July 25, 2006
Israel's False Assumptions about Lebanon: Israeli Miscalculations. At this stage, it is not clear what will happen next. But at this stage, it is possible to state that Israeli political goals will not be achieved, no matter how long Israeli aggression takes. No matter what happens next, and even if Israel manages to kill Nasrallah or other leaders, Israel's ability to achieve its goals is diminishing not increasing. I am not being triumphalist: Israeli military superiority, and Israeli willingness, nay eagerness, to use massive and indiscriminate violence, has never been in doubt. I lived and barely survived the 1982 Israeli invasion after all. But the political situation is rather spiraling quickly away from the intentions of Israel and its vocal and silent partners in the world. Just today, I watched an appearance by Mustafa Al-Faqi (chairperson of the Egyptian parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee). He spoke like a Hizbullah spokesperson. A Hizbullah guest on the show (Lebanese member of parliament Husayn Hajj Hasan who is such an ineffective propagandist for the party) noted that tone and that change, even from a few days ago.
Here is my list of Israeli miscalculations:
1) Arab governments--as usual--did not dare go as far as the Israel wanted. Just as Bashir Gemayyel did not fulfill his promises to the Israelis in 1982. To be sure, House of Saud, Jordan's Hashemites, Kuwait royal family, and Egypt's Mubarak all covered up for Israel in the Arab League. But the famous statement by the House of Saud did not even have a source or name attached to it. It was attributed to an "official." No house of Saud member dared to sign his/her [her? in Saudi Arabia where women still can't drive] name to it. And also notice the way the Arab official rhetoric and media have been changing. NOT out of concern for victims of Israeli bombings, but out of fear of public opinion.
2) Israel assumed that Hizbullah fighters would flee within one day as was the case in 1982.
3) Israel assumed Shi`ite refugees would break with Hizbullah. The opposite happened. Amal people just joined Hizbullah, politically and otherwise. And NOT A SINGLE SHI`ITE politician (like Hariri Inc's deputies Ghazi Yusuf or Basim As-Sab`) said a word--not a word, either way. And many callers to Lebanese TV news shows mention their names in rage, particularly in the case of Ghazi Yusuf who attended the Lebanese Forces' honoring of John Bolton 2 months ago. Yusuf has not stepped foot in Lebanon in a while now, and I doubt that he will return soon. He tried to get Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah to help him but the latter told him that Shi`ite opinion is most angry at him. Basim As-Sab` also has not stepped foot in Lebanon in months. These were the "moderate" Shi`ites that Walid Jumblat invokes as "alternative" to Hizbullah. Israel assumed that anti-Hizbullah Shi`ites would strengthen their resolve against the party. The opposite occurred.
4) Israel assumed that the mood of the Shi`ites in South Lebanon in 1982 would be replicated now. Back then: people just raised the white flags, and some even welcomed the invading Israeli troops, before turning against them in one year, due to your typical savagery of Israeli occupation methods and techniques. Furthermore, Hizbullah seems to have learned from PLO experience: they remained invisible, and thus did not create a thuggish rule that Israel would later exploit in its favor. People of South Lebanon were not looking for a "rescuer" this time around. But they now want a rescuer from Israeli aggression NOW.
5) Israel assumed that Sunni and Druze momentum against Hizbullah--funded by Hariri Inc--would mount and become more vocal. The opposite occurred. The outrage at Israeli brutality seems to have muted voices of criticisms of Hizbullah, even among people who never really cared about Hizbullah, and its fundamentalist ideology.
6) Israel assumed that the Lebanese government would get stronger from the aggression, but it has gotten weaker. Prime Minister Fu'ad Laval has not dared to visit one shelter or refugee center.
7) Israel assumed that this aggression will take a few more days, and that Israeli society would treat this as a victory.
8) Israel assumed that a air bombing would be all what is required, with little harm to Israeli occupation troops.
9) Israel assumed that Hizbullah leaders would simply sit and wait for Israeli bombs in their houses and apartments.
10) Israel assumed that US media would not care about Lebanese civilians. Wait. That was a correct assumption. Sorry.
11) Israel assumed that Arab public would treat the stance of Hizbullah as "adventurist" and "reckless." That would have been a correct assumption if House of Saud speaks on behalf of all Arabs and if Hizbullah fighters did not fight toughly. That is very significant for Arab (including Lebanese) public opinion given the abysmal performance of Arab (and `Arafat's) armies. This is a very important element in Arab political culture, that Hizbullah calculated about, it seems, and Israel had no clue about. This campaign seems to follow the law of diminishing return: the longer it lasts, the more Israel can kill, but the more massive will the devastation be, and the more "heroic"--in public perceptions--will people--in Lebanon and Arab world--treat Hizbullah's stance. Israel may turn this into a further boost for Hizbullah. But then again: Israel always seems to boost its enemies. So the real enemies and opponents of Hizbullah in Lebanon will be more angry at Israel after this for boosting Hizbullah.
12) Israel assumed that Hizbullah would follow past Arab (and `Arafat's PLO) propaganda patterns of bombast and wild exaggeration. Thus far, Hizbullah propaganda and official communiques have been quite restrained and understated. That has helped the public credibility perception of the party in Lebanese and Arab public.
13) Israel (just as in 1982) assumed that its silly flyers over South Lebanon will be seen as witty and smart. Instead; they are seen as dumb and foolish, and badly crafted.
14) Israel assumed that a group of South Lebanese people, perhaps the former SLAs, would be willing to show up publicly to help Israel. That was not to be. Not a single person has done that. In 1982: there were many people (of different religions) who volunteered to cooperate with Israeli occupation in order to--in their minds--rid themselves of PLO rule.
15) Israel assumed that Hizbullah's ability to inflict counter-harm to Israeli cities and towns would be quickly eliminated.
16) Israel assumed that Nasrallah or Hizbullah leaders would crack under pressure. No signs of that whatever.
17) Israel assumed that the displaced people would constitute an automatic lobbying group against Hizbullah. Far from that: they have become a strong lobbying group for Hizbullah.