War in Lebanon: the first cracks in the Israeli ruling class

The imperialists have been trying to force Lebanon to accept a diplomatic victory for Israel precisely because Israel cannot win this war by military means. The Israeli war cabinet on Wednesday gave approval in principle to the generals' plan for an expanded ground operation, but delayed its implementation in order to give a chance to the UN Security Council to draft a resolution that fits the rulers of Israel as a condition to end the crisis.

As I write this article [August 10] Israeli warplanes continue their raids on Lebanon, and an historical lighthouse was hit in the Lebanese capital. It was the first time that the Israeli air force bombed the centre of Beirut, disregarding Nasrallah's warning to Israel on August 4 that his fighters would fire rockets at Tel Aviv if Israel hit the Lebanese capital. Another air strike targeted a road linking the city of Baalbek, with the Syrian city of Homs. For the first time Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets over northern Lebanon, north of Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city, about 25 km from the Syrian border, warning trucks off a coastal road linking Lebanon to Syria.

At the same time, a rocket fired by Hezbollah hit a house in the Arab village of Deir al-Assad in the Galilee region of northern Israel, killing two people, one of them a two year old child.

Since yesterday, Israeli solders, accompanied by tanks, and Hezbollah fighters have been fighting fiercely over Al Khiam and Marjayoun, a Christian town about 8 km inside Lebanon. The town is located in a strategic position near the Litani river. According to Hezbollah's al Mannar television, seven Israeli tanks were hit, their crews were killed or injured and the Israeli army was forced to retreat. Yesterday the Israeli generals had to admit that 15 soldiers were killed and 25 others were injured.

The battles in Marjayoun took place a few hours before Rafi Eitan, a senior Israeli official, announced that the military would hold off expanding its ground offensive to give diplomacy a chance. Eitan told Israel Radio: "There are diplomatic considerations. There is still a chance that an international force will arrive in the area. We have no interest in being in south Lebanon."

The Diplomatic front

For many days the imperialists have been trying to force Lebanon to accept a diplomatic victory for Israel precisely because Israel cannot win this war by military means. The first draft resolution by the US and French diplomats called on an immediate end to the fighting while Israeli solders were not called on to leave South Lebanon. This resolution was immediately rejected by Nasrallah. Due to the fact that Nasrallah is perceived by the Arab masses as a great hero who defeats the mighty military war machine of Israel, Fouad Siniora, the Prime Minister of Lebanon and all the members of the Arab league had to follow suit. They came with a seven-point plan that includes the retreat of the Israeli army and the reposition of the Lebanese army in South Lebanon. French imperialism, realising that it cannot force the previous resolution, was open to some changes in favour of Lebanon, but the American government is still backing Israel and so far has rejected the offered changes. Bush refuses to recognise the defeat of the Israeli generals who want more time in order to change the situation by using a massive land operation.

The Israeli war cabinet after a very long meeting on Wednesday gave approval in principle to the generals' plan for an expanded ground operation, but delayed its implementation in order to give a chance to the UN Security Council to draft a resolution that fits the rulers of Israel as a condition to end the crisis.

The operation, proposed by war Minister Amir Peretz, the leader of the Labor party who promised the supporters of the Labor party social reforms but has turned to be a spokesman for the generals, is intended to "significantly reduce" Hezbollah rocket fire into Israel, destroy Hezbollah's infrastructure in south Lebanon and kill as many Hezbollah operatives as possible. It calls for a few Israel Defense Forces divisions to operate throughout the area south of the Litani River. The operation would last a month, the ministers were told. But according to another estimate, it will take two to three months. The Israeli army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz suggested destroying the entire civilian infrastructure in Lebanon, such as the power grid, but his plan was rejected.

According to Haaretz, August 10, during the meeting, Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert spoke to his boss, the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She promised him that the chances of the Security Council adopting a resolution calling for an end to the fighting (with a better result for Israel) were "not bad".

After speaking with Rice, Olmert called Peretz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to his office, and the three agreed to give the diplomatic moves a chance before expanding the ground operation.

According to Ben Aluf, a senior reporter of Haaretz:

"The defense establishment's proposal to expand the Israel Defense Forces operation in Lebanon was approved by a large majority of cabinet ministers on Wednesday: Nine ministers backed the proposal, while three abstained. But according to some attendees, the results of the vote do not reflect the ministers' true opinions. ‘If everyone voted the way they spoke, there would be a majority opposing the proposal,' one minister said. So why didn't anyone vote against the proposal? We were afraid, the minister explained, of showing the public and the Hezbollah that there are rifts within the government and cracks in its support for the IDF.

"The problem is that such cracks exist and no one is really making an effort to hide them anymore. Rifts between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Rifts between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. And those between the head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan and Head of the Intelligence Corps, Amos Yadlin. And between Peretz and his predecessor, Shaul Mofaz and between Mofaz and Avi Dichter. One of those present summed the situation up by saying, ‘everyone was involved in at least one quarrel.'

"The prime minister does not like the master plan prepared for him this week by Peretz and Halutz. He feared that sending in several divisions to operate for a month, possibly two, in the hostile territory of southern Lebanon would entail multiple casualties, an ongoing occupation and would gnaw at the already dwindling remnants of Israel's international support. It is doubtful whether the Katyusha fire on northern Israeli towns would cease, even after such an operation. There will always be some Hezbollah man on donkey-back, poised and ready to launch a rocket into the Galilee, just like the Palestinian Qassam launchers are doing in Gaza." (August 10)

The cabinet meeting ended in a rather predictable compromise: approval of an outline of the operation in principle, while postponing its implementation to allow for development in the UN talks. Troops, however, will take up positions in preparation for the operation. Israel is telling the UN like a child who knows he cannot fight a bigger child, "please hold me back".

However, this transparent exercise does not impress the leader of Hizbollah. In a televised speech on Wednesday, of which parts shown on the Israeli TV, Nasrallah said that the seven-point plan presented by the Lebanese government was the least the country should accept as part of a draft resolution to reach a ceasefire and the end to the fighting. However, in a part not shown on the Israeli TV Nasrallah called on the Arab residents of Haifa to quit the Israeli city so as to avoid being hurt by Hezbollah rocket fire. He promised the Israeli generals many new surprises if they go ahead with their threat.

The cost of the war

Economists in Lebanon estimate the total cost of the conflict to the economy so far at around $5 billion. According to the Lebanese government, the Israeli offensive has displaced more than 915,000 people and destroyed around 7000 houses, 175 factories and more than 150 bridges and overpasses. According to the calculation of the Israeli economists the cost of the damage to Israel is more than $1billion. So far more than 100 Israelis have died, more than half of them solders. One third of the Israelis either fled to the south and many others are living in shelters with very little food for one month.

Just imagine what could be done with this money to improve the lives of ordinary people.

How long will the people of Israel support the generals?

While the Generals and the mass media are full of praise for the support of the northern Israeli population for the war, many reports and interviews with the same suffering population show that ordinary people do not praise the generals and the government. Already the support for the war has dropped to 64 percent. They feel neglected and deserted and once a ceasefire will come, their anger will lash out. They know the truth more than the government imagines and in the future they will understand even more that while the rich people make profit they will be demanded to pay the price.

This war will open the gate to a fierce class struggle in Israel. In this struggle the workers and the poor will learn that as long as the imperialist and the local capitalist class continue to rule, there will never be peace and that they are those who pay the price with their lives, the suffering, the traumas and their living conditions.

They will learn to recognise the real enemy, the class enemy, while their only future lies with the common struggle with the Arab workers and poor for a socialist transformation of the entire Middle East.

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