More on Israel’s Heartthrob …

(Hezbollah leader) Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah drives everybody crazy in Israel. He sits there with this very calm voice. He is never angry, he doesn’t curse, in a way he even looks gentle. For that, our political leaders and the military wanted to take revenge.

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3 Replies to “More on Israel’s Heartthrob …”

  1. Wow.
    Just like Nicolas Sarkozy. He must have taken so many tranquillizers for Wednesday’s debate, he made Ségolène appear rabid.

  2. On a more contemporary serious note, I came about this analysis in the IHT; I think it is quite reflective of the history of the Lebanese-Israeli “affair” -for the lack of a better term- and perhaps its future also: Beware the siren Lebanon
    By Steven Erlanger

    Saturday, May 5, 2007
    JERUSALEM: ARIEL SHARON wakes up from his long coma in a sweat and says he’s had a terrible nightmare. “What was it?” ask his aides. “I dreamed we were back in Lebanon.”

    The bitter joke, which has been making the rounds here since the war against Hezbollah last summer, goes to the heart of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s broken career. For a quarter-century, Lebanon has been the graveyard of Israeli politicians reckless enough to venture there.

    Some, like Menachem Begin, never emerged again. That may be the fate of Olmert. A government commission issued a scathing first report last week on his leadership during the first five days of the war. A final segment, due some time this summer, may well urge him to resign. His foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has already said he should.

    Some politicians, like Sharon, managed to stagger out of Lebanon and eventually revive — despite, in his case, having been labeled by many a war criminal for not preventing or halting massacres of Palestinians by Israel’s Lebanese Christian allies.

    When he did emerge, his famous impetuosity was seared away. In a sense, it was the nightmare of Lebanon that had taught Sharon patience and allowed him to become a statesman in his second career.

    Ehud Barak, the former Labor Party prime minister, hopes for just such a resurrection.

    It was Barak who suddenly pulled Israel out of Lebanon in 2000 to concentrate — in vain — on efforts to make peace first with Syria and then with the Palestinians. But his was a unilateral act, and neither he nor his successors reinforced it with the retaliation he had promised Hezbollah if it violated the border. Many Israelis now believe the combination made last summer’s war inevitable.

    “Lebanon has significantly harmed or destroyed the political careers of nearly every Israeli politician that has touched it,” said Chuck Freilich, formerly Israel’s deputy national security adviser and now at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “The reason is not simply the nature of Lebanon, but the nature of Israeli decision-making in the last few decades, which has been shortsighted, focused on the immediate future and not part of a thought-out strategy.”

    But there is also a broader question of what might work in the specific conundrum of Lebanon. A sectarian patchwork of a state without a powerful central government or army, Lebanon has always been riven by religion and ethnicity and dominated by external forces like Syria or externally sponsored ones like Hezbollah and, before it, the Palestine Liberation Organization.

    In trying to attack its enemies within Lebanon, Israel has always come up against the difficulties of conventional warfare against nonstate actors taking refuge in a semi-state.

    Mark Heller, director of research for the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, notes that Lebanon itself was never an enemy, “but a theater in which the enemy operates” without a central address.

    So Lebanon has become a marker, he said, for “the inability of the Israeli public in general, and the political system in particular, to adapt to the fact that it can’t hold governments and armies to the same standards in Lebanon that it was holding them to before 1982 — before Lebanon.”

    In 1982, Sharon, as defense minister, pressed Begin into a full-scale attack on the PLO and Yasser Arafat, to deny them Lebanon as a theater of operations for attacks on Israel.

    At first, the war went spectacularly well, and Arafat had to slink off to Tunis. But Sharon and Israel fell victim to the classic trap of assuming that Lebanon could be restructured to Israel’s liking. The hand-picked Christian president, Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated nine days before he was to take office; the initially welcoming Shiites of southern Lebanon revolted against their occupiers. Hezbollah, with the help of Iran, took hold.

    Clinton Bailey, an Israeli scholar of the Bedouin culture, was an Israeli intelligence officer at the time. As he and I traveled to the Awali River in 1983, he told me: “We knew where the Palestinians had every gun — in this building, on the second floor, third window from the left. But what we didn’t know was that the Shiites would turn against us.”

    Israel’s occupation lasted 18 years, testimony to a continuing illusion of what it might be possible to accomplish, if only the Lebanese could be freed from outside pressures like Syria and Iran to follow their own self-interest. Of course, that never happened.

    So what made Olmert’s war so astonishing was that despite his long apprenticeship to Sharon, he bought all the old assumptions about Lebanon, hoping to have a masterstroke against Hezbollah by turning the central government of Fuad Siniora against it. Instead, the Israeli decision to bomb all over Lebanon, and not just Hezbollah targets in the south, weakened Siniora.

    Given his Lebanese trauma, most Israelis believe, Sharon would not have gone to war. He would have responded, “but in a limited way, and in his own time, and in a way that would hurt the other side — Hezbollah — and not the Lebanese government,” said Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist at Hebrew University. Sharon used to say: “As far as action on the border with Lebanon goes: don’t do whatever doesn’t need to be done.”

    The inexperienced, incurious Olmert “didn’t realize he was getting into a real war,” Avineri said. Rather, the parliamentary committee found, “The prime minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one.”

    As damning, the report said, “His decision was made without close study of the complex features of the Lebanon front and of the military, political and diplomatic options available to Israel.” Amnon Rubinstein, a former legislator and cabinet minister who is now at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, said simply: “Lebanon is a swamp; that’s why all the answers are sticky.”

    “Olmert is blamed,” he said, “but he had no good alternatives to reach his stated goals.”

    Shai Feldman, director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University, said, however, that it was easy for Olmert to be seduced by the claim that “air power alone can do it.”

    “That thesis,” Feldman said, “fell on very receptive ears, and for good reason — because the civilian and military leadership were traumatized by the 18 years in Lebanon.” The half-hearted war, he said, “was precisely the heritage of the demons of Israel’s previous experiences in Lebanon.”

  3. There’s is something strangely appealing about sexualizing one’s enemy, although I would aver in that in the American case, it is just straight pornography, with all of its limitations and deformations …

    Sorry for dredging up “ancient history,” but this “obsession,” as your article suggests, seems to obey the law of eternal return …

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