Lebanon offensive criticized in Israel
By ARON HELLER, Associated Press WriterWed Jul 26, 4:56 PM ET
As Israel's offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon enters its third week, the government is coming under .
An Israeli airstrike that killed four U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon and plans for a new 1.2-mile-deep buffer zone also have , which ended in 2000 after the Israeli public grew exhausted with the mounting death toll there.
After Hezbollah guerrillas crossed the border July 12, killing three soldiers and capturing two others, there was nearly unanimous political consensus in Israel behind the government's decision to launch a large-scale offensive to crush the militant group.
"The war is leading us by the nose to sink deeper in the Lebanese mud. The Hezbollah wants to drag us into its territory. The moment the army will be in Lebanon for an extended period, it will be hell for us in there," said Ran Cohen, a dovish lawmaker and a colonel in the Israeli army reserves. "The deeper we get drawn in, the worse it will be."
While Cohen called for a cease-fire, political hawks demanded a tougher military strategy, taking issue with Israel's decision to begin the offensive with airstrikes and artillery barrages and only later to send in ground troops.
"We should have begun moving troops on the ground right from the beginning, when the war started," said Moshe Arens, a former defense minister from the Likud Party. "It's difficult terrain, and we're up against some tough fighters who have dug in, who have prepared themselves for six years for this encounter."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tried to quell the criticism Wednesday, warning of tougher times ahead and asking lawmakers to hold their tongues until the fighting ended.
"Back us, because the homefront needs to know that we are united," he told a group of parliamentarians, according to participants in the meeting.
Wednesday saw one of the heaviest days of battles with Coupled with the deadly clashes in southern Lebanon, many Israelis started to wonder when it will all end.
Among the questions raised were whether the military operation included an and took into consideration the scope of , and whether the army has the ability to crush Hezbollah. They also questioned whether the military was prepared for guerrilla warfare on enemy land.
The military countered such concerns, calling for Israel to unite behind its soldiers.
"There are difficult days like this and the army I think is operating with determination, the soldiers are acting with courage," said Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, chief of Israel's northern command. "There is no doubt about their abilities and I think at this time we have to strengthen them because they are the ones who have successes and prevent terrorism."
"This campaign will not be won by knockout, but by points," he said.
Brig. Gen. Miri Regev, the army's chief spokeswoman, told Israel Television that while Israel has hurt Hezbollah, it would not be able to stop the rocket fire completely.
Israeli military analyst Shlomo Brom said it was too early to say whether any strategic mistakes had been made in the offensive. He did, however, say there was something wrong in the way the political leadership was relaying its message to the people.
"They aren't telling the public where we are going, what are the realistic aims and how we are going about achieving them," he said.