Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Before everything really got going: Israel vs Hezbollah

July 15th, 2006

I am not entirely sure how to go about producing a blog, but I am in an interesting place at an interesting time, so here is my report from the Middle East for friends, relations and anyone else.

Is Israel in any danger?
No. Hezbollah has no tanks, no air force and no navy. It has thousands of missiles, of which only several hundred seem to have been used so far and which are fortunately absolutely indiscriminate in their direction; 97% falling on agricultural land.

They do have thousands of guns – but they are only useful in hand to hand fighting; but this makes them extremely dangerous inside Lebanon – but not to Israel, unless the army takes on hand-to-hand fighting across the border, which it won’t. The Lebanese army could not have taken on Hezbollah under any circumstances.

In fact, the truth is that you are still in greater danger driving in the north and in northern Galilee. Look at the English language Israeli press on the internet on Monday – you will see that the road loss this weekend in the northern region will be higher than the loss of life from missiles. Admittedly we do have a really bad situation on the roads.

What is Israel up to?
Israel is attempting to bomb the guts out of the Hezbollah and to stop the import of any other military equipment. The kidnapping is a red herring. If you look up the internet you will find all sorts of reports over the past six months regarding the build up of Hezbollah fighters the equipment on the northern border, some reports very recent.

Has it succeeded?
Well, so far – yes. Now Hezbollah can’t get any more equipment. Israel needs Hezbollah to use up all its missiles, firstly to trace the sources of shooting and secondly for Hezbollah to be left completely unarmed. So it is effectively good that Hezbollah are sending missiles over and important that everyone living on the northern border either move south to friends and family or stay in their shelters. In my opinion we absolutely do not want Hezbollah to save their fire.

Is the rest of the world really angry?
I think not. We know that Jordan and Egypt have enormous problems with Hezbollah and its linked fundamentalist organisations; not only Jordan and Egypt, just look at the whole Arab world. Watch for statements from Arab leaders, they may have to start softening up. Everyone else is paying lip service.

How come the Hezbollah were so well equipped?
This independent army has been funded exclusively by Syria and Iran. For some time the military consignments have been coming by sea, by air but mainly by road. This is because the Syrian border runs the length of Lebanon (apart from the 80 km Israel border) and it is thoroughly porous.

But won’t Hezbollah get more equipment now.
No. Israel can’t close the borders but has bombed all the access roads and bridges, the airport is close and the ports are blockaded. Nothing can get through now.

What do they really think in Lebanon?
Christian Lebanon – about a third of the population - is hugely relieved. Watch out for Lebanese vox pop reactions. Middle class and educated Lebanon must be quietly supportive but very concerned about potential damage. The Government has to play a role of the furious victim, but is it? The only screaming is coming from Hezbollah sympathizers. Look out for high-level hints.

What is happening in Israel?
Life in the rest of Israel is absolutely as normal. Apart from the northern border, people do not feel at risk. Because it is summer, the north Galilee is suffering economically, although there is very little economy to suffer. There is almost no manufacturing, no industry and very few towns. Any tourist industry there is very small.

The stray missiles which have hit Haifa and Nahariya do not seem to be causing panic. Victims of direct hits in the north are likely to be (a) very unlucky or (b) cows. The Israeli press is indeed making much of what is happening, but just keep an eye on the facts and not the emotions. The foreign journalists in Israel have to justify their salaries.

The greatest upset in Israel is that of the tourist business - having started so brilliantly this year, it will now plummet.

What can go wrong?

1. The Lebanese government could fall and Syria could move back (although I not sure how they would get there).

2. The Arab street – from Morocco to Pakistan – could become hysterical and what we saw as a result of the Danish cartoons would be as a vicar’s tea party. This could have unpredictable results.

3. The Israel army might sustain serious losses by an unlucky event – e.g. a direct hit on a military installation or worse, an unlucky direct hit in civilian Haifa (industrial, residential, power plant etc.).

4. The Israeli military might make a bad calculation and involve a huge loss of innocent Lebanese life – this could change everything. Israel would have to stop and the job might be only partially done, putting Lebanese citizens into terrible danger.

Jane’s conclusion
Well, I was very angry at first but am warming to the idea.


Blogger scottie said...

Hi Jane,
Thanks so muchfor the blog and giving us "the other side of the story" - so important here in Europe.
Do keep us posted,

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:37 AM  
Anonymous Phil Gattey said...

May God Bless Israel
keep blogging, you are good at it
Phil Gattey

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Ron - WI said...

Hi Jane,
I came here from the Belmont Club, to check out your blog. You are off to a good start, keep up the good work!

8:47 PM  

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