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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Second Lebanon War’

Plagued by Charges of Ineptness and Corruption, Olmert to Keynote at J Street Conference

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

JTA reports that Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister who was a key figure in the removal of close to 10,000 Jews from their homes in Gaza, and then blundered the Second Lebanon War, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the annual J Street conference.

Olmert will speak at the pro-Palestinian state group’s gala dinner on March 26, according to an invitation sent Thursday morning to members of the US Congress. JTA obtained an invitation, and a J Street official confirmed its authenticity.

As of early Friday morning, the J Street website has made no mention of Olmert’s participation in the event, to be held in the Washington DC Convention Center from March 24-27 .

Olmert, who was forced to step down as prime minister in 2008 to face criminal investigations, is still facing corruption trials in Israeli court. But corrupt or not, J Street has found the one Israeli ‘right-wing’ politician (Olmert started his political career in the Likud Party) with whom it has a true understanding.

Although J Street describes itself as a pro-Israel organization that supports peace between Israel and its neighbors, many Israelis and US Jews, including many public figures, have said that J Street is anti-Israel, particularly in relation to the security challenges facing the Jewish state. Several US Jewish leaders have objected to J Street’s position on Israel, and have publicly disassociated themselves from the organization.

J Street has had tense relations with Olmert’s replacement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government has sought to marginalize the group for failing to support Israel’s efforts to push back against investigations of Israel’s conduct in the 2009 Gaza war, and for equivocating on Iran sanctions until late 2009.

Following Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke in 2006, Olmert became prime minister and led their Kadima party to a decisive victory in elections that year. He then led negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and now says he was prepared to make the most far-reaching compromises with the Palestinian leader in 2008, only to be turned down.

Palestinian officials say Olmert by that time was too damaged by corruption scandals for the offer to be credible.

As a member of Sharon’s government, Olmert participated in forging Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan to evict all Israelis  from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the Samaria. Israeli citizens who refused to accept government compensation packages and voluntarily vacate their homes prior to the August 15, 2005 deadline were evicted by Israeli security forces over a period of several days. The eviction of all residents, demolition of the residential buildings, and evacuation of associated security personnel from the Gaza Strip was completed by September 12, 2005. The eviction and dismantling of the four settlements in Samaria was completed ten days later.

Rocket Shot at Israel Lands in Lebanon

Monday, December 12th, 2011

An Arab woman was wounded in southern Lebanon on Sunday when a Katyusha rocket aimed at Israel landed short of its mark.

 

The rocket was fired from the area of Bint Jbeil, a town a mile from Israel and the site of a major battle of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and landed on an apartment building in the Lebanese border village of Hula.  Hizbullah denies connection to the attack.

 

Two weeks ago, rockets were fired from Lebanon to Israel, the first time since 2009.  The rockets, which landed in the western Galilee, caused property damage but no injuries.  An Al-Qaida-affiliated terror group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades initially issued a statement taking responsibility for those attacks on “the settlements of the Zionist enemy in northern Palestine,” but later retracted.

 

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been deployed in Lebanon since 1978 to serve as an observing and peacekeeping force.  Its almost 14,000 troops are charged with preventing violence and terrorism in the region.

Lebanon: Crossing And Possessing

Monday, November 14th, 2011

About 15 months after the Second Lebanon War, we were called up to reserve duty in the Gush Talmonim region, part of the Binyamin Regional Council. On the second Friday night, I enjoyed the privilege of leading the entire company in singing, “Shalom Aleichem.” Although there wasn’t even a minyan of shomrei Shabbat men, the soldiers pulled out their hats in honor of the song (a handful placed a hand on their heads), and all respectfully rose to their feet – including the Bedouin trackers.

After the meal one of the soldiers approached me, and in a rare moment of sentimentality (an unusual occurrence on the macho Israeli landscape), he told me that the Kiddush was very nice and that it reminded him of the Kiddush that I recited back in Lebanon.

That Shabbat Nachamu of 2006 in the village of Shamah is an experience that I’m not likely to forget.

On the previous Wednesday, we entered Israel’s northern neighbor’s territory. Our visit was extended and within 30 hours, we had used up all of our food and water. Early Friday morning, we arrived in Shamah – tired, hungry, and dazed. We scattered among the local houses, where our hosts did not exactly see to our comfort. In fact, they weren’t even home.

Some of the others fared better, but my platoon’s Lebanese “hosts” were either desperately poor or had managed to take all their food with them before escaping the Zionist enemy. I thus avoided the following dilemma faced by others: were they forbidden/permitted/required to eat the non-kosher food that they had found?

Fortunately vegetable gardens are hard to move, and we were able to help ourselves to some watermelons and tomatoes. I was even happier that HaKadosh Baruch Hu planted the brilliant idea in my head of picking grapes from a vine-covered pergola. The grapes were crushed (by hand) in a plastic bag, and the juice dripped straight out of a hole into an empty bottle.

In the pitch darkness, we sat on sofas in the living room singing “L’cha Dodi” with feeling. Every few seconds someone would destroy the mood with a long “shh,” which would bring us back down to earth and remind us that we were in enemy territory and should be conducting ourselves accordingly. But in our enthusiasm, the decibels would soon rise again – and the process would repeat itself.

After somehow managing to daven by heart, the fresh grape juice was poured into a glass from the kitchen, and then I made Kiddush for everyone. Someone shared the pistachios that he managed to “smuggle,” and so we even had Kiddush b’makom seudah. (Ideally, Kiddush should lead into a meal.)

The next morning, we discovered that the grape juice had begun to ferment. Meanwhile we had no food left, and our shrunken stomachs had to make do with “spiritual food.” One of the guys took out a small Chumash, and we spent the next three hours going over Parshat Va’etchanan, theparshat hashavua. Astonishingly, the parshah seemed to have been written just for us.

Moshe said, “Let me now cross over and see the good land this good mountain and the Lebanon And Hashem commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances so that you should do them in the land to whichyoucross there[Shamah] to possess And from there you will seek Hashem, your God, and you will find Him; if you search for Him with all your heart and with all your soul to drive out nations from before you; to bring you, to give you their land for an inheritance, as this very day” (Deut. 3:25-4:38).

We had just conquered Shamah – and there we were, sitting and seeking Hashem!

“Face to face, Hashem spoke with you at the mountain from amid the fire” (Deut. 5:4).

We certainly had seen plenty of fire and mountains, but what did Hashem say to us “face to face”?

The first three chapters of the parshah contain all sorts of relevant hints, but the next chapter, chapter 6, was even more eerily reminiscent of our current circumstances.

According to some opinions (Gittin 7b), the northern borders of Eretz Yisrael reach the location of the village of Kfar Ras El Baide – where we were to spend the next Shabbat (our second and final one). This is referred to today as Lebanon (in spite of the anarchy that prevails in its south). During biblical times, this area belonged to the tribe of Asher.

ROFEH International – Chesed With A Heart

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

When Dr. David Shashar of Ramat Gan was called out to serve in the Paratrooper reserves during the Second Lebanon War of 2006, his goal was to help heal wounded soldiers. He never thought that he would become one himself. When two Hizbullah anti-tank missiles hit the house he was staying in, killing nine soldiers, he was among the 30 to be seriously injured. Dr. Shashar was hospitalized for the next three months in an attempt to save his arm from amputation. He underwent numerous reconstruction operations over the next three years, a number of which were in Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. The Ministry of Defense referred him to ROFEH International – a comprehensive medical referral and bikur cholim service founded by the Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, zt”l.

 

             In addition to helping people find the best doctors in Boston, ROFEH offers over a dozen fully-equipped apartments for patients and families, daily home-cooked kosher meals, translation services, transportation, appointment assistance and more to over 600 Jews visiting Boston for medical treatments each year. Perhaps more impressive than the technical services they offer, however, is the warmth and personal support everyone receives at ROFEH.

 

 

ROFEH building at 1730 Beacon Street, Brookline, Mass

 

 

“Everyone at ROFEH was extremely helpful,” Dr. Shashar recalled. “The apartments were exactly what we needed – homey, warm, and big enough for the entire family. When you come from abroad during a difficult time, you want to feel like you have a home. It’s a huge mitzvah.” Today Dr. Shashar has regained much use of his arm and he is able to continue to practice medicine – thanks in part to the warmth and support he received at ROFEH. 

 

Built from the Bostoner Rebbe’s love of every Jew and his sincere desire to help them, the ROFEH organization was a trailblazer in the field of medical referral organizations in America. The Rebbe, zt”l, once remarked: “It’s the only place in the world where you have a dozen apartments available for visitors. They’re not only given a bedroom, but a community support system, including the shul, the davening, the Shabbos and the singing. It gives them a new life!”

 

 

Bostoner Rebbe, HaRav Naftali Yehuda Horowitz, shlita

 

 

Today, HaRav Naftali Y. Horowitz, shlita, has taken over the Bostoner kehillah in Boston directly in his father’s footsteps. “Bostoner Chassidus’ philosophy is intimately connected to chesed,” Rav Naftali explains. “What could be more spiritual than helping your fellow Jew – refuas ha’nefesh u’refuas ha’guf?  The Rebbe, zt”l, always felt that he was a shliach of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, who placed him here in Boston for a very good reason in order to help his fellow Jews. He viewed his work at ROFEH as one of his main missions in life.”

 

             Under the capable direction of the Rebbe, shlita, ROFEH has recruited a talented new executive director, Rabbi Nachum Leib Sacks, to help expand their operations in order to continue the Rebbe zt”l’s life’s work. ROFEH is currently designing a comprehensive program to provide regular transportation to and from hospitals, as well as entertainment and outlets for families and children who are often forced to spend long amounts of time away from home.

 

 

Rabbi Sacks, Executive Director of ROFEH International

with Dr. Fred Mandell of Children’s Hospital

 

 

             “Our mission is to create the most dignified and respectful manner to provide our patients with a home away from home while they are in Boston,” Rabbi Sacks said. “They don’t feel like they are in a foreign place, and that gives them the strength to go on during these trying times. The physical needs of the patients are benefited when they have their family’s support. At ROFEH, we are supplying the families with physical and emotional support to, in turn, help the patients.”

 

In commemoration of the upcoming first yahrzeit of the Rebbe, ROFEH’s annual dinner in November is devoted to the legacy that the Rebbe left behind. His legacy remains in the hearts of the countless baalei teshuvah he inspired throughout the years, in the two kehillos that he founded based on his philosophy of love for every Jew, and in ROFEH, an organization that redefines what chesed is all about. 

 

“The staff was so helpful, reliable, efficient, and organized in every way,” one mother from Israel recalled. “They work on such a personal level with so much care and concern.

 

Accommodations were perfect to a T – from the beautiful apartments down to the home-cooked meals and Havdalah kits . . . They really do it with a heart – it’s not just business as usual. I can’t begin to tell you how nourished and well cared for we feel. You should never need it but if you do, ROFEH is there for you.”

 

Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Y. Horowitz, zt”l

 

 

ROFEH International is carrying on the vital work of the Bostoner Rebbe, zt”l, to ensure that every Jew in need of medical assistance has a home away from home in Boston.

 

To reserve a seat at the upcoming ROFEH Legacy Dinner or to purchase an ad in their journal, please contact Rabbi Sacks at: ROFEH International: 1710 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA 02445-2124, phone: 617-566-1900, or e-mail: rofeh@rofehint.org.

Low-Level Victory

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

A week from Friday will mark the third anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the Second Lebanon War. And while the fortunes of war run to infinite varieties of the unexpected, there is one thing of which we can all be certain. Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah will appear, if he hasn’t already by the time this article is published, on a video screen from the secret bunker he is afraid to leave, and in between chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” he and his supporters will again proclaim glorious victory over the infidel Jews.

The mainstream media will probably play their part as well, parroting the claptrap Nasrallah peddles to his weary people – as Time magazine did during the Hamas War earlier this year when it ran a cover story titled “Why Israel Can’t Win,” warning of nothing less than the demise of the Jewish state.

(Time would be better served spending less energy worrying about Israel’s future and more worrying about its own as fewer and fewer people read weekly newsmagazines for information available instantly online.)

I digress. But before returning to the discussion of the Second Lebanon War, let’s start with a little background. There are three strategies for fighting low-level warfare: (I) regime change; (II) occupation; and (III) deterrence.

Regime change toppling a hostile regime and replacing it with a friendly one offers by far the best outcome. What could be better than turning an enemy into a friend? What could be better

than handing off the war on terror to allies that will fight it within their own borders?

The trouble, of course, is that regime change is also the hardest to accomplish. Israel tried it in Lebanon in 1982. Ariel Sharon destroyed Arafat’s “state within a state” and engineered the election of Bashir Gemayel, a local warlord he hoped would sign a peace treaty with Israel.

Say this for Sharon; he had the one thing America did not have in Iraq: a well-thought-out plan that had a real chance of success. America pinned its hopes on Ahmed Chalabi, a convicted felon who hadn’t lived in the country in decades (the members of his “militia” began looting the moment they set foot on Iraqi soil). Lebanon already had a constitution, was already nominally a democracy, and had elections planned for just three months after the invasion.

Get rid of the PLO, Sharon thought, and a friendly government waiting in the wings could immediately take its place.

Unfortunately, the plan worked better on paper than on the ground. In the end, the campaign was a disaster.

Whereas terrorism had resulted in the deaths of perhaps twenty Israelis per year on average, the First Lebanon War took the lives of more than six hundred. The war cost billions to fight – it brought the country to the verge of economic collapse – and inflicted irreparable damage to Israel’s image (no small thing for a nation that relies on arms manufactured overseas).

Now for the worst part: when it all ended, terrorism came back as if nothing had happened. Katyushas were fired on northern Israel before the war and Katyushas were fired after the war. Terrorists murdered Israeli civilians before the war and terrorists murdered them after the war. Lebanon descended into perfect anarchy, and of course Israel never got its peace treaty.

In our time, the U.S. hasn’t faired much better in its own nation-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. After thousands of lives lost and over a trillion dollars spent, there’s still no end in sight and no guarantee of a positive outcome.

Israel succeed at regime change? It’s not even clear a superpower can.

If you can’t install a friendly regime to fight terrorism, you can always stay and do it yourself. This is the tactic of occupation (“fight ‘em over there so we don’t have to fight ‘em over here”). Israel tried this in Lebanon too. And like regime change, it too ended in disaster.

Between 1993, when Hizbullah finally consolidated power in South Lebanon, and the middle of 2000, Israel took 239 killed in its self-described Security Zone in Lebanon. That works out to about thirty men per year. The economic cost of maintaining the Security Zone remains classified, but the figure certainly ran into hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Even worse, however, as with regime change, the Security Zone did absolutely nothing to prevent terrorism. Katyushas were fired before the establishment of the Security Zone, and Katyushas were fired after. The statistics don’t lie. After Israel withdrew behind the international border in June 2000, the number of Katyushas dropped to practically zero and the number of killed along the northern border fell to barely three per year, or about a tenth of those killed in the Security Zone.

Once again, the financial cost of maintaining the Security Zone is classified, but it’s safe to say the savings resulting from withdrawal were huge. It only takes a fraction of the men to guard the border, and there’s no longer a need to pay for an allied militia.

Why did the number of Hizbullah attacks fall so sharply after the withdrawal? That brings us to the third tactic deterrence. This one is real simple: every time you are attacked, you respond with an even greater attack. Once the price of terrorism becomes too high, the people who harbor the terrorists force them to stop.

There are real problems with deterrence, but let’s focus on the advantages first. Once you are no longer located inside hostile territory, your forces aren’t vulnerable to roadside bombs, snipers, suicide attacks, or most of the other things that cause casualties. It’s a lot harder for terrorists to orchestrate an attack on foreign soil than on their own.

Deterrence also means an enormous economic savings. No army to garrison far away and no enemy civilian population to care for.

Perhaps most important is the political benefit. If you’re reading this newspaper, the odds are you’re already familiar with the rank hypocrisy sometimes referred to as “international law” to which Israel is subjected. Nevertheless, experience has shown that even the international community will go only so far in this regard. Take away the occupation and you take away any conceivable justification for terrorism. And that makes it easier to fight back.

* * *

After Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were kidnapped in July 2006, a Hizbullah official told Lebanon’s prime minister not to worry; the Israelis would bomb for a few days and then the international community, including the U.S., would pressure them to stop. That’s what happened in 1993 and again in 1996.

But that’s not what happened in 2006. In 1993 and 1996, Israel was occupying Lebanese soil. In 2006 it wasn’t. Hizbullah attempted to justify its actions; the international community would have none of it.

The Second Lebanon War will long be remembered as the first Middle East war in which Israel was given a free hand to start when it wanted and an equally free hand to finish when it wanted. For 33 days it pounded Lebanon a nation the size of Connecticut with more bombs than it used in 1973 against Egypt and Syria combined. The damage ran into billions of dollars. Even today, much of Lebanon remains in ruins.

To be sure, northern Israel was bombed with Katyushas as well. But the vast majority of them landed harmlessly in open fields. The economy was barely affected Israel finished the year with better than five percent growth.

Sixty Israelis were killed. And though my heart breaks for every one of them, the only alternative was sending in the army in a huge ground campaign that would have taken the lives of hundreds of young soldiers. Instead, the IDF made what I believe was the sensible decision to let Hizbullah fire its rockets and focus instead on establishing deterrence. Once the goal is merely making the other side suffer for its folly, there’s really not much you can do on the ground that you can’t do from the air.

The outcome speaks for itself. Since the guns fell silent in August 2006, there has not been a single attack from Hizbullah. The Lebanon border has not been this quiet since 1968. Some offer the fact that Hizbullah has rearmed as proof it won the war. That’s like saying Egypt won the 1967 Six-Day War because it rearmed afterward. If a country is intent on rearming, it will do so. Sure, you can prevent it. But only with regime change. And that’s a losing proposition every time.

Indeed, we now know that Israel never planned a full-scale ground campaign to stop every last Katyusha. Even those who argued for a ground campaign were pushing for something much different from what took place in the First Lebanon War. In military parlance, they wanted to control South Lebanon but didn’t want to conquer it.

The difference? Conquering means fighting house to house. Controlling merely means taking the high ground and other strategic points so that troops in the field can help direct air fire and artillery. Experience has shown that this can reduce the number of rockets fired but can’t eliminate every last one.

Bottom line: even if Israel had launched the big ground campaign everyone talked about, the results probably wouldn’t have been all that much different. Either way Nasrallah would have declared victory.

And, contrary to popular misconception, Israel never set out to destroy Hizbullah. It knew that this was impossible. What it did set out to do was establish deterrence, evict Hizbullah from southern Lebanon and have it replaced by an international force.

All those goals were achieved. Even the beefed up multinational force has succeeded beyond the most optimistic predictions. No, the Europeans haven’t fought Hizbullah house to house. But they have forced Hizbullah away from the border, out of the open areas and into the villages. This means that if there is another war, Hizbullah will be forced to fire rockets from inside those villages rather than from bunkers hidden in the mountains.

The Israelis have made it clear that if Hizbullah fires from villages, they will return fire into those villages. In the cruel arithmetic of modern warfare, return fire plus villages equals rubble – lots of rubble. In short, Hizbullah can’t go to war without destroying the villages in which its supporters live. Now you know why it’s been so quiet in the Galil.

* * *

Everything that’s happened since the end of the war has only confirmed the extent of Israel’s victory. On February 12, 2008, Israel assassinated Hizbullah master terrorist Imad Mughniya. Before the war, the mere kidnapping of minor officials brought Katyushas raining down on northern Israel and synagogues blowing up in Argentina. This time? Not a peep.

Just before that, in September 2007, Israel destroyed Syria’s nuclear reactor. Hizbullah’s reaction? Nothing. During the Second Lebanon War, Nasrallah complained bitterly that his “Arab brothers” did nothing to help him. Nasrallah’s words were thrown right back at him last January as his Arab brothers in Hamas fought for their lives – and Hizbullah didn’t lift a finger.

For the first time in a generation, all is quiet on the northern front. The peace and quiet Israel never achieved with regime change and occupation has been rigidly enforced with deterrence.

So why, one might ask, did Israelis react so negatively to the results of the Second Lebanon War? Why did the Winograd Commission call it a “failure”? Why were so many senior army officers forced to resign?

Because in Israel’s bizarre culture of self-flagellation, any war that doesn’t end in six days with the Temple Mount in our hands is viewed as a defeat. The limits of space prevent us from delving too deeply into this truly strange phenomenon, but suffice it to say that a nation that can spin the Yom Kippur War into a loss can spin anything into a defeat.

The distinguished commentator Amnon Abromovich probably put it best when he said recently that “Nasrallah knew that he’d lost, but then we convinced him that he’d won.”

Which is not to say that deterrence is perfect. True deterrence takes years to establish, at least if you’re Israel. The terrorists have an enormous amount of motivation, they glorify death, and the international community will reflexively pressure Israel to stop any operation prematurely. Put another way, Israel can’t go to all-out war every time a rocket flies over the border – not unless it wants to see itself slapped with trade sanctions.

Nevertheless, it bears repeating: there are limits. Time and experience have shown that even the international community can be shamed into letting Israel defend itself so long as the terrorists and their intellectual allies cannot brand Israel an occupier.

Yes, fringe bloviaters like Jimmy Carter will always condemn Israel – during the Hamas War last January, Bill Moyers used his show on publicly funded PBS (your tax dollars at work) to accuse Israel of “doing exactly what terrorists do.” Nevertheless, the fact remains that the international community was basically silent while Israel spent 33 days flattening much of Lebanon. And that is why Hassan Nasrallah will think two and three times before he starts another war.

Sadly, this strategy means that every 5-7 years Israel will have to fight one of these short border exchanges. This is the other big problem with deterrence: it only works so long, and then the terrorists test the waters again. Nevertheless, an air campaign every 5-7 years still costs a fraction of a large long-term ground campaign. And it yields the best result: a few more years of quiet.

Unfortunately, in the ongoing battle against low-level warfare, there is no final victory. There is only low-level victory. A perfect solution it is not. The only thing it’s better than is everything else.

Uri Kaufman is writing a history of the Second Lebanon War.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page//2009/08/05/

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