“Is Israel About to Attack Hizballah?” by Blanford

Here is Blanford's opinion of what the Hizbullah maneuvers are about: preparing for an Israeli incursion.

Is Israel About to Attack Hizballah?
By Nicholas Blanford/Beirut, Time mag
Sunday, Nov. 04, 2007

…. Israel has been looking to restore its threat of deterrence, which was damaged by the inconclusive results of the 2006 war. The mysterious Israeli air strike on Sept. 6th against a suspected nuclear facility in northern Syria is seen as part of a renewed assertiveness. But could Hizballah also be in the Israeli military’s sights?

Last month, this reporter sat on a panel to discuss Hizballah at a conference hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The other panelist was Major General Moshe Kaplinsky, the outgoing deputy chief of staff of the Israeli army. Before discussing Israel’s role, Kaplinsky offered up a series of recommendations that he believed would help neutralize and ultimately disarm Hizballah. They included strengthening the Lebanese army and expanding the mandate of the 13,300-strong United Nations peacekeeping force, known as UNIFIL, to areas beyond the south Lebanon border strip. UNIFIL, he said, should mount patrols in Hizballah’s new stronghold in mountains north of the Litani river, the limit of UNIFIL’s area of operations. He added that UNIFIL must deploy along the border with Syria to check the flow of weapons smuggled into Lebanon by Hizballah.

However, there is little chance of Kaplinsky’s wishes being fulfilled, analysts say. UNIFIL is under threat from groups inspired by Al-Qaeda — six members of the Spanish battalion were killed in June in a car bomb attack — and the peacekeeping force has no wish to make new enemies by deploying along the border with Syria and inside Hizballah’s military areas.

Given those realities, perhaps it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that Kaplinsky also declared that Israel should pre-emptively attack Hizballah targets in Lebanon, such as new positions and arms convoys crossing the border from Syria. “I approve pre-emptive strikes against Hizballah. We have to find the exact time. This is one of the lessons I learned from before,” he said.

Kaplinsky has many years experience fighting Israel’s enemies in Lebanon, from 1982 when the Israeli army invaded to drive out the Palestine Liberation Organization then dominating south Lebanon. In the early 1990s he commanded the elite Golani Brigade at a time when Hizballah was evolving into a formidable guerrilla-fighting force dedicated to ousting the Israeli army from its occupation zone in south Lebanon. Hizballah’s resistance campaign led to an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. Hizballah units moved in to the vacuum and five months later kidnapped three Israeli soldiers from the Shebaa Farms, an Israeli-occupied mountainside running along Lebanon’s south east border over which Lebanon claims sovereignty. Kaplinsky and other senior Israeli officers urged then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to order a swift and punishing response to deter future attacks. Barak, however, refrained from a heavy retaliation, apparently worried about being sucked back into the Lebanese quagmire just five months after leaving it.

That restraint encouraged Hizballah over the next six years to build up an impressive military infrastructure of secret bunkers and rocket firing positions in the hills and valleys of south Lebanon, which was put to good use in last year’s war.

Kaplinsky and other Israeli commanders say they cannot afford to repeat the same mistake. Although Hizballah appears to have rearmed substantially, Kaplinsky believed the organization is not yet ready for another round with Israel because of its internal political battles with the US-backed Lebanese government. That suggests Israel has a window of opportunity to attack Hizballah’s military assets at little cost.

Whether Israel launches pre-emptive raids or not, analysts agree that a second round between Israel and Hizballah is inevitable. And Kaplinsky was confident that Israel would prevail against Hizballah in that event. “I believe that the next round will take us less time, [we will] send [into Lebanon] more quickly our ground forces. We will have to take control of the area for some weeks, some months… to [disarm] Hizballah,” he said. Hardly encouraging words for the war weary residents of south Lebanon.

Comments (2)

DW said:

So, Kaplinsky, who has gone 0-for-Lebanon in his career is now ‘confident?’ That sure is comforting. Yep, all that high-tech weaponry and superior tactics will finally be enough to clean the Lebanese mud off their boots…or maybe not.

Good luck with disciplining your wayward Lebanese Love Child, habibi!

November 7th, 2007, 4:22 am


Abhinav said:

“Although Hizballah appears to have rearmed substantially, Kaplinsky believed the organization is not yet ready for another round with Israel because of its internal political battles with the US-backed Lebanese government.”

Another way of saying that would be that an Israel action against Hizbollah, and to a lesser degree Amal, would be opportune at this time BECAUSE of the political instability in Lebanon, or maybe to FOSTER further instability in Lebanon. For instance, what would an Israeli invasion do to the coalition between Hizbollah and the Maronite Christians led by Michelle Aoun?

And, by the way, the little I know about the history of the Israeli-Hizb/Amal tussle is that it ends up reinforcing Hizbollah and making it more popular at the expense of the “moderates” in the Shiite and the larger Lebanese community. And, if the Israel strikes come before the Nov. 21 presidential elections, they might well foster more support for Michelle Aoun’s presidency.

November 11th, 2007, 9:13 pm


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