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Cabinet Won’t Expand Ground Operations, Agrees to More Reserves

by Hillel Fendel and Hana Levi Julian Arutz Sheva July 28, 2006

Prime Minister Olmert and the security cabinet rejected the army’s recommendation for a larger-scale ground offensive on Thursday, but agreed to call up three more reserve divisions.

As predicted, the ministers voted to continue with only limited ground offensives and wide-ranging aerial attacks. This, despite the recommendations by army officers that a larger ground offensive is necessary.

The cabinet did agree to call up three more reserve divisions to free regular soldiers to fight in Lebanon, or to relieve those who have been engaged in combat until now.

The seven ministers who made the decision with Olmert in Tel Aviv today are Foreign Minister Tzippy Livny, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, former Defense Ministers Sha’ul Mofaz and Shimon Peres, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, Justice Minister Chaim Ramon and Shas Party leader Trade Minister Eli Yishai

The mini-Cabinet reconfirmed the goals of the current warfare, namely, to destroy Hizbullah infrastructures, headquarters and capabilities according to the current framework of operations. In addition, limited numbers of reserve soldiers will be called up for the purpose of preparedness for “possible developments” and to refresh the forces as needed.

Several ministers emphasized afterwards the importance and validity of destroying terrorist strongholds from the air, after warning the civilians to leave.

Many observers do not agree with the decision.

IDF Col. (ret.) Yehoar Gal wrote today in the daily Yisraeli,
“It’s time to go out to war for real. For nearly two weeks, the Air Force has attacked and led most of the war… It’s time to draft thousands of reserve soldiers, despite all the hang-ups and dangers, and flood all of southern Lebanon – not just the small area of Bint Jbeil and Marun a-Ras. We should detour around places like Bint Jbeil and not get stuck there, and wage a full-strength ground war…”

Gal says that victory must be won in the public consciousness:
“The IDF’s achievements thus far are not readily apparent. A victory is not that which is perceived by a few top officers in secret rooms, but is rather dependent on what is perceived nationally and internationally. Olmert and Peretz, call up the reserves and let the IDF win!”

Yoram Ettinger, a consultant on U.S.-Israel relations and a former liaison for Congressional affairs in Israel’s Washington embassy, said that U.S. President Bush, “by sending Secretary of State Rice to this region this week, was signaling us to stop driving in second gear, and to move already into fifth gear! No more hesitating! If we don’t, the message is, we are encouraging radical groups by allowing a terrorist group to appear to be victorious over a country that has always appeared to be the strongest in the region.”

Ariel Center researcher former MK Yoash Tzidon, who retired from the IAF with the rank of Col., told Arutz-7′s Hebrew newsmagazine yesterday that “Hizbullah must be dismantled, as well as distanced from the Israeli border… The proper balance between air power and armored and infantry forces must be maintained, as it is now.”

The problem is, Tzidon said, that the Israeli governments since 2000, when the IDF withdrew from Lebanon under then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, have done nothing to rein in Hizbullah: “Barak ran away from Lebanon and did nothing to stop Hizbullah from strengthening themselves on our border. And Ariel Sharon had a ‘Lebanon complex’ [Sharon was forced to resign as Defense Minister because of the previous Lebanon War, in 1982 - ed.]; that would be all he needed, to say that something had to be done in Lebanon. Therefore, nothing was done for six years, and now they are sitting there under 20 meters of mountain and concrete. So there is no doubt that the IAF has to open the way for the ground forces, but there are some places that there is no choice but to use the ground forces in tweezer-like operations.”

Former three-time Defense Minister Moshe Arens says that if the war ends without a decisive Israeli victory – now, for instance – it will be a Hizbullah victory. “They will be able to say they fired thousands of Katyushas on Israel and still have the ability to do so,” he told the Knesset channel today. “They have fired 1,500 rockets, and still have many thousands remaining.” Arens feels that the IDF should have initiated its ground offensive “right from the beginning, when the war started.”

An editorial in last week’s New York Post similarly writes,

“All Hezbollah has to do to achieve victory is not to lose completely. But for Israel to emerge the acknowledged winner, it has to shatter Hezbollah… Israel has to pull itself together now, to send in ground troops in sufficient numbers, with fierce resolve to do what must be done: Root out Hezbollah fighters and kill them. This means Israel will suffer painful casualties – more today than if the Israeli Defense Force had gone in full blast at this fight’s beginning.

“The situation is grave. A perceived Hezbollah win will be a massive victory for terror, as well as a triumph for Iran and Syria… Israel can’t afford a Hezbollah win. America can’t afford it. Civilization can’t afford it. Yet it just might happen…

The ‘world community’ wants a cease-fire – which would only benefit the terrorists. Hezbollah would claim (accurately) that it had withstood Israel’s assault. Couldn’t get a better terrorist recruiting advertisement… A cease-fire would be under U.N. auspices. Gee, thanks. No U.N. force would protect Israel’s interests, but plenty of U.N. contingents would cooperate with or turn a blind eye to the terrorists… One bright spot: The Bush administration continues to resist international attempts to bully Israel into a premature cease-fire.

“This is ultimately about far more than a buffer zone in southern Lebanon. In the long run, it’s about Israel’s survival. And about preventing the rise of a nuclear Iran and the strengthening of the rogue regime in Syria. It’s also about the future of Lebanon – everybody’s victim… IDF’s intelligence, targeting and planning were all deficient. Technology failed to vanquish flesh and blood. The myth of the IDF’s invincibility just shattered.

“If Israel can’t turn this situation around quickly, the failure will be a turning point in its history. And not for the better.”

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