Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Start of second week: Israel vs Hezbollah

July 20th, 2006

What is happening in Israel now?
It is almost like living in two countries.

From Haifa north up to the border, all tourist excursions, festivals and public events in the north are cancelled. About one million people are directly affected. Public institutions, community centres, restaurants and most businesses are closed. Air raid sirens go off intermittently day and night. Most people are holed up in or near their shelters. Tens of thousands have moved south, possibly over 100,000.

South of Haifa everything is functioning as usual, from Netanya to Jerusalem, from Beer Sheba to Eilat. Shops, restaurants, beaches, businesses, sporting events, etc all have been functioning as per normal, but with funerals every day, events linked to celebrations i.e.: arts festivals, parties etc are being cancelled.

What we have learned in this second week?
That Israeli public opinion has probably peaked and will now slip slowly. This is because (a) the longer the IDF is on the attack the greater the risk (c) the public does not want the army to take on the Hezbollah on the ground because loss of life will be too high and (c) Israelis are not immune to the suffering in Lebanon, they see the same film footage as shown abroad.

Knock on effects?
The support of the powerful Arab states will come with a price tag. Israel will have to knuckle under and negotiate with Abbas and willingly or unwillingly come up with a deal for which will reinstate his reputation. There will be a lot of empty cells in Israeli jails. This and other compromise deals will split the Israeli coalition.

Destruction in Lebanon
Note that suicide bombs in Iraq have killed over 3,000 in the past two months, and deaths in Lebanon so far are 300. Entire flattened areas have had zero loss of life.

Although it looks as though the whole of Lebanon is a bomb site, some 75% (Sunni, Christian and Shiite not supporting Hezbollah) of residential, business, manufacturing areas remain untouched. They are all however affected by the damage to infrastructure (main arteries, bridges, power and petrol stations) and this is where public opinion if not now, by this weekend will start to turn aggressively against Israeli bombing.

I am really praying that Sunday will be the cut-off day - when Condi gets here. But I think I am going to be disappointed.

Jane’s epiphany

Hezbollah was on the way to turning Lebanon into another Iraq. A few judiciously placed suicide bombers on consecutive days in Beirut is all it would take. I don’t know what they were waiting for.


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