Monday, July 31, 2006

Amid the “talking heads” on the Sunday morning TV programs dedicated to understanding world events, something told me we were not hearing the whole story about Israel’s continued prosecution of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

I phoned my friend Boaz Ganor in New York. He is deputy dean of the Lauder School of Government and Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel. Mr. Ganor also is the founder and executive director of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), and is a member of Israel’s National Committee for Homeland Security Technologies, of the International Advisory Board of the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, (IDSS), Singapore, and was a member of the International Advisory team of the Manhattan Institute (CTCT) to the New-York Police Department (NYPD).

Mr. Ganor said, “I think I can represent the view of the majority of Israelis. And I think I understand well the position of the government of Israel.”

“A cease-fire now, without achieving the strategic goals of the operation in Lebanon, would be an incomplete finish for Israel. In fact, a cease-fire now would be dangerous to Israel,” Mr. Ganor told me.

“Every Israeli regrets the loss of innocent lives,” Mr. Ganor said. “But if we [Israelis] stop now, Hezbollah will be seen as winning. It will be a victory for Hezbollah. This would help Hezbollah in the minds of all people who side against Israel, and it will give strength to the enemies of all of us in the war against terror.

“So Israel believes there are sticks that are still to be used against Hezbollah; that will help lead us toward our objectives. The focus right now should be dismantling Hezbollah military capability as much as possible and make it difficult for them to recover,” Mr. Ganor said.

He told me the ongoing Israeli military action aimed to:

(1) Destroy Hezbollah’s rocket forces.

(2) Dismantle Hezbollah.

(3) Cut the physical connection between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran (via Syria).

(4) Rescue the Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah.

Mr. Ganor continued to emphasize the Israeli approach to both strong measures and incentives for Syria. “These sticks and the basket of carrots are really for Syria,” he told me. “I think there has to be a discussion with Syria, with Syrian President Bashar Assad, in fact. And the thought is that the United States has to lead this discussion with Syria’s president.”

Mr. Ganor proposed approaching Syria’s president this way: “The discussion might go like this: ‘Look, you are a chartered member of the axis of evil. You are considered an outlaw or illegitimate actor in the international community. You have a one-time opportunity here to join the legitimate members of the world community against the war on terror.’

“President Assad will understand this. This is not an altruistic step toward United States or Israel; it is for his own best interests. We should urge him to follow the lead of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya,” Mr. Ganor told me.

Economic sanctions, diplomacy and world condemnation after the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 wore down Libyan leader Col. Gadhafi. U.S.-led initiatives like the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) meant Col. Gadhafi most probably had fewer and fewer opportunities to transfer and profit from his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and missiles. PSI is an international effort to track WMD and missiles internationally, and to seize unlawful transfers where possible.

“This is all part of the war on terror,” continued Mr. Ganor. “Israel believes that Iran is a very real danger, but the Iranian-Syrian alliance is artificial, since the Syrian regime does not hold the Islamic radical ideology of Iran. They come from a different sect of Islam; they do not share the same goals. And if Iran will achieve its strategic aim to change the nature of Lebanon to an Islamic radical state, headed by Hezbollah, this will pose a grave danger to President Assad’s regime in Syria.”

Mr. Ganor was very clear about his understanding of Syria-U.S. situation. “Syria has a golden opportunity to pursue its own interest and at the same time help resolve the situation in Lebanon. And only the United States has the clout and credibility to engage Syria, with both some sticks and a nice basket of carrots.”

On the threat from Iran, “We would urge Syria to close all traffic and commerce with Iran. The nuclear program in Iran is a serious concern for the whole world and for the Middle East. The most serious long-term problem in the war on terror is the nuclear program in Iran,” Mr. Ganor said. “At some point, action would have to be taken against Iran. This is inevitable. But the near-term effort is to neutralize Hezbollah, and this means we have to give Syria the opportunity to help and understand that this is for their best interest.

“We want the world community to understand fully what is happening here. Hezbollah is not just a threat to Israel,” Mr. Ganor said. “They are a threat to every nation and government and people. This is the worst Islamic radical terrorist organization, and it is better equipped, more skilled and more dangerous than al Qaeda, which is just waiting for a green light from Iran to be active in the international global terrorist arena and especially in the United States. As [Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan] Nasrallah put it in 2003: They refer to Israel as a battalion within the army of the great Satan — the U.S.A. Israel is fighting a just war for its existence. But while doing it, Israel is promoting the civilized world’s interest in eradicating global Jihadi terrorism.”

I spoke to Mr. Ganor again briefly Monday. Israel had declared a temporary cease-fire, which Hezbollah broke. He said, “Although we certainly sympathize with the suffering of the civilians that have decided to stay in the war zone in southern Lebanon — disregarding the repeated requests of Israel to evacuate the place or at least see to it that they will not be situated next to Hezbollah facilities and especially not Katyusha rockets — we believe that Israel should have done whatever they can” to get those people out.”

I asked Mr. Ganor about Hezbollah’s proximity to innocent civilians in a war zone.

“They are hiding their rocket platforms in civilian houses, shooting next to civilians shelters, and using the civilians as human shields, and, by that, exposing Israel to international criticism. Furthermore, this cease-fire can end in one of the two alternatives, with both having negative implications on Israel: Either the Hezbollah will end its fire… and this will create international pressure [on Israel] to go on and sustain the cease-fire… [thus] Hezbollah will declare its victory over Israel. Or Hebollah will use this valuable 24 hours for recovering and preparing [its] long-range missiles to attack the center of Israel once the fighting starts again.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the weekend that Israel would need 10 to 14 more days to finish its offensive.

It seems, while Israel wants to end this war, it believes it is compelled to see the current fighting to an end. I told Mr. Ganor that God would have to guide world leaders through the current crisis. He said, “Shalom.”

John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants Inc.

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