In the middle of the 60's Moshe Dayan, the man and the legend, flew to Vietnam to cover the war. On ending his visit to the war trenches, the former chief-of-staff was summoned for a talk with the commanding officer of the American forces, General William Westmoreland. "Nu," his host urged him, "what were your impressions from there?" "You have already lost this war," Dayan said, "but you don't know it yet…"
"Over what and why?" responded General Westmoreland. His guest fixed his one eye on him and said: "The Vietcong has gone underground, and you are flying at an altitude of 37,000 feet. From such an altitude you can't see the trenches, tunnels and sewers where they are hiding out." The Americans, as we know, lost the war.
Similar assumptions shouldn't be applied to our situation at this stage of the war against the Hizbullah. This story relayed to me by Gad Yaacobi, however, should be told at the beginning of the military inquest the day after the war.
The fourth week of the war is likely to be critical for the future of Israel in the coming years. So much so, that the efforts to reach a ceasefire are accelerating, and the sand in the military hourglass is running out. Another two or three days, then what? A victory campaign? An endless trauma? Will Iran set its borders (God forbid, its military as well) next to Rosh Hanikra, at the gates of Metullah? Will Hizbullah cease to exist?
While these words were being written Saturday night, visions of the end of the war were still fuzzy. Some people, such as Major General Giora Eilland, believe that the army is fighting in the wrong place: that the infantry is carrying out its offensive 8-7 kilometers from the border, that the air force is spitting fire far into Lebanese territory and into Beirut, and that the Katyusha rockets are being fired from exactly this range, where no offensive is taking place.
Katyusha rockets are being fired into Israel 10 kilometer from the border. We are, therefore, likely to face two difficult and perhaps unbearable scenarios:
On the one hand, in the event that there is no ceasefire and the IDF reaches the waters of the Litani River, but the Katyusha rockets continue to be fired at the Galil and Haifa from a point beyond the Litani, the army will not go that far, sparking off a war of attrition: Here a Katyusha, there a Katyusha, the situation will be frozen, time will freeze, and the world will become apathetic. Let them kill each other over there. After all, it's only Jews killing Arabs and vise versa.
On the other hand, if there is a ceasefire, it will take a long time until an effective multi-national force with a clear mandate is assembled. The Hizbullah will most likely demand that the IDF first redeploy to its borders. The IDF, and rightfully so, will not accede to redeploy its forces before the multi-national force takes control of the south of Lebanon.
In this situation, the IDF will remain put. Where? In the security zone it left six years ago. And now as then, every two or three days a roadside bomb will go off, Hizbulla ambushes will be set up and soldiers will fall. We shall do everything in our power to prevent violating the ceasefire, and if a decision is made to respond after all, the Katyushas will be back.
The situation, to say the least, is highly complex. Perhaps, the solution lies in creating a single American address that would exert international pressure on the Lebanese government. Perhaps, then this bruised and battered government will bring the salvation.