Israel-Hezbollah War

A view of the July-August 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war from an Israeli living in Haifa (under Katyusha rocket attack)- send personal comments to david2@lisbona.com

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Credibility and bravado

The headline of Sunday's Maariv newspaper in Israel read " Senior [military] officer: If Tel-Aviv is attacked Beirut will burn"
Today's Maariv: "If Syria gets involved [in the war] it will pay dearly"
On an inside page: Defence sources: "Syria can be paralysed within a few hours"

From interviews with army officers yesterday on Israeli Army radio (one of the most popular radio stations in Israel) "The Hezbollah is on the defensive", " we have the advantage over them", "they are going crazy".

I don't know whether the people making these bombastic declarations really believe in them themselves, are trying to raise the Israeli public's morale or their own. One thing is sure - they're not doing anybody a service.

This war has been characterised on the Israeli side by a breat deal of bravado. Israeli commentators are very quick to talk of the "threats" made by Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah although to me they sound more like promises, or just a plan of action uttered in his deadpan ultra-calm voice. Meanwhile Israeli military commentators exude optimism and bravado while there are few discernable signs of "significant achievements"

How things have changed. Israeli leaders (especially generals) used to be very tight-lipped in times of war while the Arab leaders were full of inflammatory hyperbole.

The Israeli military used to be kept well out of politics and only very occasionally were very senior officers allowed to be interviewed, and definitely not in time of war. Now everyone shoots his mouth off and it's not a happy sight. Israeli commentators jump on every Hezbollah announcement looking for cracks in its credibility but nobody in Israel is (yet) digesting the implications of the breach of the credibility of the Israeli commentators.

In the eyes of the Jewish Israeli public, the army was traditionally adulated, the holy of holies to be believed admired and followed whenever summoned. That blinding admiration has been challenged increasingly in recent years and this will only be accelerated by the current credibility debacle.

It can take a lifetime to build up credibility but it can be destroyed in a very short time. There's going to be quite a bit of rebuilding to do when this is over. The redeeming quality of an open, Western, democratic society (Israel) is that, in due course, it does look at its mistakes and draw conclusions.

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