Cease-Fire Deal Is Defeat for Israel

By: Greg C. Reeson

After weeks of intense fighting between Hezbollah and Israel, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution designed to end the current conflict in the Middle East. The cease-fire deal represents a clear victory for Hezbollah and a defeat for Israel on both the tactical and strategic levels.

The resolution, passed by a unanimous vote, calls for the cessation of hostilities by Hezbollah and the IDF, followed by the phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon as a beefed-up UN contingent and the Lebanese Army establish a security buffer between the warring parties.

Before the vote on the resolution was even held, representatives from Lebanon and Hezbollah were signaling their eager acceptance of the deal. For Lebanon, there really was no other choice, as a weak national government was forced to watch the country�s infrastructure be systematically destroyed by the Israeli military, unable to take any action to defend its sovereign territory.

For Hezbollah, the cease-fire means the terrorist group has survived the IDF�s onslaught with its command structure and military capability intact and functional. Further fighting would only degrade its resources and serves no strategic or tactical purpose. For Hezbollah, the best time for a cease-fire is now.

For Israel, agreement to the cease-fire represents defeat, in the form of a stalemate on the battlefield, and in a weakening of the government in Jerusalem. Despite weeks of sustained offensive operations by the IDF, the three conditions issued by Prime Minister Olmert at the beginning of the conflict have not been met.

The release of the two captured Israeli soldiers has not been secured. Although the UN resolution does call for their return, the exact timing and circumstances will still have to be worked out under a cease-fire agreement that is fragile at best. In a society where virtually everyone under middle age is part of the military establishment, the failure to free the captured soldiers will undermine confidence in the government and lower morale in the armed forces.

Hezbollah, which was estimated to have approximately 10,000 rockets of varying ranges, still retains the ability to launch attacks into Israel. As a military force, Hezbollah engaged the Israeli military and endured overwhelming firepower without crumbling. This alone is a significant victory for the terrorist group, making Hezbollah the only Arab force to ever battle the IDF and not be completely annihilated. The Arab myth concerning the invincibility of the Israeli military has been debunked, a fact which will most certainly be noted by Israel�s neighbors.

Finally, the disarmament of Hezbollah has not been accomplished. Again, the Security Council has called for the enforcement of previous resolutions demanding the disarmament of all militias operating within Lebanon. However, while the UN has authorized the use of force for the newly approved 15,000 peacekeepers, it has not given them the job of disarming Hezbollah. That task will presumably be left for sometime in the future.

While the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which was first deployed to the region in 1978, is supposed to keep Hezbollah at bay, history has shown it to be largely ineffective in this role. For the past 28 years, UNIFIL has been charged with assisting the Lebanese government in establishing its authority in the southern part of the country.

During that time, Israel has been subjected to repeated attacks that have required military strikes and the invasion and re-occupation of Southern Lebanon. Since the IDF last withdrew its forces in 2000, Hezbollah has established a state-within-a-state in the south and constructed platforms from which to attack Israel and bunker-type fortifications from which to mount a defense designed to inflict maximum casualties on advancing IDF troops. The addition of 13,000 troops to the current UNIFIL strength of approximately 2,000 is a start. But what are really necessary are the mandate, and the will, to disarm Hezbollah if, or more likely when, Hassan Nasrallah decides to renew his attacks against Israel.

The 15,000 soldiers from the Lebanese Army, who are supposed to work alongside UNIFIL, will create more problems than they will solve. Representing about one-fourth of the Lebanese Army�s 60,000 soldiers, this force lacks the organic resources and equipment needed to engage in effective military operations. Deficient in competent leadership and thoroughly infiltrated by Hezbollah sympathizers, the Lebanese Army was notably absent from the current crisis.

The biggest tragedy for Israel, though, is that it will emerge from this conflict as a weakened state. The massive call-up of reserve forces resulted in a significant drain on the Israeli economy, and the Arab perception of Israeli military might has been dramatically altered.

Prime Minister Olmert�s government failed miserably during its first real test since a stroke incapacitated Ariel Sharon. Israeli officials were publicly divided and pursued a flawed strategy of relying too heavily on air power. There have already been reports of �Olmert has to go� rallies.

Despite overwhelming public support for an all-out assault on Hezbollah, the Israeli government was weak and indecisive, even changing military leadership in mid-battle. Public confidence in the government has suffered and the military is in disarray. The possibility of a new government in Israel cannot be ruled out.

Demographically outnumbered and strategically limited by space, Israel cannot afford the perception of military weakness that results from an end to the fighting at this juncture. By fighting the IDF to a standstill, Hezbollah has forced a cease-fire that alters the geopolitical reality in the region. And for Israel, that is a major defeat.

Greg Reeson is a frequent contributor to The Land of the Free and Associated Content. His columns have appeared in several online and print publications, including The New Media Journal, The Veteran�s Voice, The Washington Times, The American Daily, GOPUSA and Opinion Editorials.com.

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