Reprinted from "HA'ARETZ", November 27, 2000

Analysis / Same Old Thing,
Minus Katyushas

By Amir Oren

The supporters of the unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon sought to replace the security zone and the South Lebanon Army with a wall of warnings issued by Prime Minister Ehud Barak. So thunderous and mighty were the words of warning issued by Israel and so pathetic was the Hezbollah's justification for continuing the war after the withdrawal of the last Israeli soldier from Lebanon, that it seemed that peace and quiet were guaranteed for the Galilee. If not, the Israel Air Force promised to deliver a "message via air mail" to the right "addresses," be they the Lebanese government, Syria and/or the United Nations.

Like many of Barak's other warnings, these soon proved to be devoid of substance. If Barak implements his threats now, as Hezbollah seems to be taunting him to do, he is chancing the landing of Katyushas on the Galilee, and perhaps even a conflict on the Syrian front. If he does not, the initiative will remain with the Hezbollah which will continue trying to bloody the Israel Defense Forces.

Yesterday's bombing in Har Dov is yet another high point in the Hezbollah's series of provocations. The radical Shi'ite organization is, in fact, telling Israel that the IDF is unable to prevent the attacks, even when Hezbollah announces the area and the timing of its next attack. Concentrating on Har Dov was not - although it could still be - an attempt to divert attention from the real frontline. It reflects the helplessness of the United Nations, which has so far only managed to paint over the border area in blue instead of purple.

International recognition of Israel's unilateral compliance with Security Council resolution did not thwart the guerrillas who planted the lethal bomb, as it could not thwart previous attacks, including the kidnapping of three combat engineers a week after the outbreak of violence in the territories in late September. During the 30 minutes it took to inform the troops of the trio's kidnapping, one could nearly reach the Beirut suburbs and hide there forever. Fifty days after the kidnapping, there is still no authorized information on the fate of the three soldiers (the case of a fourth kidnap victim, Elhanan Tanenbaum, is being dealt by the Foreign Ministry).

The IDF forces, deployed along the border since the summer, expected to be withdrawn for rest, training and operations in the territories. They will now remain there, so that the experience garnered over the months will not be wasted in case of further escalation.

Colonel Aharon, commander of the paratroops in the area, said that "the only difference from still being in the security zone is that [the Hezbollah] is not firing Katyushas on us."

The Hezbollah made do with a roadside bomb yesterday. The attack was not accompanied by shooting, but the IDF responded with firing at "the sources of the shooting," positions which were set ahead of time.

No one in headquarters deludes himself that a response will be of any use. All are certain that the next escalation will result in some form of response along the Hezbollah chain of command, and on to the Syrian and Iranian interests in Lebanon.

A veteran general commented last week that it is better to strike the sources of power rather than the sources of the shooting. Barak is still not authorizing such an attack, perhaps in an effort to gain another week, another month. However, Barak does not have control over Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah or over Syrian President Bashar Assad, or over the winter which will disrupt air force operations in the north.

(c) 2000 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved

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