if I were a relative of any of the 24 Israeli soldiers killed today in Lebanon, or a relative of any Lebanese civilian killed today, I would have some very sharp and hostile questions for whoever decided to continue the ground offensive through 8 am Monday.
Both Lebanon and Israel have agreed to this cease-fire. So has Hizbullah, sort of: Nasrallah is agreeing with “reservations”. What, exactly, does advancing the Israeli troop lines to the Litani River do for Israel’s military or political position?
One possibility is that Israel believes that the cease-fire will not hold. This certainly is logical. UN Security Council Resolution 1701 states that Israeli troops should withdraw “in parallel” with the deployment of the Lebanese Army and the “enhanced” UNIFIL. One can imagine the scene when a Lebanese brigade, with either virtually no weaponry or a lot of soldiers who look suspiciously like Hizbullah fighters, shows up at Israeli positions, with a bunch of, say Norwegian troops.
LEBANESE COMMANDER: We’re here. You can go home now.
IDF COMMANDER: Are you crazy? You’re not ready for this; you’ve got no serious weaponry, and pardon me if I’m not fully trusting of a Norwegian force.
LEBANESE COMMANDER: You’re violating the cease-fire.
Or maybe it’s just some Israeli corporal who thinks that he sees something; or maybe a Hizbullah fighter who can’t resist the temptation to do his part in ridding the world of Jews, etc. etc.
If this is the case, then Israel would want to hold onto territory in the expectation of the cease-fire not holding. But if so, why sign it to begin with?
Maybe the psychological impact of reaching the Litani is necessary because then Israel can say the operation was a success. One can make a good argument that Israel did achieve a lot in this war, but something so patently symbolic is absurd.
And something so patently symbolic as an excuse for losing dozens of soldiers’ and civilians’ lives is close to criminal.
I reluctantly supported the Israeli decision to retaliate as it did because the choices facing the Cabinet were hard ones. The choice to continue today does not seem to be one.