By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
The pundits tell us that neither Israel nor Hezbollah, each for reasons of its own, want to embark on a third Lebanon war. The missiles that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven – the action also took the life of a Spanish United Nations peacekeeper – were in retaliation of the attack a few days earlier – attributed to Israel – that killed Hezbollah high-ups as well as an Iranian general. Those who know how to read statements tell us that Hezbollah made it clear that this attack was in direct response to the Israeli action, not an opening salvo in a new war.
By all accounts, Hezbollah could have had its revenge without the loss of life had the soldiers patrolled the border in an armoured vehicle, which they did not. While the military in Israel have been warning the public not to come near the Lebanese border – they’ve even closed the ski slopes of Hermon for a couple of days – it doesn’t seem to have provided sufficient protection for its own.
As for the political fallout, the received wisdom is that nothing that happens in and around Israel at present is unrelated to the election campaign. How this event will be used remains to be seen. The prime minister goes out of his way to reassure us that Israel is strong and resourceful. How then will he explain the unprotected vehicle?
Part of Netanyahu’s rhetoric is to describe the Zionist Camp opposition (Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni) as weak and not up to meeting the challenges that face Israel. That’s why, no doubt, we don’t hear from them any criticism on defense matters.
A the other end of the spectrum, Foreign Minister Lieberman – whose party is doing badly in the polls because of the ever growing rumours about potentially indictable corruption in its ranks – has already come out with a call for further and strong military action by the Israel Defense Forces. He doesn’t seem to mind another war.
However, experts I’ve heard on the subject say that there won’t be another war because Hezbollah is proxy for Iran and Iran doesn’t want a war now. So how will the incident play out in relation to the ever more intense debate about Netanyahu’s planned visit in March to address both house of the US Congress about the Iranian threat?
Not only does Israel seem to take sides in the debate between Obama and Congress over sanctions against Iran, but Iran itself (via Hezbollah) seems to involve itself in the Israeli elections. Which side does it seem to support, Netanyahu or Herzog-Livni? My uninformed hunch is that Iran may want Netanyahu to stay as prime minister, because a peace deal with the Palestinians isn’t in Iran’s interest.
Of course, speculations may be futile. For none of the predictions I’ve heard or read seem to take into account unforeseen consequences. Neither side may want escalation, but does that mean that it won’t happen? What about a few mavericks on the other side (the Israeli army is disciplined) taking things into their own hands and deciding to shatter the uneasy calm that’s said to be returning to the border in the North?
For all the technology and expertise that’s available to the military and political leaders, human beings may find it difficult to do the right thing under pressure, especially at election time. I see a lot of technology around but not much human ingenuity.
As always I hope to be totally wrong and that, as they say here, hakol yhie b’seder, everything will be OK.