On the third anniversary of the July war, predictions of future conflict

On the occasion of the third anniversary of the July 2006 war, the Israeli English-language media displayed a characteristic symbiosis - selectively criticizing the war's failed objective and leadership, while also praising the Israeli army's improved readiness for a future war - as well as an optimistic reconsideration of the war's "long-term" successes for Israel.
Lebanon July war
At least 1,287 Lebanese, nearly all civilians, were killed in the July war. © janoubi.free.fr

BEIRUT, July 13, 2009 (MENASSAT)  — On the occasion of the third anniversary of the July 2006 war, the Israeli English-language media displayed a characteristic symbiosis - selectively criticizing the war’s failed objective and leadership, while also praising the Israeli army’s improved readiness for a future war - as well as an optimistic reconsideration of the war’s “long-term” successes for Israel.
This predictable combination was perhaps best exemplified by columnist Eitan Haber writing in Yedioth Ahronoth.

“Everyone is right in the war that followed the Second Lebanon War. Those who believe it was an untimely and unsuccessful war that led to the erosion of our deterrent power, especially vis-à-vis Hezbollah, are right. Those who argue that the war led to absolute calm in the rocket-battered north, pushed Hezbollah’s men away from the border, and prompted the deployment of an international force in south Lebanon are also right,” Haber wrote.

No lesson learned

In an article titled “1982 memo shows Israel learned little from first Lebanon War,”  Amir Oren described a set of previously unpublished memos from Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon to illustrate the repetitive cycle of blunders, diplomatic failures and military risks Israel has taken over the years, but also its sometimes tenuous relationship with the US, without seemingly learning a lesson.

“When you go into a second war, it is tempting to believe that something has been learned from the first, and you try to avoid the same mistakes. A document from 1982, of which large portions have not been published until now, confirms the suspicion that this is an illusion,” Oren wrote.

Halutz praises own efforts

Articles in Haaretz, Ynet and the Jerusalem Post covered press conferences by former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, Giora Eiland, former head of the Israeli National Security Council, and Ehud Barak, the current Israeli defense minister, as leaders (past and present) jostled to blame each other for the war’s failures, but also to reframe its success in view of the “relative quiet” on Israel’s northern border and to lavish praise on the soldiers’ performance.

Dan Halutz- perhaps positioning himself for a return to politics - aggrandized Israel’s performance in the 2006 war and claimed that he would do it all again.

"The course of action that I recommended on July 12 was well-considered, not trellised on the day of the abduction," Halutz told a conference at the Tel Aviv University's Center for Strategic Research, to mark the anniversary of the war.

“Hizbullah took a heavy blow,” Halutz claimed. “Their rocket system was destroyed and their logistical backbone uprooted. Lebanese army troops now patrol south Lebanon along with UNIFIL troops.”

Halutz also admitted that the war had not been solely in response to Hezbollah’s kidnapping of 2 Israeli soldiers, and insisted that “going crazy” was sometimes a necessary measure for those who “crave life in the mideast arena.” “Halutz added that the decision to launch the Second Lebanon War was not derived directly from the kidnapping of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser by Hezbollah.

"The idea was to push Hezbollah over the edge. Yes, we could have continued burying our heads in the sand, we could have made do with a surgical action and we could have waited longer and launched an even wider operation,” he said.

In an editorial in Haaretz, Amos Harel concluded that “the image of the war has improved somewhat, in terms of the way it was carried out and the results it had. There are those who even describe it as a major strategic victory. […]Israel did not lose the war in 2006. The results were closer to a draw, but the perception was one of failure because the expectations set by Israel were not met. […] In terms of the results, there have been a few positive developments. The border is relatively calm, deterrence (a vague concept) appears to be working for now, and the army realized the real levels of readiness of its units and has since sought to improve performance, which was proven (against a weaker foe than Hezbollah) in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.”

And while the obligatory human interest stories were dedicated to the commemorations for Israeli soldiers killed in southern Lebanon, there was no mention of the huge cost in human life and material damage on the Lebanese side. Ehud Barak praised Israeli troops.

"'Their courage made up for the mistakes of upper echelons more than once,’ he said. ‘Their bravery and determination made all the difference’.”

Future wars

Both the Israeli and Lebanese press warned of the likelihood of another war.

Haaretz cited unnamed “[d]efense establishment sources [who] warned earlier Sunday that Hezbollah has been rearming itself and strengthening its military capabilities.”

The IDF deputy Chief of Staff, Halutz second-in-command Moshe Kaplinski added “that Israel is ready if it ever has to fight with Hizbullah again. ‘If we need to go to the Third Lebanon War, the results will be different,’ he promised.”

Lebanese English-language press: blame Hezbollah

Editorials in Now Lebanon and the Daily Star, dominated by pro-March 14th columnists, used the war’s anniversary to blame Hezbollah for the destruction, and to attribute March 14th’s recent electoral success to the continuing threat Hezbollah represents to Lebanese prosperity and peace.

An article in Now Lebanon blames Hezbollah for the conflict, attributing Hezbollah’s electoral defeat to the horrors of 2006 war (“the Lebanese said no to the ‘Hezbollization’ of their country”) and cautions the reader to bear in mind the threats to Saad Hariri’s government from the forces of war.

“While many Lebanese quite understandably railed against Israel’s relentless bombardment of the South, the Bekaa, southern Beirut and other strategic locations across the country, the fact remains that it was Hezbollah’s reckless kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers – and killing eight more in the process – that was the catalyst to the horror unleashed upon an undeserving country[…] Indeed the only lesson Israel learned was that it will do the job properly next time, even it means just bombing Lebanon to smithereens from the air.

The Daily Star’s editorial staff warned against “adventurism”—an implicit jibe against Hezbollah—but also warned that Israel might try to derail Obama’s efforts in the region by attacking Lebanon.

“Too often divisions in the Israeli leadership manifest themselves outside the country – in places like Gaza and Lebanon. Indeed through Lebanon, Israel can opt to upset Washington’s new peace initiative. […]  These are perilous times; and this month of mourning and tribute should be coupled with the awareness of what may lie ahead. The dangers were made clear on Sunday with current and retired Israeli military brass using the anniversary of the July War as an opportunity to launch a barrage of admonitions and threats at Lebanon.

"The Lebanese leadership, in conjunction with Hizbullah, should be working relentlessly to prevent another conflict, garnering diplomatic support and raising international awareness. This is not a sign of weakness, but of responsibility. Let others beat their war drums, while we work to build our country.”