Round Two? [Michael Rubin]Or Honig writes in The Middle East Quarterly about Nasrallah's Deadly Miscalculation
An e-mail from a resident of Moshav Avivim in northern Israel:
It appears as though the Hezbollah is preparing for Round 2. Up our way, the entire border is now dotted with Hezbollah flags and moving figures. There is not a single Lebanese army flag in sight. In my opinion, this is NOT okay. A flag is not only a symbol that represents concepts and ideals, but also used to stake claims. Does this mean that the Hezbollah have reclaimed Southern Lebanon? While driving home form work one evening, will I encounter terrorists who have infiltrated through tunnels they have dug under the border-underneath the noses of the UN base that lies opposite my house?
For years these UN troops have been observers. They observed the way the Hezbollah prepared for the last war and armed themselves to the teeth, so why should anything be different now? And BTW, where IS the Lebanese army that was supposed to keep the border clean...? Oops, sorry. If I don't keep quiet we'll never have peace with Syria... Looks as though we can all stay tuned to the same channel and same program for a repeat broadcast of the last war, coming soon to a neighborhood near you...
...So why did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decide to cast aside a pattern of restraint and launch a disproportionate strike on Hezbollah and Lebanon? In part, Nasrallah miscalculated. Hezbollah's operation was a flagrant provocation since it took place in the western sector of the border, an area not in dispute, unlike the Shabaa Farms in the eastern sector, and since it included the shelling of Israeli civilian residences and farms. He forced Israeli policymakers to rethink their policy concepts.But whatever mistakes Nasrallah is supposed to have made, at the end of the day he did not miscalculate the World's indifference and their lack of backbone in backing up their condemnations of Hezbollah's attacks with real action.
Nasrallah underestimated the resilience of Israel's civilian leadership to fight a just war. He forced both Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to respond. As civilian leaders rather than former military heroes like Rabin, Sharon, and Barak, both were more sensitive to any insinuation of weakness. Nasrallah also misjudged the timing. As a democracy, the Israeli government must be accountable to the populace. Because fighting occurred during the summer months when children were out of school and many families on vacation, Israeli political leaders could conduct war with fewer disruptions to civilian life than in the autumn or spring.
It is possible that Nasrallah timed the operation to take advantage of developments in the Gaza Strip. He may have calculated that Israeli operations in Gaza had distracted the political leaders who would hesitate before opening a second front. Also, when Al-Jazeera and other Arab media networks are full of incitement and coverage of Israeli actions against the Palestinians, it becomes easier to justify Hezbollah's own actions.Its first kidnapping operation in 2000, similarly, came a month after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada.
Third, Nasrallah may have underestimated Israeli society. Years of terror and more than 2000 deaths from terrorist attacks since 1967 had immunized Israel to casualties. Knesset member Tsachi Hanegbi, chairman of the prestigious security and foreign affairs committee, observed that even the worst of Hezbollah's Katyusha rocket attacks had less devastating consequence than prominent Jerusalem terrorist attacks such as the bombings at Café Moment or the Sbarro pizza restaurant. Here, too, Israeli officials may have also misjudged their society by failing to understand the resolve of Israelis to absorb causalities. When the Israeli public is certain that the Jewish state is fighting for a just cause, their support resembles that of generations past.
And Israel is not alone in paying the price.