Finish the Job

ByKennethR. Timmerman| August 3, 2006
Kiryat Shemona, Israel (Aug 2, 2006) – Israel needs to “finishthe job” against Hezbollah in Lebanon,
formerIsraeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu toldme in this northernIsraeli town on Tuesday.
Hezbollah’s Iranian- and Syrian-supplied rockets have emptiedthis normally bustling agricultural and manufacturing center, andhave turned most of northern Israel into ghost towns.

But the few residents who remain behind aredefiant.¬Ý

An impassioned woman blasted the government for pussy-footing aroundin its ground offensive in Lebanon, and said she was ready to stay “sixmonths in the shelters” if that was needed in order to finishoff the Hezbollah rocket attacks.

“The people of Israel are sending the government of Iran amessage,” government spokesman Daniel Seaman said.

“The Israeli public is demanding that the government finish thejob, to put an end to the threat we have been facing from Iran’sproxy army, Hezbollah. If Hezbollah thought public opinion was ourweak point, they were wrong,” he told me in Metullayesterday.

While the United States has been leading diplomatic efforts toachieve a lasting solution that would remove Hezbollah as aneffective fighting force, the Bush administration must not pressureIsrael into an early ceasefire. To do so would be against Americaninterests, and would embolden our enemies.

Israeli politicians cannot accept a halt to military operationsagainst Hezbollah until they have crippled it as an effectivefighting force and can prevent future missile attacks againstIsrael.

Opinion polls in Israel show overwhelming support – way over90% - for the government’s ongoing military operations againstHezbollah.

25-year old Lt. Lynat Bruck, a female reservist who was called up toactive duty in the military police, told me yesterday on the frontlines in Metulla that she never hesitated when her call-up orderscame.¬Ý

She lives in Ramat Naftali, just twenty minutes from the border. “Myhome is close, so I feel like I am defending my home,” shesaid. “It’s like I’m fighting in my own backyard.”¬Ý

Dozens of other soldiers – reservists and young conscripts –expressed similar sentiments in interviews all along the front linesin northern Israel.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice showed that she has a politicaltin ear on Sunday when she announced in Jerusalem a 48-hour Israelipause in airstrikes, without having first finalized the agreementwith Prime Minister Olmert and his government.¬Ý

Rice’s entourage leaked the impending Israeli “pause”to American reporters in Jerusalem after midnight the night before,even as discussions with the Israeli government were ongoing.

This is why Olmert felt compelled to contradict Rice in an unusualstatement several hours after she left Jerusalem on Sunday. He saidthe Israeli air force would continue to hit targets in Lebanon ifintelligence showed Hezbollah was preparing to fire rockets intoIsrael. “Rice thought this was just about diplomacy,” anIsraeli official told me. “But this is also about politics.”

Israelis understand that this war is not just about Israel andHezbollah, however. It is part of Iran’s larger proxy waragainst Israel and America.¬Ý

Among the many dangers if Israel is not allowed to finish Hezbollahoff as a fighting force will be to embolden Iran to positionlonger-range missiles in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley or in Syria, toblackmail Europe.

The goal of Iranian blackmail is clear: to convince Europe that thecost of joining international efforts to compel Iran to abandon itsnuclear weapons program will be high.

But there are other, more immediate consequences should the U.S. andthe United Nations try to force Israel into a prematureceasefire.¬Ý

In a joint press conference in Tehran on June 15, Iranian defenseminister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and his visiting counterpart fromSyria, Hassan Turkmani, announced they had signed a mutual defensepact.

This latest Syrian-Iranian agreement formalizes de facto agreementsbetween the two countries that have allowed Iran to send weapons toHezbollah through Syria over the past two decades.¬Ý

And more importantly, the new agreement extends Iran’s nuclearumbrella to Syria.¬Ý

"Our cooperation is based on a strategic pact and unity againstcommon threats. We can have a common front against Israel's threats,"Turkmani told reporters after two intensive rounds of talks withNajjar.¬Ý

Iran "considers Syria's security its own security, and we considerour defense capabilities to be those of Syria," the Iranian defenseminister said.¬Ý

Al Sharq al Awsat in London reported on June 16 that the pactincluded major new arms sales from Iran to Syria, as well as massivefinancial aid.

“Iran has agreed to finance Syrian military deals with Russia,China, and Ukraine, to equip the Syrian army with cannon, warheads,army vehicles, and missiles manufactured by the Iranian DefenseIndustries, and to enable Syrian navy drills,” the paperreported. "Syria, on its part, has renewed its previous agreementswith Iran which allow Iranian ammunition trucks to pass [throughSyria] into Lebanon..."¬Ý

Americans need to understand the larger picture.¬Ý

“This is a test-fire, test-firing of rockets into a Westerncountry,” former prime minister Netanyahu told me. “Iranis committed to the destruction of Israel.¬Ý It deniesthe Holocaust while preparing a new Holocaust. But Iran is alsocommitted to a demented branch of Shiism which sees an apocalypticwar of millions of casualties in which Shiism will rise and the Westwill go down. We may be the first target, but we’re not thelast target.”

Through its proxy in Lebanon, and its proxy in Gaza, Iran “hasestablished two beachheads,” he added.

“Let the citizens of the world beware,” Netanyahucautioned. “What you see here is what you’ll get later.”

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