the Palestinians), is saying that the war is justified; and, indeed, it would be appropriate to attack the source of Hezbollah weaponry in Syria.
Support is not assured over the long run. Looking back to the great war of 1967, not a few Israelis came to the view that holding of the West Bank and Gaza, and the placement of Jewish settlements, were a national disaster. For the time being, however, the public is with the army and the government.
Ha'aretz is arguably the best newspaper in the country, but without a doubt the most leftist of the major papers. Yesterday its staff and especially its headline writers could not resist their inner drives. The big headline on page one was "Rice: prevent a humanitarian disaster." (Most other coverage indicated that Rice's prime concern was that Israel should continue its attacks against Hezbollah.) Other page one headlines were snappier in Hebrew than these formulations meant to convey their meaning:
  • High incidence of Israeli casualties revealed
  • Olmert is not a partner (the thrust of the article was that Syria was not a partner)
  • Limited time for the military operation until politics intervenes
  • Lebanese family injured by a missile while seeking safety
  • Rabbi says that it is forbidden for population to remain in Haifa
  • Rumors that Metulah will be evacuated (subsequently shown to be false)
Also in abundance are commentators from the ranks of retired military persons, journalists, and undistinguished others who are speaking out in criticism of one or another detail of what the military or the government has done or failed to do, or did too much of or not enough of. The Washington Post has an article focusing on the wide spread support of the operation in Israel, but also quotes a "make up artist and stylist" from Jerusalem who says that since the fighting is still going on  the Hezbollah must have a better army than Israel.
The IDF continues to destroy pieces of Lebanon. The chief of the general staff is quoted as ordering 10 structures in Beirut to be destroyed for every missile fired onto Haifa. Ground forces are moving slowly through villages in southern Lebanon. It is not cheap in terms of Israeli casualties, but the outcome is not optimistic for Hezbollah. No matter how well armed and disciplined, the 5,000-10,000 fighters cannot hold out against the tanks, artillery, air power, and many more soldiers of the IDF. Israeli willpower is important, but the signs from opinion polls and reservists answering their calls suggest that willpower is great enough.
Characteristically, international pressure has caused Israel to limit its military operations. In this case, the clear responsibility of Hezbollah for initiating the conflict and Hamas doing the same on the southern front, along with Hezbollah and Hamas aiming missiles at civilian targets provides a buffer against the concern for Lebanese civilians. Even the French foreign minister says that it will be necessary to disarm Hezbollah even while he calls Israel's response disproportionate. And the U.N. official who came to examine humanitarian issues accused Israel of violating unspecified humanitarian law, but also said that Hezbollah was responsible: both for attacking Israel and cowering with its weapons and fighters in civilian neighborhoods.
Uncle George is our biggest hero, as he is doing his best to keep the world off Israel's back. And why not? The IDF is doing his work. This has become a major front in Bush's war against international terror. Hezbollah and Hamas are in the same category as al-Qaeda. Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas Khaled Mashal are minor league versions of Osama bin Laden. Israel is doing so much for the United States that it seemed necessary for a senior IDF officer to assert that Israel was not the puppet or servant of any other country, and that it was pursuing its own national interests.

Sharkansky is an emeritus member of the political science department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem