Israel is now facing a lot more than censure for "overreacting" to Hezbollah. It's looking down the barrel of an opponent that's more capable than they expected it to be.
As Steven Erlanger of the New York Times reports today, Israelis are not happy. "The criticism is not that the war is going on, but that it is going poorly. The public wants the army to hit Hezbollah harder, so it will not threaten Israel again."
Four weeks into this war, Israel is playing for stakes higher than the immediate threat from Hezbollah. The Lebanese militant group appears to have fought the Israeli Defense Force to a standstill. Much of Hezbollah's "success" may no doubt be thanks to the IDF's desire to minimize further collateral damage--a daunting task given the nature of the battle space. Whatever the case, the perception that Hezbollah is "hanging tough" against the mighty Israelis has been established, and the Jewish state needs to terminate the current conflict in a manner that regains some of its former aura of invincibility.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's political clout may be permanently damaged. Gerald M. Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University says, "There is a strong sense of hesitation, of the lack of military leadership needed in times like this.”
Yuval Steinitz of Israel's Likud party frames the issue in stronger language. “Doubts? That’s an understatement. People are talking of failure. The bombardment of Israeli cities was supposed to be over after 48 hours. The fact that only now the government is ready to even start the real ground campaign is overwhelming.” Steinitz is further concerned that his country's lack of decisive military success has come against Hezbollah, "…which is the size of a Syrian division without any air defense. So what would we do against Syria?”
All this bodes ill for any hopes of peace in the near term. Israel cannot afford to be perceived as having been bailed out by a cease-fire brokered by its American protectors. It must now press for a clear victory in combat and an end state in which it appears to have dictated the terms of peace.
Cable news networks are reporting that the IDF has commenced its "expansion" of offensive operations in Lebanon. Stand by: this isn't likely to end soon, or without considerably more bloodshed.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.