Despite a gutsy effort, Israeli ground forces are suffering heavy losses in close-quarter combat with Hezbollah guerrillas. The terrorist-cum-political organization, you recall, started the hostilities by crossing into Israel and ambushing Israeli soldiers. When the latter returned to retrieve the bodies of their comrades, they were cleverly cornered again and blown to smithereens.
The Israel Defense Forces claim to have considerably dented the enemy’s capabilities, but the barrage of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel—over 1400 so far—has not let up. No sooner does the Israeli Air Force fix on and destroy launch sites than others materialize. Hezbollah fighters disappear as fast as they appear, blending in among their Shiite supporters or burrowing underground in an elaborate system of fortified bunkers.
To date, the IAF has strafed Hezbollah turf from the skies, displacing at least 750,000 Lebanese, injuring over 1400, killing hundreds, and generally pulverizing southern Lebanon, south Beirut, and the Bekaa Valley in the east.
To those who will counter by saying that many IAF victims are Hezbollah supporters from suspected Hezbollah hideouts—some from boulevards named for Nasrallah—the answer is: yes, but they’re still mostly civilian non-combatants.
The city of Haifa, usually a hub of economic activity, is a ghost town. Israeli border communities are deserted. Lebanon has been reduced to rubble, again. The IAF’s shock-and-awe is, moreover, futile. Its brute force has had catastrophic effects on innocents and infrastructure for a rather poor return. Only 100 to 120 Hezbollah fighters have been eliminated (they have several thousand) and their “subterranean arms caches” show no signs of drying up.
In between battles for the Hezbollah strongholds of Bint Jubeil, Maroun al-Rus, Aitaroun, and other outposts, weary IDF soldiers expressed surprise at the ferocity of the enemy. Hezbollah, they say, is no Hamas.
So why the surprise? Why have these young grunts not been apprised of the differences between Palestinian ragtag gangs and the beneficiaries of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s training? Americans might be forgiven for expecting cakewalks in the Middle East. But Israelis live in that rough neighborhood. Their astonishment, expressed in guarded Sabra brevity, is ominous.
As a result of Israel’s blunders on the borders—Gazan and Lebanese—cartoons of baby-faced, puny Israeli soldiers have littered Arab newspapers. The prototype is the captured Cpl. Gilad Shalit, looking more like a heavily bespectacled Bill Gates than a “Motta” Gur.
I’m afraid Israel seems to know precious little about Hezbollah’s capabilities and culture—not least that the next generation of Hezbollah acolytes being groomed is every bit as resolute and disciplined. The press reports that Hezbollah “operates 14 schools, whose students typically fall in the highest percentile of standardized testing scores.”
Israel dropping incendiaries on her home has made one such young girl even more quixotically determined. She told CNN she planned on becoming a doctor so as to treat her Hezbollah heroes. She spoke more logically and grammatically than most Americans twice her age. (Besides matching subject and verb, not once did she say, “And I was like.”)
I hope Israeli youngsters are nothing like their American, MTV-mesmerized peers. If they are pedagogically challenged, narcissistic, Paris Hilton wannabes, then this Muslim Steel Magnolia and her ascetic brothers will probably have the advantage.
If Israelis are having a hard time hunting Hezbollah down, a NATO force will be useless; a UN presence worse than useless. The last kidnapping Hezbollah executed in 2002 happened under the UN’s nose. I take that back: the UN toy soldiers were actually very diligent. They videotaped the crime scene like professional CSIs, and then proceeded to return the evidence—bloodied getaway cars—to their friends…Hezbollah.
No, Israel’s salvation will come not from without, but from within.
But first, let us agree that a lumbering army of reluctant conscripts (IDF) is no match for a lean mean force of volunteers (Hezbollah). In addition, a conventional military force hasn’t the capability to contain an outfit like Hezbo
To overcome these impediments, and avoid inflicting further collective punishment on innocents, Israel should first call off the IAF warplanes right away; they’ve done a horrific job.
The Golani Brigade, an outstanding elite unit, is now on the ground. But Israel has better. In future, the state of Israel should consider stationing on the borders the best of its special-operations units such as the “Sayeret.” It’s trained in surgical strikes, including modern urban counterterrorism operations.
Israeli elite units comprise patriotic, independent-minded individuals. To wit, a Golani brigade refused orders to expel Jews from their homes in Gaza. When the IAF was told to carry out air raids on Lebanese roads and residential real estate they should have followed the Golani’s lead.
Since special-ops soldiers are highly select, motivated volunteers, their esprit de corps will match Hezbollah’s. Since they’re trained in precision, “deep-penetration” operations, they won’t be turning countries into parking lots and their inhabitants into homeless people, or piles of ash.
© 2006 By Ilana Mercer