From today's New York Times.
“In the cabinet room today there was an energy, a feeling that after so long of showing restraint we had finally acted,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking of the weekly government meeting that he attended.
Mark Heller, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that that energy reflected the deep feeling among average Israelis that the country had to regain its deterrent capacity.
“There has been a nagging sense of uncertainty in the last couple years of whether anyone is really afraid of Israel anymore,” he said. “The concern is that in the past — perhaps a mythical past — people didn’t mess with Israel because they were afraid of the consequences. Now the region is filled with provocative rhetoric about Israel the paper tiger. This operation is an attempt to re-establish the perception that if you provoke or attack you are going to pay a disproportionate price.”
It may be that the real lesson of the 2006 Lebanon war has less to do with the strength of Israel, than the salted-earth nature of this type of warfare.
Israel stepped up its attacks on Hezbollah in 2006 and drew little distinction between the terrorist organization and the government of Lebanon. In the process it attacked not only the group's surprisingly extensive military network of bunkers, weapons caches and communications hubs (also using top-of-the line encryption and hacking tech) but also the civilian infrastructure including bridges, the international airport and the power grid.
For the Lebanese civilians, they found themselves trapped. Hezbollah parries and feints, raining mortars and rockets on Israel-with almost zero effect save for enraging the Israeli populace-and daring the Israeli military to attack it as it secludes itself amongst the civilian population; a living shield for their military attacks.
In the end, no gain was made. Thousands were killed, Lebanon's civilian infrastructure shattered, Hezbollah made hay over Israel's withdrawal and the soldiers whose capture set the light to the powder-keg were found dead.
Now in Gaza, with Hamas' decision to also resume its nearly pointless barrage of rockets into Israel, the Israeli leadership has decided to retaliate. A retaliation taken on with the idea that the 2006 Lebanon war was not a failure due to the nearly impossible task of rooting out terrorism with military force (a lesson whose apparent difficulty to learn is only surpassed by those determined to attempt it), but that they took it too easy in Lebanon.
Had Hezbollah and Hamas truly had the interests of their people at heart, they would not draw such fire upon their own innocent. And the Israeli government should perhaps realize that they are being purposefully drawn into something they can not really win, and whose effect will only empower their enemy.