More than two weeks passed, Israel's air strike is still engaged harshly in destroying Hezbollah's posts and headquarters, de facto Lebanon's Infrastructure. North of Israel is still facing hundred's of rockets every day. The number of missiles lunched daily didn't decrease over time; it just went further, deeper and increased its range inside the Israel's territories. (July 28, five rockets struck Afula in northern Israel which has been the farthest point Hezbollah rockets has reached since the beginning of July 2006 war). The present situation is just the same as the first day when this war started as long as we don't have a winner either by knock out or by points. Backwards, specifically 17 days ago, to the 12th of July when Hezbollah's guerillas succeeded to capture two Israeli soldiers (Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev) after a remarkable brilliant raid in a cross borders attack, which left the battleground with eight dead soldiers and another twenty-two wounded.
In a trustful and confidential appearance of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah a 46 years old, the chief of Hezbollah resistance group, on television the same night addressed the nation, the western countries, and the government of Israel with one clear message: "What we did today ... is the only feasible path to free detainees from Israeli jails.", Called the operation the "Loyal Promise" and proposed an "indirect negotiations and an exchange of prisoners" and end this crisis without confrontation. It was obvious that Hezbollah's chief predicted or at least hoped the Israelis' response will be miniature and limited to a few incursions.
On the other side of the chessboard Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accepted the challenge and was thinking of more than one move ahead in a game Israel did not choose its timing but definitely was enthusiastic and longing for sometime to play it. Sometime that goes back to May 2000 when the Israeli troops unilaterally withdrew from self-proclaimed 'security zone' in south of Lebanon, leaving behind Hezbollah as a strong and yet growing key player in the politics of Lebanon especially in its defense strategy and war declaration solely decision maker. At his press conference early that day Olmert vowed that "Israel will respond and that it will respond in an unequivocal fashion that will cause those who started this act of war to bear a very painful and far-reaching responsibility for their actions". Later answering a reporter he supplemented: "I want to make it clear: This morning's events were not a terrorist attack but the action of a sovereign state that attacked Israel for no reason and without provocation. The Lebanese government, of which Hezbollah is a member, is trying to undermine regional stability. Lebanon is responsible and Lebanon will bear the consequences of its actions."
The reply of the Lebanese government, which is the third participant in this conflict is in no doubt a "Silent Partner", didn't take much time to be revealed, Prime Minister Fouad Seniora after an emergency cabinet meeting said: "The government was not aware of and does not take responsibility for, nor endorses what happened on the international borders."
Later on Nasrallah in a taped message broadcasted 14th of July, shortly after his Beirut offices were bombed pledged an open war with Israel, "You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open war.", and vowed to strike even deeper into Israel with rockets. In another statement dated few years ago, On April 24, 2003, he cited that: "Since May 2000, the resistance has been preparing for war, because Israel wants to avenge its defeat in Lebanon".
So both disputed parties have been preparing for this since May 2000, now they are vis-à-vis, what's next? But before any attempts to predict or figure out, the initial question should be, what were the strategic objectives and aims of those preparations for both sides?
From Israel point of view, the most instantaneous goal is to stop the current rocket attacks, and to do it with the least number of casualties. In addition to some other multiple targets ranging from: "The need to put Hezbollah out of business", as Brigadier-General Ido Nehushtan told the Associated Press, to Disarming Hezbollah and implementing in a way or another the UN's 1559 act, with the help of major world key players starting with UN itself, the United States, the Arab world leaders (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan..), the European Union and the Russian federation, and teaching the Lebanese government a painful lesson never to be forgotten, and finally to creating a buffer zone in the south of Lebanon; not to forget also the return of its two captives.
As for Hezbollah, the main purpose is to resist and survive and mostly maintain the shelling routine of the missiles on the north of Israel. Also in addition of other secondary objectives, as to pull Israel into a ground confrontation and face counterinsurgency operations in which Hezbollah showed itself to be an innovative and determined ferocious enemy, Overcome in a defensive battle the performance of all Arab armies that fought against Israel and break the quote about its "Invincibility".
If there will be a cease-fire in the present conditions, Hezbollah in no doubt the winner by points, politically and military wise, In Lebanon and the outer world. Israel hasn't completed any of its tasks, it is the LOSER.
But this is not the final result; neither Israel will accept the score, nor the United States. For the first time since 1948 Israel will lose a war, not versus Arab countries united and not against "nuclear" Iran, it will lose against a "Terrorism militant group" (as the American dictionary defines it) which resides in the weakest country in the Arab world, Lebanon, the country on its borders.
Again, the question: "What’s next?" pops up again, so either the IAF (Israeli Air Force) has failed in its mission because it has been misled by the military intelligence about Hezbollah's infrastructure, or the objectives of the air-strikes are something that is not expected anymore. Israel has lost its tactical surprise when it deployed its troops on the borders. And lately most of the Israeli statements and analysis spread in the Media were convinced a mobile ground operation is just a distant option not to be chosen.
Will Israel play its last card and go for an offensive urban operation inside Lebanon, probably approaching to the Litani River? Will it be able to generate a new situation that shifts the balance of powers, thus gives it a comfortable seat on the negotiation table?
The upcoming days might be the most ruthless and brutal nightmare since the beginning of this war. The new question will be: the nightmare of which opponent?
29 July 2006