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Subject: 124-Assault_on_Lebanon_8_93

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Report No. 124 Israel Shahak, 15 August 1993

An analysis of the Israeli assault on Lebanon, 25-30 July 1993


Part A. Military Affairs and Strategy


First of all, the Israeli assault on Lebanon which took place

between July 25 and 30, failed to achieve its stated aim. Secondly,

this failure will probably drive the Israeli government to much worse

assaults. The failure of the assault is a view adopted by the more

sophisticated Israeli commentators who, with a few exceptions, dared

not express it openly during the assault itself, but made it

abundantly clear afterwards. The most explicit among them was Uzi

Mahanaimi, the commentator for Intelligence and Arab Affairs for the

rather hawkish "Ha'olam Ha'ze" weekly. Uzi Mahanaimi is a son of

Gideon Mahanaimi, who was the founder of the Arab Department of the

Military Intelligence of Israeli army and its commander until his

death in 1975 (in spite of a running feud with Moshe Dayan). Gideon

Mahanaimi still enjoys almost legendary fame in the Israeli

Intelligence Community; many members make pilgrimages to his grave on

the anniversary of his death. His son, who received an extensive

education in Arab studies, presumably inherited some of his father's

"connections", considering the "leaks" he is privy to and is allowed

to publish. His opinions are hawkish, yet he does not flatter the

Israeli army generals as is common among military affairs

commentators in the Hebrew press.


Under the title "Hizbolah won and not Barak [the Chief of Staff]"

("Ha'olam Ha'ze", August 4, 1993), Mahanaimi produced an analysis of

the results of the Israeli assault which deserves to be reviewed at

length. Many of his conclusions are shared, although less explicitly,

by other prestigious commentators. Mahanaimi begins by noting that

the Lebanese estimate of the number of killed in this assault, a

figure which he trusts, is much lower than the estimate given by the

Israeli army: "For the first time in the history of the wars of the

Israeli army Arabs have published a much lower estimate of their

civilian losses than that announced by the Israeli army Spokesman.

This difference is not a result of chance. The dispute which begins

with the issue of the number of civilian casualties caused by the

Israeli army, ends with the unavoidable question of who won the

combat. The Israeli army claims victory. I will show, and also prove,

that it was Hizbollah which won. It won on points. Not a

straightforward military victory, but a victory nevertheless".


In my view, the high estimates of the number of Lebanese victims

published by the Israeli army was an attempt to assure the Israeli

public that the army did indeed win a victory. Other commentators

compared this novel practice of publishing inflated estimates of

enemy losses with the American use of "body counts" in Vietnam which

served the same purpose.


Mahanaimi's proof that it was Hizbollah which won is based on

several considerations. He points to the fact (which he seems to have

obtained from official sources) that, contrary to the assertions of

the Israeli army, most of those killed by its assault in Lebanon

could not have had any possible connection with Hizbollah cadres.

Many of the casualties were very old, 80 years old or more, who were

not able to escape from their homes. The official purpose of the

Israeli assault, as stated by Rabin, Barak and lesser authorities

countless times, was to alienate the Lebanese villagers from

Hizbollah by forcing them out of their homes and razing their

villages to the ground. But Mahanaimi points out that all reliable

reports from Lebanon confirm that their sympathies, and indeed of all

Lebanese (including the Maronites) for Hizbollah have greatly



Mahanaimi informs us that on the villagers return "it was the

Hizbollah's bulldozers, not any of the Lebanese government, which

helped the villagers remove the rubble of their former homes and its

trucks delivered basic supplies of food and other forms of help.

Because of such help it is the Hizbollah flags, not Lebanese ones,

which are now hanging on the ruins". The same view is shared by Rafiq

al-Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister. Mahanaimi says that, during

the assault Al-Hariri told the Egyptian Foreign minister that he

shares the admiration of all Lebanese for the Hizbollah. This was his

response to the Egyptians who conveyed to him the Israeli message

offering to stop the bombing in return for an undertaking by the

Lebanese government to disband the Hizbollah.


According to Mahanaimi, Hizbollah knew about the Israeli assault

and even about its timing. It probably obtained this information

through its agents who have penetrated the ranks of the so-called

"South Lebanese Army" (SLA). "Hizbollah was confidently awaiting the

Israeli army and it knew exactly what the latter intends to do. From

its point of view it was luring the Israeli army into a prepared

trap. It could do this since under Ehud Barak the Israeli army has

turned into a unimaginative army which always does the expected

thing. The Israeli army, with its systematic destruction of villages,

reacted in Lebanon like a hot-blooded hooligan".


But after all, it was Rabin who, as Defense minister and Prime

Minister, approved Barak's plans. In Mahanaimi's view, echoed by

other commentators, Rabin tends to repeat the same mistake. The

assault is a repetition on a bigger scale of the expulsion of the 400

Palestinians in December 1992. In both cases the declared aim was to

improve the peace process by the use of brute force. In both cases

the peace process was actually retarded. "Those who think that after

the brutal expulsion of more than 300,000 Lebanese from their homes,

after killing tens of them, and after the intentional destruction of

so many of their homes, it would be possible to establish the mood of

`business as usual' in the next round of Washington talks are making

the mistake of their lives".


Moreover, "the order to assault the Galilee with katyushas was

issued in a villa situated in a southern part of Beirut, and not from

any South Lebanese locality. It is there that Hizbollah's high

command is located... For some reason the Israeli army did not touch

it. Hizbollah's cadres are found in villages which the Israeli army

did not reach, preferring to use its aiborne artillery [i.e. combat

helicopters] and its guns. After a week of such bombing, only some 30

Hizbollah cadres were killed, according to the best sources. Even if

the number were about 70, as the Israeli army claims, can this be

considered a victory? When Hizbollah claims that the Israeli army was

afraid to send its soldiers to fight it on the ground, we have to

admit that its claim is not unreasonable".


Mahanaimi also demolishes "Rabin and Barak's analysis of the

operation". Contrary to their statements, he flatly asserts that

"Hizbollah is not a terror organization", since it has strictly

avoided for several years any attack on civilians except in

retaliation for prior Israeli assaults on Lebanese villages. Its

operations in South Lebanon are directed against soldiers of either

the Israeli army or the "South Lebanon Army" (SLA) and its

intelligence. According to what can be understood from reports in the

Hebrew press, Hizbollah also refrains from attacks on civilians it

considers to be collaborators with Israel. Much of its success is due

to this policy which seems to have been adopted around 1984.

Mahanaimi flatly denies that Hizbollah's aim is to destroy Israel,

quoting its statement of purpose which it distributed to its cadres.

(He published that statement also before the assault in order to warn

against making it).


"`Hizbollah differentiates between the Israeli conquest of Southern

Lebanon and the existence of the State of Israel. It is true that a

Jihad, waged without any compromise or admission of defeat should be

carried out against Israel, even if such as struggle will take

hundreds of years. But this Jihad, which includes liberation of

Jerusalem and of all of Palestine and the abolition of Israel as a

state, is the responsibility of the entire Muslim nation after it is

purified [i.e. reconverted to a strict form of Islam]. In contrast to

this Jihad, the Muslims of Lebanon are responsible only for the

expulsion of Israel from the South. For this reason the Hizbollah

Center concentrates its efforts on actions only against the forces of

the Israeli army and its allies situated in the Security Zone'. Thus,

had Israel not bombed Lebanese civilians and caused Hizbollah to

retaliate by shooting katyushas on the Galilee - something Hizbollah

had avoided for a long time - the wastage of so many millions of

dollars, the killing of civilians from both sides and the destruction

of the villages could have been prevented".


Mahanaimi's analysis was supported by other commentators in the

Hebrew press, of whom I will note only three. Teddy Preuss ("Davar",

August 15) who agreed that Hizbollah won, compared the Israeli army

to Goliath and Hizbollah to David. Amir Oren ("Davar", August 13),

one of the most knowledgeable analysts of the Hebrew press, reported

that "seniors of the [Israeli] Security System who have good

knowledge of what really occurs both in Lebanon and in the

Territories, are emphasizing that the military operations of

Hizbollah are many times more efficient and sophisticated than

operations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza

[Strip]". The "seniors" noted that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are

considered to be more efficient than Fatah guerrillas [Black Hawk],

which are in their turn, more efficient than the PFLP units [Red

Eagle], an analysis I agree with. The "seniors" expressed their

apprehension of "the possibility that the Islamic organizations in

Lebanon will begin to cooperate with those in the Territories" and

will impart to them some of their military skills. The "seniors" also

condemned the December 1992 expulsions, since "to expel hundreds of

Palestinians into Hizbollah's oustretched arms can increase the

probability that more brilliant military operations in the

Territories will occur".


Oren shares Mahanaimi's view that Hizbollah is not a terror

organization and ridicules "the State Department which knows no

better than to give Hizbollah greater prestige by declaring it `the

most conspicious terror organization in the world'". He describes

"the renewed Israeli approaches to the U.S.", which apparently took

place recently, for the sake of establishing "a formal alliance

between the U.S. and Israel against their common enemy, the awakening

Islam". However, the U.S. answered, informally, that "millions of

American citizens are Muslims and their number is growing". As Oren

puts it: "the domestic concerns of the U.S., although applying mainly

to Jews, cannot now be limited only to them". It is very probable

that one of the important aims of the Israeli assault on Lebanon was

to try to persuade or compel the U.S. to form such an alliance, but

the attempt failed, at least for the time being.


Yehoshua Porat ("Ha'olam Ha'ze", August 4) condemns the assault on

Lebanon from a point of view which may be called "rationally

hawkish". He supports an Israeli assault on Hizbollah or even on

Lebanon and does not oppose a war with Syria. But he sees the form

which the July assault took as evidence of "a collapse of thought

processes, cowardice, mistaken assumptions and cry-baby attitudes"

prevalent in the Israeli government and army. The "mistaken

assumptions" refer to the declarations of Rabin and Barak that if

masses of Lebanese would be expelled from their homes then "the

expellees will then exert pressure on the Lebanese or the Syrian

government" and cause them to disband Hizbollah. Porat adds two

comments on this. "It was Saddam Hussein who used this method of

bombing a civilian population [of Israel] during the Gulf War. He may

have hoped that if he hit Israeli civilians then the Israeli

government would quickly appeal to the U.S. Administration to stop

its military actions against Iraq. But instead of doing this, the

Israeli government followed a wiser course and was rewarded by

massive U.S. military aid. The Israeli government used the same

weapons as Saddam Hussein and gave them full legitimacy. Therefore,

the next time the Israeli population is attacked the reaction of

civilized states cannot be taken for granted". Therefore, Porat

opines, even if "the greatest mistake which can be imagined" of

bombing civilians was after all adopted, Israel should never admit

that it conducts such a policy. "Had we only given as our sole reason

for bombing the villages that we only want to spare the lives of the

villagers, who may be killed during forthcoming attack on Hizbollah,

it is possible that a greater readiness to follow our wishes would

have been created in Lebanese government circles".


The "rationally hawkish" attitudes and the contradiction they

entail were even more apparent in the opinions of Amnon Abramovitz

("Maariv", August 6). Abramovitz denies that the assault on Lebanon

constituted a war crime but admits that it was an act of terror.

Omitting his legalistic arguments about the scope of war crimes, let

me concentrate on his proof that the assault was an act of terror. It

is taken from the writings of Benjamin Netanyahu, now the Likud

leader. In a preface to a book named "How the West can win" [Hebrew

version] he edited in late 1970s, Netanyahu defines terror as

"violence directed against people who have no connection with the

aims of the terrorists," claiming that "terror chooses civilians as

its target willingly and consciously", that it "threatens civilians

and makes them afraid in order to achieve a political aim" and that

"civilians are the key concept of a terrorist". Although Abramovitz

stops at this point without drawing explicit conclusions, his view is

obvious: that by Netanyahu's reasoning Rabin should be regarded as a

terrorist and the Israeli assault as an act of terror. This does not

mean, however, that Abramovitz opposes the assault on Lebanon. In

another article ("Maariv", August 9) he states that "a government

which sincerely desires peace is allowed to oppress, to bomb and to

exile people". The proof that the Rabin government "sincerely desires

peace" is that "it negotiates with the PLO". Many curious arguments

of this kind about the virtue inherent in bombing or creating

refugees by a peace-loving government were published in the Hebrew

press, and they can be assumed to have a strong effect on Zionist

"left". Thus, Meretz can be relied upon not to oppose the next act of

terror which Rabin can be presumed to commit.


But what Porat says about "the cowardice" and "cry-baby attitudes"

is more significant. He blames "the excessively careful attitude

taken by the Israeli government regarding the possible use of the

mobile ground forces [i.e., the parachooters and the elite units] of

the army... I assume it is possible to obtain information about where

Hizbollah cadres live or where its leaders are located... Direct

attacks on all such places, carried out in inconvenient ways by elite

units would have been more efficient in hitting such targets than the

great number of shells used. It is true that we do not have absolute

certainty that such actions would succeed and that there exists a

danger that our soldiers would be hit, too. But during war such

things happen. If we have no choice but to open a war against

Hizbollah, it should be clear to us that in war there can be no

absolute certainty that the desired results will be obtained and no

guarantee against incurring losses". Since Hizbollah bases are widely

spread over the area of Lebanon, it can be seen that the assault

which Porat prefers would have been much greater in scope than what

Rabin carried out.


This attitude of agreeing with assaulting Lebanon but objecting to

the manner in which it was carried out, was very common in Israel,

both among military commentators who complained that the army was not

allowed to do all what it wanted to do, and among right-wing

politicians. Some of these politicians proposed the conquest of a

part of Lebanon by ordinary ground forces for "humaitarian" reasons,

arguing that such a conquest would be more humane and more effective

than methods employed by Rabin.


Porat's view is that Rabin and Barak chose not to use "mobile

ground forces" not only because of their low level of intelligence

(on this point he may be right) but also because they were afraid of

incurring losses and the reaction of Israeli Jewish public to such

losses. The second reason is termed by Porat "cry-baby attitudes",

for which he blames the public's recent concern about deaths of

soldiers in accidents. Porat is obviously mistaken in this part of

his analysis. The Israeli Jewish public shows a much greater

tolerance for the death of soldiers in action than for their death in

accidents, regarding the latter as unnecessary. Rabin and Barak were

not afraid just of the soldiers being killed in Lebanon. They were

afraid of even a partial military failure of Israeli-initiated

military operations against Hizbollah carried out by the elite units.

This difference in Israeli attitudes can be illustrated by the

following: Let us assume a successful Israeli attack on a Hizbollah

stronghold in which, nevertheless, 10-20% of the attacking force

would be killed. The Israeli Jewish public would have hailed such an

attack as a glorious victory and the losses would have been

considered as a sad but necessary part of such victory. But let us

assume an unsuccessful Israeli attack on a Hizbollah stronghold, in

which the attackers would not be able to achieve their aim of killing

the Hizbollah cadres but still 10-20% of the Israeli force would be

killed. Let us also imagine an event which for the Israeli Jewish

public is even worse than the death of a soldier in action: his

capture by the enemy. In the last two cases there would have been a

storm of protest, caused primarily by the failure and humilation



We should also recall that each U.S. President promises Israel that

the U.S. will keep the Israeli army's "qualitative edge" over the

Arab armies. Even a partial failure of the elite units against

Hizbollah would have demonstrated to the U.S. that the "qualitative

edge" of the Israeli army is slipping and that the American

investment in Israel does not pay well enough. The obvious conclusion

would be that U.S. investments have to be spread more widely. Such a

change in the American outlook occurred after the Yom Kippur War.

Although only a partial military failure, the war's result sufficed

to persuade Kissinger that Israel can not dominate all the Arab

states easily and therefore Egypt must be appeased to some extent.


Bearing in mind the military efficiency of Hizbollah cadres, as

reported by Mahanaimi and other commentators, it was probably the

fear of even a partial failure that deterred Rabin and Barak from

deploying many elite units of the Israeli army against them. In fact,

the only way Israel can destroy Hizbollah militarily is the one

advocated by military commentators and right-wing politicians: A

conquest of a large part of Lebanon using massive ground forces of a

standard nature, such as infantry and armor. This means a repeat of

the 1982-85 war on a greater scale.


Despite the influential figures who recommend such a criminal

policy, it has in my view no reasonable chance of success, although

in the era of Bosnia it might have some slight chances of partial

success. Such a policy is less risky to Israel and to its "special

relations" with the U.S. than the risks entailed by an attack on

Hizbollah bases all over the Lebanese territory by elite units.

Therefore Rabin may yet attempt "to eradicate Hizbollah" by conquest

of Lebanon, again excusing his criminal policies by saying that they

are intended to help "the peace process". Such an attempt is quite

possible within the framework of Israeli grand strategies.

The possibility of Rabin launching a wide-ranging war can be better

understood by looking carefully into the arguments employed by

influential exponents of Israeli grand strategies who explained how

the assault on Lebanon fitted into them. The basis of these

strategies is the cooperation, tacit or explicit, with the U.S.

Although the U.S. might not agree to all Israeli proposals, such as

an alliance against "the awakening Islam", the entire Hebrew press

takes it for granted that the U.S. fully supported the assault on

Lebanon. Amnon Barzilai, the political correspondent of "Hadashot",

who enjoys good connections with Rabin's entourage, stated explicitly

(July 30) that "Rabin coordinated operation `Accountability' with the

Americans in advance", including the expulsion of the population. He

reported that unnamed "U.S. officials" (probably Christopher) told

Rabin toward the end of the assault: "O.K. We agree to your expulsion

of people. But must you expel as many as a quarter of million?"

Other commentators contrasted the full support the U.S. gives to

Rabin with what they defined as the limited support which the U.S.

gave to Begin in June 1982. Christopher has been affectionally

nicknamed "Super-Haig" or "Ultra-Haig" in the Israeli media.

Barzilai's conclusion, that "Washington is basically sympathetic to

all Israeli positions", is certain to remain a constant for a long



The best detailed exposition of the strategic context of the

assault was given by Labor MK Efraim Sneh ("Yediot Ahronot", July 30)

whose opinions deserve to be extensively quoted. Sneh is one of only

a few who enjoy Rabin's confidence and can be presumed to express his

real views. He spent a long period in the army in high

intelligence-linked posts, reaching the rank of "Coordinator of

Activities", first in Lebanon and then in the West Bank.


In his view the Hizbollah cadres "act as servants of a state

situated about 1,000 kilometers from the Israeli borders and which

never participated in a war between Israel and an Arab state. It is

Iran which controls and finances Hizbollah, furnishes it with weapons

and ammunition and which determines its political and military

targets... The Hizbollah's strategic aim, which is the Iranian wish

to conquer Lebanon, is a part of the Iranian desire to become the

dominant superpower of the Middle East... We don't need a

well-developed imagination in order to describe the consequences of

the conquest of Lebanon as a whole, and particularly of the Security

Zone, by the servants of Iranian militarism. This is why Israel has

to demonstrate, with utmost clarity and determination, what will be

the fate of any area which will accept the rule of Hizbollah. I know

that when I use the terms `utmost clarity' and `determination', I am

using nice expressions for `cruel behavior'. But we have no other

choice except to move the balance of horrors continually to the side

which favors us. We must never allow the creation of a situation in

which the Lebanese will fear Hizbollah more than they fear the

Israeli army".


Although many of the qualities which Sneh ascribes to Iran are

obviously present in Israel to an equal, or maybe even greater

extent, Sneh exposes clearly the essence of Israeli strategic aims:

Its determination to destroy Iran's power. But, since "the servants

of Iranian militarism" in Lebanon remain as active after the assault

as they were before it, and in addition are more popular than ever,

the obvious conclusion is that another Israeli assault, of a much

wider scope and greater cruelty is bound to come, and I think quite



In contrast to Iran's primary role in Israeli grand strategy, Syria

is regarded mainly as being Iran's ally. Sneh's views on what is

demanded from Syria are quite clear. "The subservience of Hizbollah

to Iran does not remove Syrian responsibility, since Syria is able to

stop completely Hizbollah activities in South Lebanon. Syria can do

this either by itself, or by using the Lebanese government and its

army. The current crisis is intended to give Syria an opportunity to

show either how close, or how shaky, its alliance with Iran really

is. Israel is not able to sign any peace treaty and surely not a

treaty in which it will make territorial sacrifices, with a state

which continues to have a strategic alliance with Iran. Only Syrian

support for a firm Lebanese action to stop Hizbollah's activities can

show that Syria is serious in its attitude to the peace process.

Syria's dalliance in carrying out this duty surely demonstrates the



Let me add here my views of the real conditions which Israel tries

to dictate to Syria. I base these views on hints or short statements

embedded in longer articles in the Hebrew press and, therefore, I

will not quote them. Needless to say, the official Israeli

conditions, such as "full peace", are merely disinformation. The four

basic Israeli demands are:


1. That Syria will not just sever all relations with Iran, but that

it will agree to be controlled by the U.S. and, therefore, indirectly

by Israel, just as Egypt is. This includes the demand that Syria will

purchase weapons only from the U.S. and its closest allies, that it

will put its army under the control of American advisers and

cooperate with the U.S. in fighting terrorism.


2. That Syria will destroy or expell every organization considered by

Israel and the U.S. as terrorist, or as "opposing the peace process",

whether located in Lebanon or in its own territory.


3. That the Syrian army be reduced in size by at least a third and

not increased without U.S. consent, that the entire area from the

Golan Heights to "the suburbs of Damascus" be demilitarized, and that

the Americans be the most important party in supervising this



4. That all Jewish settlements in the Golan Heights will remain, no

matter under which formal regime they will continue to exist. In

return, Israel offers Syria a formal recognition of its sovereignty

over the entire Golan Heights, it agrees to demilitarize most, but

not all of it, to return a small part to Syria at once, and to use

influence in Washington in Syria's favor. I have no information about

what is the real Syrian attitude to these demands.



Part B. Domestic Affairs


The Israeli assault on Lebanon must also be seen in the context of

domestic affairs. The Rabin government is constantly losing in

popularity and credibility, partly because of the corruption and

other scandals in which it is involved and partly because the public

tends less and less to believe the excuse which Rabin (and his

flatterers) offers for each atrocity, scandal and failure: that for

the sake of "the peace process" which only Rabin is able to carry to

a successful conclusion, everything is permissible.


Since it became obvious to the public lately that "the process" has

not led even to an interim arrangement, the government felt the

urgent need for a tangible success in order to enhance its prestige.

During the assault itself this aim was, indeed, achieved among the

general public with the help of a well-organized propaganda campaign

in which the generals and military corrspondents played a major part.

But the better informed commentators were not fooled by the

government's boasts of success and public enthusiasm cooled soon

after the assault ended.


The boastful manner in which the Israeli generals, particularly the

Chief of Staff, regularly spoke on TV during the assault was

compared, even during the assault, to the boastings of American

generals after the Gulf War. Let me quote in this context Yoel

Markus, the most influential Israeli political commentator

("Haaretz", July 27). "On the evening of July 25 [the first day of

assault], the Chief of Staff, the Commander of Military Intelligence

and the Commander of Airforce boastfully enumerated the achievements

of the operation as if it were already over and could be summarized,

in a curious press-conference conducted `in Schwartzkopf's style' and

timed for prime-time TV and Radio. During the press-conference, a

video was shown, exactly as Schwartzkopf had done, with photos of the

targets before and after the completely accurate hits. At the same

time the pilots who participated in the assaults were interviewed.

One of them, with a supersonic helmet on his head and enormous sun

glasses hiding his face, was boasting about his successes,

accomplished against a state which has neither an Airforce nor any

anti-aircraft defenses.


"But, we may assume that while all this was being staged, somewhere

in the hills of Lebanon a man wearing a galabiya led a donkey or was

driving a rusty car on which a katyusha was mounted. While the

generals celebrated he unloaded his burden and shot that lethal

Katyusha on Kiryat Shemona in the midst of their victorious press

conference! It is true that in the video shown by Budinger [the

Commander of Airforce] we didn't see him, but we saw in another, live

TV broadcast, the destruction which was caused. Thus, I can only hope

that the Chief of Staff knows what he says when he promised us that

`finally we will be victorious in this confrontation'".


The opinions of Nahum Barnea, political correspondent for "Yediot

Ahronot" (July 30) also deserve to be quoted extensively. According

to Barnea "more high officers were mobilized for the purpose of

lobbying for the war than for the actual fighting. Had I not heard

the generals of 1982 so logically explaining why we have to conquer

Beirut and rule Lebanon, since we have no other choice, I would find

it easier to accept now the rhetoric of the current high officers...

The parents of this assault, Rabin and Barak, also live in the shadow

of the `Peace for Galilee War'. They learned from the opposition to

that war that the Israeli public measures a military success

according to one principle: the number of Israeli soldiers who are

hit. Therefore Rabin and Barak are ready to fire thousands of shells,

bombs and missiles, to expel half million of human beings from their

homes, in order that no Israeli infantry soldier will have to move on

the ground and be in danger...


During the Gulf War we had a right-wing government headed by

Shamir. It was under pressure, but after careful consideration, at

the end it refrained from action. It is easy to assume what would

have happened had a Labor government ruled, which would have been so

much more susceptible to pressures. Rabin would had acted. Likud

would have supported him of course, and would have demanded that the

action he takes be even greater. The Israeli army generals would have

said, as they are saying now, that we have no other choice".


Hanna Kim ("Hadashot", July 27) informs us that "those who were

present at the Knesset Committee for Foreign and Defense Affairs last

week [before the assault] felt that the Chief of Staff was pressing

the politicians to start a big military operation. Those who read on

the subsequent four days what the military correspondents published

after they got the right briefings, understood that `It is only a

question of time. Let us press the politicians a little more and we

will be inside Lebanon'. Ehud Barak, then Deputy Chief of Staff, used

to speak during the Gulf War about the tickling in his fingers. But

Shamir tied the hands of the generals and decided to show restraint

during the missile attacks". Kim also points out that "those who

helped keep up army pressures' were retired generals who became

politicians. The most important were MK Efraim Sneh, Housing minister

Benjamin Ben Eliezer and Deputy Defense minister Motta Gur".

It was probably due to the relative unpopularity of the assault,

polls notwithstanding, (which as Kim says needed such pressure by the

generals for its inception) that the composition of the Israeli army

forces involved in the present assault differed from those which

invaded Lebanon in 1982. In 1982 a high proportion of the invading

forces were composed of reserves. In 1993 the forces were composed of

professionals and young draftees. Both of these groups are more

chauvinistic than the average. Both can be easily influenced by the

military correspondents, who surpassed, both before and during this

assault, all previous records of virulence and callousness

established in the former wars. Let me quote briefly from a few of



The prize for crassness and inhumanity must be awarded to Alex

Fishman, the military correspondent for "Hadashot". On July 29 he

boasted of the great achievement of the Israeli Airforce. "The

attempt of the Lebanese government to canalize [this was the term he

employed] the refugees to camps in the southern part of the Bak'a or

in Tyre and Sa'ida was answered by Israeli fire, intended to

encourage those who dared be slow in reaching [places] nearer

Beirut". In other words, the Israeli Airforce and artillery bombarded

convoys of refugees who failed to escape in the only direction

"permitted" them by Rabin and Barak! On July 27 Fishman termed the

bombing "a dialogue Israel conducts with the Lebanese government",

protesting that "its volume is ridiculously small". On July 28 "The

Israeli army decided to dirty its hands a little", and the "fruits

were seen in the greatly enlarged caravans of refugees", but "the

Israeli army wasted an entire day when it bombed [Lebanon]



Yossi Werter ("Hadashot", July 30), quotes an Israeli army officer

who, while briefing foreign correspondents, "explained" to them that

"what they are calling in their reports `the refugee problem' is not

really a refugee problem. The inhabitants of Southern Lebanon can be

divided into three parts. The first part are the rich who always have

a summer house near Beirut and are now enjoying their vacation there.

The second part are the middle class, who have calmly put their

belonging on their car and go to live for a while with relatives, but

not too far away, leaving somebody to geard their house. The third

part are the very poor, who are not leaving, but remain in their

personal shelters in the villages. He explained that what really

makes the inhabitants of South Lebanon move north during the current

hot days of the summer is an Oriental version of the famous French

summer vacationing". Werter does not criticize this lie. Instead he

merely attributes it to the Israeli officers being tired.


Danny Sadeh ("Yediot Ahronot", July 28) quotes a Colonel A. who

reports that "every village gets its daily ration of shells". He was

visiting an artillery unit which "distributes the rations". The

soldiers of the unit told him: "`How lucky we are that we were

transferred here from the Territories. Here we see violence... As

time passes we see that there is nothing terrible in this affair. We

become more professional and improve our shelling abilities'. From

the beginning of the operation the soldiers have become daily more

and more enthusiastic. Yoav Prim and Shay Rothstein, both aged 20,

were transferred to Lebanon straight from patrolling Ramallah. They

explain: `In Ramallah we were bored. It is good that we are here.

Here there is a lot of violence and we see immediate results when our

hits are accurate. It is nice to see accurate hits. It makes us find

the work rewarding, since accuracy depends on our personal



Motti Bassuk, political corrrespondent for "Davar", reported (July

30) that the Chief of Staff, speaking in a government meeting, coolly

defined the aims of the assault as follows: "Our aim is that the

Lebanese will feel worse every 12 hours, and they will know that when

the next 12 hours passes they will feel yet worse". His definition of

aims was "criticized by some ministers" whom Bassuk does not name,

whereupon "Barak said that he was misunderstood, since he did not

mean Lebanese public but only the Lebanese establishment". At this

point Shimon Peres proposed that "Israel should begin a development

drive in Galilee in order to prove that Israel is emerging much

stronger from every struggle that it is forced to undertake". It is

unknown whether his proposal was accepted.


On Levi, the military correspondent of "Davar", reported (July 27)

on his visit to the pilots who bombed Lebanon. He asked them whether

they were "concerned about the slight possibility that they may have

hit civilians and whether they think about who may be in the house or

near it when they shoot a missile on it?" They all answered that

"their targets are being chosen by the command in the rear in whose

judgement they have absolute trust". Then some added personal

excuses. Captain P., a single reservist among the professionals, said

that they "don't want to know whether they killed civilians or not".

Lieutenant I., a kibbutz member, claimed that the missiles they shoot

are so accurate that "one can shoot them through a window of a house

which is near a kindergarten but in any case I know what sort of

people live beyond the borders of Israel and therefore I am not going

to waste time thinking about such questions". All pilots spoke about

the satisfaction they feel after their operations and "the great

competition among the pilots about who will be given more bombing

assignements". According to them they have an outside competition

which they describe as "unfair", with the pilots of the Cobra combat

helicopters. "We do not want them to bomb at all so that we will get

all the interesting work".


"Maariv" sent its fashion correspondent, Li'at Ron to a pilot base.

She reported (July 30) that "the war in Lebanon does not trouble the

pilots at all. Not really. The real war is being waged inside the

offices of wing command, over the privilege to get up in the air and

act, so that your name will appear on `the tablet of justice', where

lists of the happy ones who were chosen for the next attack appear".

She spoke with Colonel A. "who already had taken a warm shower after

his last attack. Each attack takes no more than an hour, including

the destruction of the target". Colonel A. told her: "The Airforce

does not suffer any trauma because of the `Peace for Galilee War'

since it was such a smashing success for us". What he is doing is not

defined as war, since "after all, what I am doing now is so much

easier than bombing targets situated in the depths of Syria or Iraq".

He regards what he is doing as "working" and says that "we all try to

have no emotions. The first time I thought about the human aspect of

this operation was when I looked at the videos of the bombing. It

would be unproductive to think about women and chidren during the

attack itself. You find yourself facing a certain house and you press

[the trigger]. We never speak in the wing about such subjects.

Perhaps if I see on TV what happened to our targets then my present

feelings would change. I consider what I am doing as just. But if I

see a mother sitting and weeping at the bed of her wounded daughter,

the sight would cause me some trouble. But then I would consider it

as the Lebanese work. They are simply trying to show our operation in

a manner which will best serve their interests".


But in spite of pressing even fashion correspondents to work,

"Maariv's" military correspondents were not idle. Immanuel Rosen

(July 23) reported that "the high brass of the General Staff" is

angry with the government ministers for daring to ask the Chief of

Staff questions when he shows them his plans. Part of the blame,

according to the generals, lies with Rabin, since he is both Prime

Minister and Defense minister. This does not leave him enough time to

keep his ministers in order. "Before we deal with Sheikh Nasralla

[the Hizbollah leader], we have to deal with Ora Namir [the Labor and

Welfare minister]".


Rosen proposes that Rabin's favorites do some work to help him by

explaining to some ministers "the facts of life" so that they will

not obstruct the army. But "Maariv" also hired, as its military

correspondent, the services of General (reserves) Yossi Peled, who

retired from the post of Commander of the Northern Command less than

two years ago. Peled regrets (July 27) "that our mindset does not

allow us to smash thoroughly enough and long enough - and until the

bitter end - a civilian population, so that it will really pressure

the Hizbollah to stop its activities. Therefore, with the situation

which was created in the North we can not long avoid a big operation

on the ground".


I cannot bring myself to quote the military correspondents of

Mapam's organ "Al Hamishmar" because of the particularly nauseating

mixture of militarism and hypocrisy in their stories. But I do want

to note that the only Hebrew daily which did not allow its military

correspondents to participate in this disgusting orgy of crass

militarism was "Haaretz". I am not implying that its reporting of the

assault was good or even that it was honest, only that it kept a cool

tone and did not descend to the depth of chauvinistic vulgarity and

callousness of all the other papers.


Two crucial issues largely "disappeared" from the Hebrew press

during the assault and did not reappear until the date of writing of

this report. The first is when the decision of an assault was really

made and the second is the undoubted military successes of Hizbollah

in the "Security Zone" of South Lebanon. Other important issues, such

as why Hizbollah shelled northern Galilee after refraining from doing

so for several months, could be discussed only by satirists, such as

by "Haaretz's" B. Michael, who are given in Israel a latitude in

expressing controversial views similar to what was accorded to

jesters in feudal courts. Israeli propaganda, both for domestic and

outside consumption, tried to create the impression that the assault

on Lebanon was decided upon by the Israeli government only a day or

two before it was begun, on July 25. Whatever was decided upon then

(probably the exact timing and some details), the decision to attack

Lebanon was taken some time before July 11 because it was reported in

the Hebrew press on that date.


Amnon Barzilai then reported in "Hadashot" that "an enormous

majority of government ministers, including those of the dovish wing,

support a military action in Lebanon". Among the ministers who are

regarded (falsely in my opinion) as belonging to "the dovish wing"

and who supported the assault, Barzilai mentions Shimon Peres, "who

enjoys now good relations with Rabin not only in foreign but also in

defense affairs" and who said that "the action must be conducted

wisely, in a sopisticated manner and coolly". Of Meretz ministers,

three supported the attack (Tzaban, Sarid and Rubinstein), while the

fourth, Aloni, was the only minister who opposed it. (Later she was

persuaded to support it.) Barzilai also reports that Rabin "already

informed the Americans" of the Israeli decision and of the reason for

it: "Those who attack the Security Zone will be from now on regarded

as attacking us".


In the same issue of "Hadashot" Alex Fishman opined that "there is

a unanimous determination to change the situation in South Lebanon"

(my emphasis). He added (undoubtedly reflecting Barak's views), the

most interesting Israeli reason for attacking Lebanon, namely to

intentionally create economic damage. "The government of Hariri will

not survive if its plans for economic recovery of the Lebanese

government do not succeed. Hariri courts foreign investors, tries to

form a new loyal army and to create an image of Lebanese

normalization. Severe damage to the [Lebanese] infrastructure will

demonstrate how brittle that normalization is". Israel would, one

suspects, prefer a weak and continually bleeding Lebanon and

therefore one of the purposes of the manner in which the assault was

carried out, including the destruction of so many houses, was to

prevent any economic recovery of Lebanon.


In spite of the efforts of Israeli censorship to block information

about the military deterioration of the so-called "South Lebanese

Army" (SLA), enough details have filtered out in recent months to the

Hebrew press to show that it is facing imminent collapse.


As an example, let me describe the Hizbollah attack on two SLA

fortified positions which took place on July 21, four days before the

assault began. According to "Maariv" (July 22), when a Hizbollah

force advanced "the majority of SLA soldiers in the entire area fled"

without fighting. The Israeli army had to advance to fill the gap.

Hizbollah cadres fired then on the advancing soldiers from the

positions it captured and killed one, retreating without losses

before the Israeli army reached the captured positions. (This was

later described by Israeli propaganda as an act of terror which

caused the still patient Israeli government to act.) From hints in

Hebrew papers of the same date, it can be deduced that all SLA

soldiers in the positions, with the exception of the one holding the

wireless, had run away. The latter closed himself in a steel shelter

(thoughtfully provided in SLA fortified positions for use on such

occasions), and from there wired the Israeli army. Obviously, one

reason for the assault was an attempt to prevent the imminent

collapse of the SLA.


In view of the assault's failure to achieve its purposes, clear by

now to all Lebanese, it seems certain that Israel will have to try to

strike Lebanon again if it wants, as it surely does, to keep Southern

Lebanon in its hands and to use the SLA for routine police (and

torture) duties there.


The unique comments of B. Michael ("Haaretz", July 30) deserve

extensive quoting. Under the sub-title "For the sake of history", he

writes: "In a few days the rewriting will start. In a few days we

shall be asked to believe that the hail of katyusha shells started

before the Operation Accountability, and not at its peak. But please

remember: It is an attack against [Israeli] soldiers which caused the

Operation and not an attack on civilians or on settlements. Seven

soldiers were killed while on duty in the Security Zone. This is what

caused the massive Israeli reaction north of it, a reaction that led,

as duly planned by Hizbollah beforehand, to the firing of katyusha

rockets on Galilee...


Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it seems that the Security

Zone, established to absorb the blows and protect the Galilee, has

turned from an instrument into a target. Attacks on it and the

soldiers stationed there became a justified reason for extending the

fire to areas north of it, and simultaneously to Israeli areas south

of it. This time, all the talk about `the northern settlements as

hostages' is ex-post facto talk.


Hizbollah had turned the villagers of Southern Lebanon north of the

Security Zone into hostages more than it had succeeded with regard to

the inhabitants of Galilee. So, when the Israeli government decided

that the defense of the Security Zone justified attacking the

hostages north of it, all inhabitants of Galilee became necessarily

hostages too.


"Wars create cynical terminologies. The cynical name of `Operation

Accountability' means `they have broken the conditions under which we

gave them their license'. And really, the terms of the license -

stating that Israel will keep the Security Zone and Hizbollah will

try to harass Israel there and drive her out of it - were violated.

But it is not clear who broke them first: Hizbollah which achieved

some big murderous successes, or perhaps Israel which, because of her

frustration at them, extended the area of her reaction far beyond the

security zone".


Under the sub-title "Refugees as envoys", B. Michael exposes the

folly of the Israeli reason for the intentional creation of refugees:

"But the Lebanese refugees were for us not ordinary panic-struck

refugees. These were refugees used as envoys to rush to Beirut to

exert pressure on their government `to do something'. And according

to the carefully planned operation, the Lebanese government would

clap its forehead and mutter `why haven't we thought of that before'

and annihilate Hizbollah at once. Or if it is too weak to do so it

would go to Damascus and press Assad so that he would be the one who

annihilates Hizbollah at once.


"Surely, historical experience teaches us how the creation of a

refugee problem solves everything. Palestinian refugees of 1948 have

brought peace and stability to the entire Middle East; the Egyptian

refugees of the Suez Canal cities prevented the Yom Kippur War, the

shelling of South Lebanon and Beirut brought a New Order to Lebanon

in 1982. I will not mention Bosnia and the many other refugees

carrying in their bags more solutions for all the problems of

mankind. Evidently, the leaders of Hizbollah are also convinced that

if they would only cause the inhabitants of Galilee to become

refugees, they will travel to Jerusalem and press their government to

withdraw from the Security Zone and let Hizbollah establish there an

Islamic Republic as prescribed by its Faith. Therefore, blessed be

the change of [an Israeli] government that freed us from that

megalomaniac Sharon and brought us the sober analytical enlightenment

of Rabin".


"To show the strange logic of the Israeli operation, one could use

a parable. Isn't it like a decision by the Italian government to bomb

villages in Sicily in order to induce their inhabitants to run away

from their houses to Palermo and demonstrate there in front of the

municipality until the latter decides to annihilate the Cosa Nostra?

Or like a decision of the U.S. government in the 1920s to shell

Chicago so that the inhabitants demand from the municipality an end

to organized crime?"


Commenting on Rabin's statements that "if it will not be quiet

here, it won't be quiet there", and that "Israel cannot accept every

attempt to impair its freedom of reaction north of the Security

Zone", B. Michael first notes that "the Prime Minister kept his word.

Now it is neither quiet here, nor there. Noise comes from all

directions". About the second statement he admits to have

difficulties: "For hours I was thinking about this brilliant

statement and still could not understand its meaning. What `freedom

of reaction' really means? Evidently, the routine of the conflict is

as follows: Hizbollah attacks the Israeli army or SLA in the Security

Zone and the latter react. Does Rabin really want that in every case

when the Israeli army bombs a village north of the Security Zone

claiming that Hizbollah cadres are inside it, the Sages of Hizbollah

should meet and say: `This was a only Israeli reaction north of the

Security Zone and therefore we shall do nothing, because freedom of

reaction in this area is very important to the government of Israel'.

I really do not understand".


Indeed, without grasping two crucial facts, the assault on Lebanon

does not make sense, but once they are taken into account it does.

The first is the existence of an Israeli grand strategy, as partially

explained here by MK Sneh. This strategy is based on waging a

regional struggle against Iran and on the establishment of Israeli

hegemony over the entire Middle East. Even more important is the

fact that because the Israeli army is engaged most of the time in

"fighting" the nearly helpless Palestinians, its commanders

necessarily undergo a negative selection and become more and more

stupid. Without taking into account the crassness of which the high

command of the Israeli army is now capable, no analysis of its

strategies is possible. This crassness is by now quite evident to

many Israeli Jews, although censorship largely prevents such views

from being published. It can be seen, however, in the many prevalent

jokes made about the army. I will end this report by quoting one of

them: "We have one general who is so stupid that even the other

generals noticed how stupid he is".