Nahum Barnea/Revenge for Quneitra strike isn’t over yet


Revenge for Quneitra strike isn’t over yet
Nahum Barnea/Ynetnews/Published: 01.29.15

Revenge for Quneitra strike isn’t over yet
Analysis: After Hezbollah’s attack Wednesday, the IDF hoped that a chapter had ended: We did our thing, they exacted their revenge. As far as Hezbollah is concerned, that may be true. But whoever thinks Iran will settle for that is living in a dream world. When Hezbollah fires into our territory, when fighters are killed and wounded, when Israel’s power of deterrence is put to the test, it is our duty to obey immediately and stand as one behind the Israeli government’s policy.

If it actually had a policy.
Bad things have been happening to the State of Israel in the past few days. They are not all necessarily related to each other, but they are all no good. There was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fraudulent invitation to address the Congress in Washington, an invitation which came back at us like a boomerang, as part of the worst rift in years between the Israeli prime minister and the United States president; there was the attack on a Tel Aviv bus, part of a string of spontaneous attacks which signal that the Palestinians in the West Bank are approaching a boiling point; there was the assassination of the Iranian general and three senior Hezbollah members in the Syrian Golan last week – an assassination which everyone in the world, led by Iran and Hezbollah, attributes to Israel.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles which hit two IDF vehicles travelling on a road near Ghajar, a village in the northwestern edge of the Golan, on the Lebanon border. “Whoever is behind today’s attack will pay the full price,” the prime minister declared. In practice, Israel did whatever it could to contain the incident.  IDF officers who arrived for an evaluation of the situation at the prime minister’s bureau in Tel Aviv, remembered very well how last summer’s war developed. The Israeli government didn’t want a war; Hamas didn’t want a war. Nonetheless, we rolled into it frantically just because both sides were concerned that they were not deterring the other side sufficiently.

One of the sources described the relationship between the IDF and Hezbollah using terms from the driving field. Both sides, he said, only want to rub against each other, wing touching wing, steel touching steel. They have no guarantee that it will not end in a collision.

Almost everyone who gathered at the prime minister’s bureau on Wednesday assumed that the only thing hiding behind Netanyahu threat was rhetoric. He doesn’t really want to get entangled in a war in the north right now. No one does, not even Naftali Bennett, who suddenly went silent – no sound and no WhatsApp. And neither does Avigdor Lieberman, who called for a major military operation in Lebanon but knew that no one would take his call seriously.

The politicians from the central stream rushed to fall into line: No one wants to appear unpatriotic at a time of security tensions. They read diligently from the message box prepared by the party’s PR agents, and didn’t believe a word coming out of their mouths. This applies to Knesset Member Omer Bar-Lev of the Zionist Camp, who expressed his support for the prime minister, as well as to MK Ze’ev Elkin of the Likud, who called for restraint but promised revenge. The election period is not their finest hour.

The message which came out of the Prime Minister’s Office, and was immediately adopted by every politician and commentator, was as follows: Iran instructed Hezbollah to capture the area along the Israel border, from Mount Dov to the rebel lines in the Quneitra area. Israel must not let that happen. It will carry out all the necessary military actions in order to prevent it. Netanyahu himself alluded to that in his statement Wednesday evening.

And my question is: Why? Let’s assume that Iran did order Hezbollah to extend its deployment to the northern Golan Heights; let’s assume that Hezbollah is planning to do that. Is that such a bad thing? Would Israel rather sit in the Golan Heights and face forces of the Islamic State or Jabhat al-Nusra, another crazy organization affiliated with al-Qaeda? We are already facing such organizations today, from Quneitra southward, and I haven’t heard that Israel launched a war against them.

Why do we continue living in Kibbutz Hanita and in Metula, in Kibbutz Misgav Am and in Moshav Dovev, in Kiryat Shmona and in Shlomi, where we are facing Hebzollah, and cannot face them in Merom Golan?

And another question, if I may: Why was the Iranian general killed? Why was he killed in an almost public operation? What did whoever ordered this operation prevent, who did he deter and who did he scare, apart from hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens living on the northern border? There may be good answers to these questions, but as there is no one responsible for that operation, there is no one to get them from.

After Hezbollah’s attack on Wednesday, the IDF hoped that a chapter had ended: We did our thing, they exacted their revenge. The Mount Hermon resort can reopen for skiing, and we can go back to routine life.  As far as Hezbollah is concerned, that may be true: We have long and complicated scores with them. Sometimes all it takes is an illusion of success to calm one of the sides down and fake mutual deterrence.

But if anyone thinks that Iran will settle for that, he is living in a dream world. The Iranians’ arm is long. Their memory is even longer. And whoever thinks that the world will be shocked by the death of two Givati fighters, on occupied territory, somewhere on the border between Israel, Syria and Lebanon, will accuse Iran and step up the sanctions against it, is living in Disneyland.

All this takes us back to the series of bad things that are happening here. If Netanyahu wants the American administration’s help in solving the problem with Hezbollah, I doubt he’ll get it. The telephones in Washington are not answering. All that is left for him is to hope for a responsible adult in Tehran, or in the bunker in Beirut’s Dahiya Quarter.