Two weeks ago Lebanon's Prime Minister was demanding an immediate cease fire while Shrub and company were insisting that only a "lasting cease fire," leading to a "permanent solution," would do.
Now it's the other way around:
Speaking to reporters today at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., where he is on vacation, Mr. Bush said, “Everyone wants the violence to stop.’’
“People understand that there needs to be a cessation of hostilities in order for us to address the root causes of the problem,’’ he said . .
Mr. Siniora said he opposed the cease-fire resolution in its current form, saying it would not effectively halt the violence. “It barely leads to a cease-fire,’’ he said, with tears in his eyes. “We want a permanent and full cease-fire.’’
Obviously, something has changed -- that something being the completely unexpected outcome of the war (unexpected by everyone but Hizbullah I mean.)
It would appear that I completely misjudged the situation when I suggested Sheikh Nasrallah would be smart to take or at least pretend to take, the deal on the table -- essentially agreeing to a ceasefire in place while ignoring the "permanent solution" his Anglo-Israeli enemies were in no position to demand or implement.
But every word spoken by the respective sides since Sunday indicates that the Israelis and the Americans have reached a point where they both want a cease fire more badly than Hizbullah does. The Israeli papers have been filled with loose talk from Jerusalem about what a good deal the Anglo-French draft is for the Jewish State (or rather was, since it appears DOA.) Either the Israelis are being exceptionally crafty (i.e. they want Hizbullah to think they want a ceasefire when actually they don't) or they're just bad poker players. Under the circumstances, and given the growing hysteria about the IDF's inabilty to stop or even slow Hizbullah's rocket fire, I'd say it was the latter.
"Bomber" Halutz isn't changing this impression any by doing his Curtis LeMay routine:
However, the officer said, "we are now in a process of renewed escalation. We will continue hitting everything that moves in Hezbollah -- but we will also hit strategic civilian infrastructure" . . . "It could be that at the end of the story, Lebanon will be dark for a few years," said one [officer].
The Israelis must not believe their own propaganda rhetoric about what a brutal, ruthless terrorist Sheikh Nasrallah is, or they would certainly understand that such threats will move him not at all. Hizbullah isn't going to cry uncle because of a little terror bombing -- no more than Uncle Ho (the original, not Horowitz) was willing to submit to a fleet of American B-52s over Hanoi. By talking such crazy talk, Halutz only demonstrates what a weak hand the Israelis are now holding, which strengthens Sheikh Nasrallah's hand immeasurably. Halutz really should check himself back into the hospital, and stay there.
Ditto the defense minister, Amir Peretz, who appears to have reached his level of incompetence when he became chairman of the Histadrut (Israel's equivalent of the old AFL-CIO, back before it became a shell corporation.) Peretz's threat to take the IDF to the Litani would have a little more credibility if the Israelis still weren't fighting in good 'ol Bint Jbeil, the "terror capital of southern Lebanon." But as things stand, it's having pretty much the same effect as Halutz's raving in demonstrating to Sheikh Nasrallah that his enemy is badly rattled.
Even Ha'aretz's normally unflappable military analyst, Ze'ev Schiff, is starting to flap a bit. A couple of days ago he was warning the Olmert goverment that it must avoid getting sucked into the Lebanon quagmire at any and all costs -- even if it meant letting Hizbullah come right back up to the border. Now he's saying just the opposite: that Israel must push on to the Litani River in order to avoid the very same guerrilla war of attrition he warned about earlier. Take a deep breath, Ze'ev.
I don't know how much the Israelis have contributed to their own bad bargaining position by flexing their jawbones so much, but there's no question we've seen an amazing turnabout over the past three or four days. Now it's the dimwitted sheriff and his clown posse who are looking for a way to get out of the showdown while Hizbollah, the bad hombre in the black hat (or turban, as the case may be) is cooly standing in the middle of the street outside the saloon saying "take your best shot, pardner."
Whether this is because Sheikh Nasrallah thinks his hand is so strong he can bluff the Israelis back across the border, or whether it's because he believes a long, drawn-out war of attrition with the IDF actually suits his interests even better than a ceasefire (and to hell with the agony and death it will inflict on the Lebanese people) I don't know. I'm also not willing to venture a guess. One burnt, twice shy and all of that.
But I have to say, the spectacle of Israel's political and military establishment dancing anxiously on the diplomatic sidelines, hoping the U.N. Security Council will step in with a timely ceasefire, while their Arab enemy impassively declares his willingness to keep on fighting, is a sight I truly never expected to see.
To call it the world turned upside down doesn't do it justice by half.
Posted by billmon at August 7, 2006 06:04 PM
(P.S. everyone should be reading Whiskey Bar)