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THE CRISIS TODAY - An Insider's Briefing (Thursday, August 10, 2006)

Israeli Security Expert Yossi Alpher offers a daily briefing during the elevated crisis in Israel...

Today's Briefing - Thursday, August 10

"Hezbollah between Washington and Jerusalem" by Yossi Alpher

The Israeli Cabinet decision yesterday to push the invasion of Lebanon further north, up to and even beyond the Litani River, left the timing of the operation to the discretion of PM Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz. The idea is to use the threat of Israeli escalation on the ground as leverage to assist the United States in negotiating an acceptable ceasefire resolution at the UN Security Council, and to launch the new offensive only if the US fails.

Many of the ministers who voted yes in the Cabinet would indeed prefer an immediate ceasefire on advantageous terms to a major offensive--even one that causes additional critical damage to Hezbollah. They fear the heavy Israeli losses this would entail. And they particularly fear expanding an occupation of South Lebanon from which Israel may not be able to extract itself without bringing Hezbollah back to our border. This could happen because the Lebanese government proves too weak, the Lebanese Army too fragile, Hezbollah and the Iranian/Syrian bloc that supports it too powerful, and the international community too hesitant to jeopardize its soldiers.

Here the question arises: would Israel and the US be satisfied with the same resolution? There is evidence that Israel, now in its fifth week of war, with human and economic losses piling up, might be prepared to make compromises that the US objects to and that don't even correspond with UN Security Council Resolution 1559--for example, leaving Hezbollah armed as long as it is positioned far from the Lebanon-Israel border, even though this would negatively affect efforts to truly democratize Lebanon and cleanse it of Syrian influence (Secretary of State Rice's "birth pains of a New Middle East"). There are also growing calls in Israel to accept Syrian President Bashar Assad's appeal to renew bilateral negotiations in the hope that some old-fashioned Byzantine horse-trading might reduce Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas, distance it from Iran and help stabilize Lebanon. Washington, in contrast, views Syria as "old Middle East" and frowns upon renewed Israeli contacts with it.

Indications that the neo-con hard core in Washington is uneasy about PM Olmert's possible readiness to compromise are proliferating. Particularly prominent was the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer on August 4: "The United States has... counted on Israel's ability to do the job. It has been disappointed... Israel's leaders do not seem to understand how ruinous a military failure in Lebanon would be to its relationship with America... [which] finds itself at war with radical Islam, a two-churched monster... The tremulous Olmert seems not to have a clue."

Political scientist Henri Barkey, formerly of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, explains in today's that "what would satisfy Israel may fall short of Washington's greater strategic goals". One of those goals is to defeat the "Hezbollah model" lest it be copied in places like Sri Lanka, Iraq and Colombia. The other is "because of Iran's patronage."

Israeli strategic thinkers are fully aware of the long-term dangers of ending this war in a manner that could be interpreted as an achievement for Iran, Hezbollah and/or militant Islam in general. But Israel's leaders have to factor in heavy (and perfectly legitimate) local political considerations as well. Add to this their thin experience in national security decision-making and strategic coordination with the US, and the final outcome may be considerably less than ideal in terms of Israeli-American relations.

The Crisis Today-An Insider's Briefing is a new daily, internet publication of Americans for Peace Now. A new edition of The Crisis Today will be posted Tuesday through Friday morning by 9:00 a.m. for as long as the current crisis continues.

The Crisis Today is written by Yossi Alpher, whose views do not necessarily reflect those of Americans for Peace Now or Peace Now.

Link to APN's Crisis Resource Page

Links to previous Briefings:

August 9, 2006
August 8, 2006
August 7, 2006
August 4, 2006
August 3, 2006
August 2, 2006
August 1, 2006
July 31, 2006
July 28, 2006
July 27, 2006
July 26, 2006
July 25, 2006
July 24, 2006
July 21, 2006
July 20, 2006
July 19, 2006
July 18, 2006