With two soldiers captured and at least a dozen killed, and rockets hitting targets across the north, the last few days have raised doubts about the Israeli military’s ability to act as a deterrent. Most Israelis do not want war, but as Hezbollah becomes more sophisticated there is a sense that action must be taken.
Analyst Ari Shavit had this explanation: “Lebanon is an Israeli trauma; most Israelis have lived through the experience of fighting a war in Lebanon. Lebanon in many ways is our Vietnam, but as Israel is being attacked, as its borders are not being respected, as its borders are not respected by Hezbollah fighters, there is no alternative to Israel but to act harshly.”
The current fighting could be seen in a wider context – one of Israel seeking to restore its military supremacy, and of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Amir Peretz seeking to prove that two civilian leaders can manage a major army operation. The nature of the enemy has evolved too. Hezbollah surprised Israel with its attack on one of its warships, and there is speculation it has even more sophisticated weapons.
“The question is whether or not Hezbollah has access to the Iranian Zelzal rocket, which could go as far as Tel Aviv,” said Francois Heisbourg from the Foundation for Strategic Research. “So in my opinion the Israelis have used the opportunity that the kidnapping unfortunately presented to settle a strategic problem.” That analysis is reflected in Israel’s demand not only for the return of the soldiers, but also for Hezbollah to be disarmed.