- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2006

KIRYAT SHMONA, Israel — Israelis emerged from their homes and bomb shelters in northern Israel as a precarious cease-fire took hold yesterday and began to survey the damage — both economic and political — from their monthlong war with Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to continue hunting Hezbollah’s leadership.

But in an address to parliament, Mr. Olmert acknowledged widespread disappointment among Israelis, many of whom feel the war was ill-planned and poorly executed.

“We will have to review ourselves in all the battles,” he said. “We won’t sweep things under the carpet.”

Mr. Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz promised an investigation into the Lebanon operation.

By contrast, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut sounded a triumphant note by claiming a “historic” victory over Israel and signaling that he’s not willing to consider disarming anytime soon.

“We came out victorious in a war in which big Arab armies were defeated [before],” the black-turbaned cleric said. And he credited Hezbollah’s weapons with proving to Israel that “war with Lebanon will not be a picnic.”

“It will be very costly,” he said.

Despite the feeling of an inconclusive battle with Hezbollah, residents of the northern Israel city of Kiryat Shmona were able to walk on the streets for the first time in a month.

Many ignored army instructions to remain near protected rooms, and by the evening, the restrictions were lifted.

Shoshana Damra came to the local mall hoping that the supermarket would be open, but the entire mall was still closed except for the pharmacy.

Economists have estimated the damage to Israel’s economy at about $3 billion

“People have come out to be in the sun. A week ago, you wouldn’t see a fly on the streets,” Mrs. Damra said, explaining her mixed feelings about the end of the war.

“It’s too bad because on one hand, [the military] didn’t finish the job. On the other hand, we’re sick of this.”

Israeli lawmakers have called for a state commission of inquiry, recalling disillusionment with the government after the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1982 Lebanon war.

Analysts have said that the government’s goals were not clear throughout the operation.

Others have said the monthlong military push against Hezbollah was ill-conceived, relying too much on air power and hesitating too long to move into Lebanon with sufficient ground forces.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the government of botching the war.

“There were many failures, failures in identifying the threat, failures in preparing to meet the threat, failures in the management of the war, failures in the management of the home front,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

Parliament member Avshalom Vilan said the military incorrectly assumed it had an unlimited time frame for the operation.

“The military didn’t succeed to fulfill all the targets that they said they could fulfill,” he said. After two weeks, they decided to move on the ground, and by then was too late.”


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