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A War in the Summer?
Orit Shohat
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Sunday, April 22, 2007
The talk about a sizable war this summer already started in the midst of the war last summer (there were those who called it a promo and thanked Hezbollah for having revealed its weaknesses in ample time). A "sizable war" is a code name for a war that includes Syria. The outgoing chief of staff estimated in November that there would be a war with Syria this summer, and in a series of general-staff discussions he held, there was talk of "a working assessment" that dictated exercises in anticipation of a war this summer.

Now the summer is almost upon us. Was this an assessment or a self-fulfilling prophecy? When the Syrian president says that if there is no peace there will be a war, he is responding to incessant mumbling from our side. This is where the dynamics of another war start. In a situation as explosive as that in the Middle East, the sparks can be ignited even when no one really wants that to happen.

Too many people sit in too many rooms with war maps rather than maps with peace arrangements. There are new plans with new code names. There are colorful computer presentations, and in place of every division commander who has lost face, there is another glowing radiantly for the moment with an updated military doctrine that will provide "the answer," as they say in the army, to problems revealed in the previous war. Instead of a chief of staff who relies only on the air force, we now have a chief of staff from the Golani Brigade. It can be assumed that he is fervently training regular and reserve forces for the next round after reading all the debriefings and learning the necessary lessons.

But the main lesson, after all, has yet to be learned. To this day, the decision makers believe that last summer's war was inevitable and was merely conducted without talent. Just a few corrections, and we can go on our way again. That is why, when the prime minister asks the new chief of staff if the Israel Defense Forces can beat the Syrians, he will apparently respond in the affirmative. A chief of staff is a chief of staff, after all. But at a meeting of military-academy graduates held last week, Major General (res.) Uri Saguy said that this result is dubious. There will no longer be a classic defeat. Israel's security concept, which is based mostly on deterrence, warning and defeat, is no longer relevant. After a war with Syria, this summer or another, the strategic reality will not change; therefore, it is possible to skip the war and move straight on to the agreements.

One can assume that in the next war, the IDF will already know how to capture Hezbollah's "nature reserves" and find those responsible for firing the Katyushas. But in the next war, we will face a mass of rockets and long-range missiles, some of which, perhaps, with chemical warheads that the Syrians will fire, not necessarily from Bint Jbeil. The home front will remain the same home front. Perhaps it will be weaker, because the civilians have also learned their lessons and know the only thing the state has to offer is firemen with hoses. Perhaps this time they will provide protection for Safed's hospital. But that belongs to the last war. Now the hospitals in Tel Aviv are on the front line.

Whoever speaks about the necessity of preparing the home front for the next war is planting false hopes. It is impossible to protect the home front, not in half a year and perhaps not at all. The only really effective protection for the home front is a political arrangement. When Ehud Olmert goes to bed at night, does he think about how to prevent the next war or how to rehabilitate his lost pride ("the deterrence") and that of the IDF? If he is afraid of being remembered as the one responsible for a defective war, perhaps he indeed is planning the "campaign for bringing back pride." But if he internalized something else last summer, for example, how a modern war looks when the home front is exposed, perhaps he will think twice before agreeing to bomb an air field of a neighboring country. Perhaps he has understood that modern war equipment does not put the home front at a greater distance, and that America's strength also stems from the fact that its home front is very far from any front.

Something very, very strange has been happening since last summer. Several months have elapsed since the last war, and it appears that it did not end, but rather just stopped for a minute. We will merely read the Winograd Committee's report and then continue. Meanwhile, rumblings are being heard, from Pakistan to Syria and Saudi Arabia, about the possibility of political arrangements. But we are still talking about Gal Hirsch and Udi Adam, and about who is more guilty for not implementing the ground forces invasion plan.
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§ Links:
bullet Ha’aretz
bullet Other articles by Orit Shohat:
bullet "Remember Falluja" - 28 April 2004
bullet "Barbarians at the Gate" - P h o t o  A l b u m
bullet "Bint Jbeil: Lest We Forget" - P h o t o   A l b u m