All Israelis had good reasons to support the recent war in Lebanon, as well as in Gaza. All had good reason to regret it didn't end in victory. This is the obvious part. It is the self evident interest of all those who wish to see a peaceful Middle East to prevent Iran, Syria and fundamentalist Islam in general from achieving hegemony in the region.
But the left and center – together they're the majority in Israel – had specific reasons to be especially supportive of the war. Because it was a war about what the left and center most cherished: Israel's need to end the occupation. Most Israelis now believe, rightly, that without partition Israel's future existence is dubious. Hezbollah and Hamas attacked Israel's ability to extract itself from the occupation. And, for the time being, they have succeeded.
Many were outraged by Ehud Olmert's declaration, in the middle of the war, that this war was about his convergence plan. It may not have been pragmatic to say so, but it was nevertheless true. Had Israel won, had it been able to subdue the threat of missiles, we would have been on the way to implementing the unilateral withdrawal called "convergence."
Israelis aren't used to thinking about their enemies in this way, but this time around radical Muslims were not fighting against the occupation, they were fighting to perpetuate it. Remember the sequence: Israel signed the Oslo Accord in September of 1993 because most Israelis came to believe that the occupation endangers the country's future. Arafat blew the deal of partition.
Israelis concluded there was no way to end the occupation with an agreement, so they moved for ending it, all the same, without one. That is how the concept of unilateral withdrawal came about. Now radical Muslims have found a way to prevent this kind of move toward partition too. In both places where Israel unilaterally withdrew, they began harassing it with rockets, and forced it to invade the very areas it retreated from.
Misunderstood Palestinian intentions
Both left and right, it seems, misunderstood Palestinian intentions, and this recent round of violence is a grim reminder to that. The left believed the Palestinians opted for partition and peace, and were willing to give up the dream of a Greater Palestine, a Palestine "liberated" of all Jewish presence. This turned out not to be ture.
The right believed the Palestinians will have never given up on the dream of "liberating" Palestine. This turned out to be true. But the right misunderstood the tactic. Right wing hawks believed in the Salami Theory: let them have a small state in the West Bank and Gaza, and they will use it to fight for the rest. This assessment turned out to wrong.
The radicals on the Palestinian believe, as did Israel's left for many years, that the occupation would endanger Israel's very existence. It would isolate it internationally, split it internally, expose it to terror, unite Arabs against it, and finally it will collapse the Jewish state into an Arab majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. On these (correct) assumptions, they have been acting consistently to prevent partition. Partition would rob them of their most effective means against Israel.
Arafat did understand
Arafat understood this well, and he blew the deal offered by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Camp David and Taba in 2000. Hamas and Hezbollah understood it long before Arafat, and moved to intercept the peace process and prevent partition from the early 1990s.
They saw the 1991 Madrid Conference as the beginning of a slippery slope, and used whatever means they had to prevent any advance in the Oslo Process (called The Agreement of Betrayal in Hamas Lingo). Hassan Nasrallah called for the assassination of Arafat once he embarked on the road to partition (no one then knew he would not actually go for partition).
It seems that both Hamas and Hezbollah are effective realistic political players when it comes to tactics. Their millenarian goals may be delusional, but their means against Israel are rational. Both knew that a rocket attack from the areas Israel evacuated would prevent future unilateral withdrawals. Both understood what Ehud Olmert explained so eloquently to Israelis before the elections: that Israel's survival is dependent on stable internationally acknowledged borders, in a territory where the Jews are a clear majority, which would mean ending the occupation.
On the basis of this logic the Hamas and Hezbollah were deliberately aimed at hindering unilateral withdrawal, preventing an end to the occupation, and blocking Israel's way to stable internationally acknowledged borders. In this respect their recent rocket campaigns were a major success.
One need only glance at the front page of Haaretz's weekend edition (August 18, 2006): "The Prime Minister: Convergence is no Longer on the Agenda," the headline said. Had Israel won this war, it would have been o the way to ending the occupation. But it didn't win.
Gadi Taub teaches at the Dept. Of Communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. See his blog at www.gaditaub.com