Israel has a new Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who was never a general or a senior officer in the IDF. It also has a new Defense Minister in Amir Peretz, another man who has little senior or overall military experience. Both men were officers in the IDF, but of course, this bears little relationship to the type of senior level military experience brought to their PM roles by Sharon, Rabin, Barak, and even Netanyahu who served in the Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s most important commando force.

Israel also has a new Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, who for the first time in Israel’s history comes from the air force and not from infantry.

In recent weeks, Israel has suffered two significant setbacks as the IDF has watched attacks from Hamas and Hizbullah, respectively, overwhelm small IDF forces with quick surprise assaults. In both cases, soldiers died, three today at the Lebanon border by Hizbullah’s hands and two in the hands of Hamas at Kerem Shalom outside the Gaza border.

It has been clear for a while that both Hizbullah and Hamas receive funding, support and guidance from both Syria and Iran. However, the groups shilling for them represent the greater immediate danger and Israel is now launching an offensive intended to attack these two groups. While there are now three kidnapped soldiers held by these terrorist groups, it is becoming apparent that Israel believes they will be kept alive because of their importance for prisoner exchanges, even as Israel attacks their captor groups.

And Israel is now on the attack. While they have been gentle in their attack on Gaza, their attack on Lebanon will be far harsher. In both cases, we are seeing a response to ongoing smaller attacks by these groups finally tackled in large operations by the IDF. I believe something else we are seeing is Israeli leaders responding to what seems to be more than just attacks by these enemies. The men leading Israel are being tested by Iran, Syria and their vassal groups, Hamas and Hizbullah. Their response will shape future attacks and strategies against Israel.

In this regard, it is important that Israel hit back hard and fast. Very hard and very fast. It should also do so as aggressively as it can. I opposed going into Gaza in the first place, believing it’s much harder to leave than it is to go in, but at this point the Arab strategy against Israel is becoming much clearer and there is no room for softness on the part of Israel. This is about deterrence, the perception of Israel’s fighting strength and ability, and flexing muscles that show to anybody seeking signs of vulnerability that – new leaders or not – Israel remains formidable and strong. Any signs of capitulation or weakness will be seen as vulnerability and an invitation to broader wars against Israel.

Let’s also make no mistake about these two attacks. In 2000, Israel vacated every last inch of Lebanon without any quid pro quo. In 2005, it vacated every last inch of Gaza. Both areas have governments in place, security forces, and non-governmental or quasi-governmental fighting forces and terrorist groups. By attacking Israel, these two governments have now forfeited any right to complain about the war they and their populations will encounter.

Along those lines, today a leader of the Al Aqsa Brigades – a Fatah off-shoot that is therefore related to both Fatah and Mahmud Abbas – announced they now have rocket firing capability in the West Bank. They are developing their own Qassem rockets and also smuggling them from Gaza. They intend to target Israeli towns and cities with these rockets.

Two things come from this story. The first is that Israel should permanently seal Gaza’s East side so that no vehicles or people from Gaza can enter Israel. In this way, the smuggling will be severely limited and maybe stopped completely. The second is that is’s time perhaps to listen to something Alan Dershowitz proposed a few years back. He suggested that Israel’s government should provide announcements that any time it is attacked by Palestinians, a Palestinian village in the West Bank or Gaza will be destroyed and then left barren. As I understand it, the clear and unequivocal advance warning prevents such action from violating international law (I would be glad to hear whether this is so or not from a knowledgeable source).

There is no room for any more rocket attacks or forgiveness for such attacks. These rockets are clear and unequivocal acts of war and there is no reason Israel should be held hostage to such attacks. If the Palestinians launch such attacks, the price exacted from the Palestinians should be very high. Start with the villages around Jerusalem and move Eastward. Provide ample time for the residents to leave the village and simply raze it subsequently. If there wasn’t direct and indirect Palestinian government support for these rocket attacks, they would not take place at all. I would think that after a couple of destroyed villages left barren forever, the rockets will stop coming. Same goes for Lebanon. If the Lebanese government is unwilling to control Hizbullah, then Israel should push them back as far from the border as possible. Removing villages would do that effectively and rapidly.

Of course, the best solution would be for Israel to figure out a technology that tracks and destroys these rockets, but until that day comes, the gloves should be off. It is incredible that after leaving this country and this territory Israel finds itself under attack, but if this is what the enemy wants, then it is time to fight back.

Something else to be considered is that Iran and Syria have now succeeded in changing the subject. Whereas only a few weeks ago, they were both in deep trouble internationally, Syria for its apparent assassination of former Lebanese PM Hariri and Iran for its nuclear program, they are now off the news and possibly off the list of primary concerns for the Europeans and America. This is precisely why Israel should make these operations move quickly and then leave both Gaza and Lebanon immediately thereafter. Israel should also be very watchful of the Syrians. In 1973 they successfully surprised Israel and some key forces, especially in the Hermon and Golan Heights. Syria should be left alone so as not to open another front, but warned sternly about repercussions if they do dare to act.

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  • I hear the architecture in Beirut is beautiful (well, whats still standing), maybe some battaltions would like to check it out and let us know…

  • I have serious problems with the Dershowitz/The Middle plan. But leave Syria alone? TM? You have gone so far with this proposal as to put in doubt your middle status, so why take off the gloves with the bastards in Syria?

    Assad is a sick bastard, educated in the West, and the whore of Iran. According to the theory that you have laid out Damascus and Beirut should be the FIRST places attacked. The sad villagers in the West Bank are victims of the Thugocrats and Islamofacsists. As much as I would like to see Israel free from any problems, what makes you think that the Arab populations of Israel will not go into full-scale revolt at the first expulsion of Palestinians from the W Bank?

    I think that we need to cut off the head of the serpent— Damascus, Beirut, and Iran are directly responsible for this war, and if America doesn’t do something we better.

    March Jewish soldiers onto the Damascus and see how the the regime crumbles.

  • Your talk of flattening entire villages, with or without warning, takes you to a place that is very far from “the middle”. I agree that the Palestinians and Lebanese should be punished for their crimes, but punishing the masses does very little to affect the terrorists. Even the IDF concluded this was the case regarding demolishing the houses of suicide bombers. Better that they should assassinate the leadership, who are the true criminals. Kill Meshal, Nasrallah, and any leadership that has blood on their hands. Keep ethical standards high, lease we Jews sink to the same level as our enemies and kill without discrimination. But don’t talk of destroying entire villages. We know how that feels, since it has happened to us.

  • Yes, Solomyr, I admit that TheMiddle is proposing an extreme measure that has nothing to do with the middle. I am the same person who two weeks ago advocated staying out of Gaza altogether, and the same person who advocated trading prisoners for Shalit.

    I think the Qassem attacks crossed a red line long ago, but their impact was upon a small town, it was certainly not an existential threat.

    However, we are now entering a phase where if Al Aqsa Brigades is speaking the truth, Israel’s key population centers and airport will be at risk. This, in turn, will impact Israel’s population, security, commerce and tourism. Now that would come much closer to an existential threat for Israel and must be prevented by all means.

    I am also posting this after we have been attacked from Lebanon by a military force that used villages to hide its militants from the IDF as part of its guerilla tactics.

    I am not suddenly coming to say something this harsh. We are watching events unfold after Israel vacated Gaza voluntarily and after it has elected a government running on the platform of removing tens of thousands of settlers and dozens of settlements from the West Bank to move, without any compensation, to what would essentially be Camp David lines.

    These attacks are happening after the Palestinians elected a terror group for their government, which apparently acts in concert with Syrian government strategy. After the best document they can come up with (Prisoners Document) offers nothing to Israel except for more war and a two-Palestinian-state solution. After watching a chaos come out of Gaza and the West Bank that suggests there is only hate for Israel and its sought-after destruction unifying Palestinian groups today. After watching Israeli soldiers die or kidnapped without any respect for rules governing POWs simply because it suits some organization’s or country’s political purposes. After the groups surrounding Israel seem to have come to a conclusion that they have found an achilles heel and can harm Israel significantly with these rockets and attacks.

    Villages are important to this war. They represent land and control of the land. They enabled Hizbullah to fight Israel and Gazan groups to launch rockets without concern about the Israeli response because of their preference not to harm Palestinian civilians.

    Israel needs its deterrent power to survive. The other day we discussed red lines and a commenter poked fun at me because, as he claimed, red lines keep shifting. I agreed, but I disagreed with his aggressive posture. Since then, we have learned that Syria and Iran are manipulating Hamas and now today we have seen Hizbullah enter the fray while the West Bank Al Aqsa presents a new challenge in the form of rockets targeting key Israeli population centers.

    Well, going by the I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it red line, we’re about to cross it. Since Israel cannot stop the Qassems, a West Bank Qassem threat becomes a significant strategic liability. One jetliner hit at the airport will have a significant detrimental effect on Israel. This must not be allowed to happen. At some point it is time to choose between their civilians and Israel’s civilians. I don’t propose taking anybody’s life, but I think Dershowitz was right that the risk of losing a village will make the attackers consider whether they are helping their cause or harming their people and themselves. This might finally deter them from seeking to destroy Israel. If it doesn’t, then the removal of nearby villages will at least force them to launch from greater distances, hopefully saving Israeli lives.

    This is a new war, but unlike the previous wars, there is no identifiable enemy army. Those fighting are well organized and financed but use shadows and deceit to hide, and fight by using a civilian population as their shield. How do you fight this, and how do you do it before they cause Israel serious harm?

  • R. Yonah, I don’t want war with Syria for a number of reasons. One, I don’t want another Islamist government there. Our experience in Iraq is showing that removing a crazed secular nationalist Arab ruler can open a can of worms and lead to a potential theocracy. I’d rather have a weak Assad than a Nasrallah type running that government. Two, why open another front? Three, why open another front with a country that might be able to involve other Arab countries in the fighting? If Israel shows weakness or has its forces spread too thin, will Egypt consider attacking?

    I am not telling anyone to expel anybody from the West Bank. The village members will simply move deeper into it. I also believe that after the first village – if they would dare to chance it – the Palestinians launching the rockets will stop. My hope here is to stop the fighting, not to prolong it. I am looking for a serious and truly deterring solution because I think a rocket launched at Ben Gurion airport and hitting a jet would be the equivalent of a WMD attack on Israel.

    If Israeli Arabs revolt over this issue, then that’s too bad. As long as they do so peacefully, hopefully Israel will let them have their say and refrain from letting policemen with itchy trigger fingers nearby. If they do it violently, they will go to jail.

    Again, this is intended to create a deterrent and balance of power against a shadowy enemy that feels little compunction or concern about the things that concern us in terms of humanity. But they value the land greatly and this will threaten the land.

  • Rabbi, be careful what you wish for. Middle’s right about Syria. Who’s going to replace Assad? As odious as he is, the aftermath of his ouster could be worse (see Iraq).

    If Israel treats Lebanon with appropriate severity (does Beirut still have a functioning power grid?), perhaps Assad will be persuaded to pull the reins on his terrorist friends.

  • Assad will not pull on any reigns until you blow his airfields, barracks and parliament to bits.

  • To try and qualify 7, 8, and 9, what you’re trying to say is that the devil we know (Assad) is better than the one we don’t. And Middle, I love your MySpace Page.

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