The Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government is marching the country into another military confrontation with an Iranian proxy army. As was the case in the last confrontation with an Iranian proxy army two years ago, the country's leaders are fully committed to Israel's strategic defeat in the current one.
Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will meet ahead of Wednesday's security cabinet meeting to determine their preferred course of action in Gaza. As media reports and statements by the three's surrogates over the past several days make clear, Israel's political leaders oppose launching a military campaign aimed at defeating Hamas's Iranian directed, financed, trained and armed army and dislodging Hamas's jihadist regime from power.
Indeed, as their actions and statements over the past several months make clear, what Israel's political leaders really aspire to is a cease-fire agreement with Iran's Palestinian proxy regime. Under the proposed cease-fire, Hamas will suspend or scale back its illegal missile war against Israeli civilians in the South. In return, Israel will effectively accept Hamas rule of Gaza. Israel will allow Hamas to continue to build up its military forces in Gaza and have open access to the Sinai.
In light of Hamas's negotiations with Fatah towards the reestablishment of a Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority unity government, such a cease-fire will also entail an end to the economic isolation of Gaza. Since they would be formally governed by Fatah – Israel's "peace partner," Gazans will be allowed to use Israeli ports and even build their own seaport and perhaps reopen their airport in Rafah. The debate in the West over whether or not to negotiate with Hamas will effectively end – with an international embrace of Hamas as Fatah's partner.
For the Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government, a cease-fire is attractive politically. By providing a temporary respite from the jihadist missile attacks against southern Israel, the cease-fire will suspend the local media's coverage of the grave and gathering threat to Israel's security in the South. And the lull in media coverage of the Iranian threat in Gaza will provide breathing room for the scandal-ridden and deeply unpopular Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government as it seeks desperately to avoid new general elections.
Gifted politicians that they are, Olmert, Livni and Barak know that if they decide Tuesday to reject the IDF's pleas to conduct a military campaign to dislodge Hamas again and opt instead to sign the Egyptian-mediated cease-fire deal with Iran's Palestinian army, they will be properly accused of political opportunism and cowardice by the media and their political opponents. So to sign on to a deal with Hamas, they need military cover.
As The Jerusalem Post reported last week, that smokescreen will likely be what Olmert, Livni, Barak and their surrogates refer to as a "medium-sized military option" against Hamas. The aim of their preferred military approach is not to defeat Hamas. They just want to "send it a message." In plain English, what their preferred military option involves is committing IDF forces to battle in numbers insufficient to defeat Hamas. IDF forces will be killed in battle and in the end, Hamas will still control Gaza. But in their public speeches, Olmert, Livni and Barak will claim victory arguing that now that they have "sent Hamas a message" they can sign the cease-fire agreement.
For their part, the local media will justify the government's decisions and agree to present them to the public as a strategic achievement. The media can be expected to do so for two reasons. First, they will not wish to upset the families of the soldiers who will die in the campaign by noting that their lives were sacrificed for nothing. And second, the leftist media is uninterested in general elections which will bring Likud to power and so they will work to block them by collaborating with the government in its attempts to pretend that the "medium-sized military operation" was a good idea.
As for the political opposition, as was the case in the Second Lebanon War, they will be unwilling to criticize the government while Israeli forces are risking their lives in battle. Afterwards, they will fear being castigated by the government and its media flacks as "unpatriotic" or "warmongering" if they criticize the outcome of the "medium-sized military operation" that will leave Hamas and Iran strengthened and free to expand their control to Judea and Samaria.
In short, Olmert, Livni and Barak are about to decide to sacrifice the lives of IDF soldiers in order to delude the public into believing that signing a cease-fire agreement that leaves Hamas in charge of Gaza and in a position to take over Judea and Samaria is a strategically sound policy.
This drastic assertion could be easily attacked as delusional and even paranoid if we hadn't been here before. But we have.
Two years ago, Israel was the victim of naked aggression when Hizbullah forces launched an unprovoked attack on an IDF patrol, killed three soldiers and abducted Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser while pummeling northern Israel with Katyusha rockets and short-range missiles. Although Olmert at the time declared war against Hizbullah, he, Livni and then defense minister Amir Peretz refused to order the IDF to defeat Hizbullah.
They refused for weeks to launch a ground campaign. They refused for weeks to call up reserve units. Interested in "sending a signal" to Hizbullah rather than defeating its forces, for four weeks they ordered the IDF to conduct operations with no operational logic in which IDF forces were killed in battles that had no strategic purpose.
Then, after squandering some 30 days of fruitless fighting, reacting to the public outcry against his incompetence, Olmert belatedly ordered a ground assault of South Lebanon. He ordered IDF forces to move in helter-skelter and attempt to complete an operation that was planned to take more than 96 hours in 48 hours. Most egregiously, the entire operation was launched after the UN Security Council had passed resolution 1701 defining the terms of Israel's cease-fire with Iran's Lebanese proxy army.
That is, even if the campaign had been successful, it would have had no impact on the outcome of the war which had already been determined – with Israeli support – in New York. And yet, to assuage the public demand for victory, the Olmert-Livni-Peretz-Yishai government launched the last minute "medium-sized" 48-hour attack in which 33 IDF forces were killed in a battle for nothing.
Resolution 1701 left Hizbullah intact and provided the illegal army of jihad with unprecedented political legitimacy. Under the cover of 1701, Iran and Syria have rebuilt Hizbullah's forces, which in turn have reasserted their military control over South Lebanon.
Just last week Barak warned that Hizbullah is setting up fortified positions along the border. He also said, "The Syrians are working in intimate cooperation with Hizbullah, and they are in large part responsible for the transfer of weapons and supplies to Hizbullah. The ultimate responsibility, as far as we're concerned, lies with Hizbullah on the one hand, and with the Iranians and the Syrians on the other." Barak's statements came two weeks after Hizbullah effectively overthrew the pro-Western Saniora government and through the good offices of the Qataris, forced the March 14 democracy movement to sign the Doha agreement, which transfers control of the country to Hizbullah. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah was then quick to announce his army's subservience to Teheran.
The Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government responded to Hizbullah's violent takeover of the Lebanese government by rewarding it. As Michael Young of Beirut's Daily Star wrote recently, Hizbullah is presenting its swap of dead IDF soldiers' body parts for Hizbullah spy Nissim Nasser as a first step towards a massive Israeli release of Hizbullah and Palestinian terrorists from its prisons in exchange for Regev and Goldwasser.
Such a prisoner release will play directly into Hizbullah's hands. It will effectively justify Hizbullah's decision to go to war with Israel two years ago to the Lebanese public. Such justification is essential as Hizbullah moves forward towards gaining internal Lebanese acceptance of its role as ruler of Lebanon.
Beyond its effective support of Hizbullah, the Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government is strengthening the Iranian-controlled axis by conducting negotiations toward the surrender of the Golan Heights with Syrian President and Iranian proxy Bashar Assad. Here too, Israel is signaling to Assad that his decision to cast his lot with Teheran was a wise one.
The international consequences of Israel's behavior have already been unmistakable. This week both French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Foreign Minister David Miliband visited Lebanon and accepted Hizbullah's demand for control over Mt. Dov on the Golan Heights. Israel seized the strategically vital area which controls the approaches to the Galilee in the 1967 Six Day War from Syria. Hizbullah claimed that it is continued Israeli control of the area that justified its war of aggression two years ago.
This all brings us back to the situation in Gaza. In his post-Doha address, Nasrallah urged Hamas to follow his successful model of war against Israel both in order to hasten Israel's destruction and to facilitate the extension of the terror group's control to Judea and Samaria. And of course, that is precisely what Hamas has been doing for the past two years.
The Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government's political opponents have claimed that with the ongoing corruption probes against the prime minister, the government lacks the political legitimacy to conduct a military campaign in Gaza. This is a false assertion. As Israel's elected leaders, the Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government has a duty to defend the country and the only way to do so is to launch a military campaign in Gaza.
The problem is that the Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government is incompetent to successfully carry out such an essential campaign. As in Lebanon two years ago, so in Gaza today, the type of campaign that this government will launch will only endanger Israel still further.
Originally published in the Jerusalem Post.