“No one feels safe in their home anymore,” is how my husband’s cousin Nina explained the impact of last summer’s Lebanon War. She lives near Tel Aviv. Last summer she hosted her mother, her husband’s mother, his brother’s family, and several others as almost a dozen people camped out in her modest apartment all summer to escape the rockets raining down on their homes in Israel’s northern cities. The news reports Hezbollah is rearming with even longer range rockets. She worries how her daughter, who has twins and lives on the fifth floor in a Tel Aviv suburb, will get down to the bomb shelter if an attack comes and her husband is not home to help.
Nina did not need the Winograd Report to tell her the war in Lebanon was mishandled and left Israelis feeling much less secure than before the war. Among the lessons that stuck home was the need for more flexibility and the need to train its soldiers to fight a different kind of war now.
I recently returned from visiting Israel and all over the state I saw maneuvers taking place so that the IDF would be better prepared next time. One year later, there is a sense of inevitability that “next time” could occur any time, on any number of fronts.
All this said, claims that Israel lost the war in Lebanon are inaccurate. Here are some of the positive results from last summer’s war:
*Up until last summer Hezbollah operated with impunity right up to the border. Now an expanded UN presence and more active Lebanese Army have created a defacto no-man’s-land, which limits Hezbollah’s ability to reach all but Israel’s most northern communities with its rockets. This summer was largely quiet because Hezbollah had been defanged.
*The Lebanese government, finally realizing the danger Hezbollah poses to its own viability, is fighting extremist elements in the refugee camps.
*Iran’s role in fermenting conflict has become more transparent, which is leading such nations as Russia, China, and France to become less obstructionist or more vigorous in international efforts to curb Iran.
These are some of the reasons Times of London commentator Tim Hames suggests that Israel is safer now than at any time in the last 25 years. (He also credits the often maligned security barrier that has successfully barred suicide terrorists from entering Israel.)
There is another reason Israel won the war last summer. Hezbollah, and all the other terrorists, think that terror undermines people’s will. Just the opposite is true for Israelis. This summer I met kibbutzniks making an arid landscape bloom with just trickles of water, engineers whose ingenuity is sprouting skyscrapers that sport the names of every major IT company, average Israelis making the most of every minute of life at the beach with their families, and neighbors volunteering their time to make life better for others.
There is something to be said for compartmentalization. The result is an optimistic, creative, and dynamic Israeli society that is willing to share its gifts to its neighbors. All Israel wants in exchange is for its neighbors to accept its right to exist. Most Israelis have been willing to trade land for peace for some time now. Despite Lebanon War and current Palestinian strife, most Israelis still want peace and are willing to accept a Palestinian State.
The final lesson from last summer’s war is this: Israel is not going away, no matter how unsafe they feel in their homes, no matter what Israel’s enemies will do. The question is: will the forces that realize this in the Arab camp also realize it is in their best interest to finally recognize Israel’s existence and make a peace that can be mutually productive?