ANALYSIS: U.S., public’s fortitude to determine length of war
By Ze’ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel has decided to widen the offensive against Hezbollah. Now the IDF chiefs are talking about fighting that would go on for weeks and the need for more time for various ground operations. On the other hand this would provide Hezbollah with time to wage a war of attrition against Israel’s civilian population, unless the IDF destroys the rocket deployment in southern Lebanon.
The PMO’s office and IDF believe Israel has all the operational time it needs for military action. Officials who know the American administration do not agree. They believe Israel has no more than 10 to 14 days to make significant military achievements. This also applies to the Israeli public’s fortitude.
The Pentagon is following the fighting in Lebanon closely. They believe the key is Israel’s ability to strike at the rocket deployment that Hezbollah received from Iran. The Pentagon regards the rocket deployment as strategic for Iran. That is why Israel must destroy it. Washington’s expectations are also reflected in the swift delivery of bombs and munitions from the United States to Israel.
The IDF, whose ground activity remained close to the border until the end of the week, will widen its offensive. Elite commandos acted in the border area, where Hezbollah took over abandoned IDF outposts. They found Hezbollah outposts had deep tunnels with lighting. The IDF sustained losses in these operations. Apparently more effective means must be used to flush out Hezbollah with minimum losses.
Israel has refrained from operating large ground forces, relying mostly on the air force. But despite the air force’s successes, its achievements are limited regarding short-range rockets. Introducing larger ground forces was not meant to do what the IDF did in 1982 when it conquered parts of Beirut. But if ground forces remain in Lebanon soil for long, it could be seen as occupation. Remaining there also requires protection and construction work.
The IDF is expected to raid areas in southern Lebanon to undermine large parts of Hezbollah’s rocket deployment. If it succeeds, it will shorten the attrition war against Israelis in the north. The air force will also continue striking the rocket deployment.
Beirut’s bombing has let up slightly to let civilians leave. However, the bombing to prevent the supply of weapons to Hezbollah continues. Therefore Israel will not allow Beirut’s airport to open, and will bomb bridges and passes on the Damascus-Beirut road.