Israel will only temporarily cease operations over the next few hours, as the Knesset has demanded a more expansive ground offensive and a “strategic victory” over Hezbollah. Defense Minister Amir Peretz ignored heckling by Israeli Arabs in the parliament as he pledged to engage Hezbollah on a more sweeping scale than before:
Israel must not agree to an immediate cease-fire, but rather expand and strengthen its attacks on Hizbullah, Defense Minister Amir Peretz told an emergency session of the Knesset on Monday.
“We must not agree to a ceasefire that would be implemented immediately,” Peretz said at the start of the heated session. …
Peretz’s speech was widely echoed by MKs across the spectrum including Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu who added that Hizbullah posed a strategic threat, and therefore required a strategic victory.
“The journey of war is like any other journey. It starts easily but midway there’s a difficult junction where we must decide whether we continue to climb the mountain or stop,” said Netanyahu. “I call on the government: Don’t stop midway. Complete the job.”
Again, the Israelis do not want to relive the Lebanon occupation for another eighteen-year period. Israel knows better than most that occupations do not result in stabilization over the long term. They want to push Hezbollah back far enough to reduce their ability to hit northern Israel, and hopefully get the Lebanese Army to keep Hezbollah away from the border.
That kind of goal cannot be achieved through air power alone, especially given the problem of Hezbollah’s entrenchment and the close proximity of their weapons to civilian populations. Ironically, the outrage over civilian casualties may force Israel into a sweeping ground offensive. Qana shows that air bombardments can create more problems than they solve. A ground force can strike at the weapons systems more accurately and hold down civilian casualties where possible. If the world objects to the IAF, then they will see the IDF instead.
Netanyahu’s demands come as no surprise. He will want the war waged to maximum effect, and in a way represents a deterrent all on his own. If global pressure forces Olmert to leave Hezbollah in the field and still effectively attacking the Israeli north, Olmert’s Kadima coalition may well fail — and in wartime, the Israelis will likely turn to Netanyahu as the stronger alternative. Netanyahu will give the diplomats much less attention than Olmert, and may be tempted to widen the conflict to include Damascus.
Any “peace” that does not secure Israel against terrorist attack from Lebanon-based Hezbullah terrorists will be no peace at all. It could touch off a series of political changes that will create momentum for total war the likes of which have not been seen in the region for forty years.