There are two ways to evaluate the outcome of a military conflict:

  1. The degree of success the sides to the conflict had in realizing their objectives during the conflict;
  2. The measure of military achievements during the campaign.

1. On July 12, 2006, the Hezbollah unwarrantedly attacked an Israeli patrol inside Israeli territory, killed and abducted Israeli soldiers while simultaneously firing dozens of missiles at Israeli population centers. Though they were clearly the aggressor in this conflict, the Hezbollah’s choice to engage in a military exchange with Israel appears to make no sense. Embarking on a military adventure usually has a practical purpose – such as territorial gain or obtaining resources – none of which applies to Hezbollah’s action. There were no religious or political motifs involved. Although Hezbollah had periodically engaged in skirmishes with Israel over the six years since Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon, none of the previous actions were of the scale of the last attack.

Only when allowing for the fact that Hezbollah is no more than the proxy of Iran, can one identify the reason for this war. It was all a matter of timing. The members of the G-8, meeting in St. Petersburg, were to discuss the possible sanctions against Iran regarding its nuclear program. Iran needed to divert their attention from that issue, and at the same time evaluate the resolve of the US administration and their European allies while testing the two-month old Israeli government as well.

What Iran succeeded in doing was call greater attention to itself and its threat to world stability while extending Israel an unprecedented international umbrella of support for its right to self-defense, which even included many Arab countries. This support was not squandered, nor was it diminished during the long month of combat. The support finally manifested itself in the UN Security Council resolution 1701, which any objective evaluation will determine was very considerate of Israel’s positions. Considering Iran’s propensity to arm Hezbollah, articles OP 14 and 15 of resolution 1701, which speak of an arms embargo in Lebanon, may in effect even provide the international community with the indirect means to finally apply sanctions against Iran.

As for the resolve of the new Israeli government and the Israeli people, Iran and Hezbollah were proven to have badly miscalculated. Israel rose to the challenge. Israel showed the western world how a democracy could fight terrorism while preserving its principles and morals.

Newly elected Prime Minister Olmert decided Israel would no longer be held hostage by Hezbollah and be subject to the threat of their missiles. All the while, Olmert was cautious to ensure Israel would not play into the hands of Hezbollah by getting trapped in an extensive guerrilla war, with Israeli troops exposed all the way to Beirut.

This was at a heavy price. As 3970 missiles rained down on them, Israeli civilians showed resolve, determination and character, remaining steadfast the entire month. Yet, above all, the “decedent, fun loving, peace seeking, capitalist” Israeli reservists; along with their “ideologically-challenged, no values” compulsory service Israeli soldiers, did not shy away from duty. They showed a willingness to stand up and fight, perhaps even die, for the country they love, the freedoms they enjoy and the values and principles we all cherish. Having been attacked, Israel’s objectives were subject to the realities it faced. The Cabinet decision of July 12, 2006 established these as:

a. the unconditional release of our kidnapped soldiers; b. assuring Lebanon implements UN resolution 1559. c. exacting a price from Hezbollah for its aggression; d. removing the missile threat to Israel by Hezbollah;

The war waged by Israel against Hezbollah fulfilled the third and forth objectives. Resolution 1701 is already showing more promise than previous resolutions and will help the realization of our second objective and complete our forth objective. Only upon the conclusion of the hostilities and the affirmation of Lebanese sovereignty can Israel then engage in obtaining our most important objective – the unconditional release of our soldiers.

2. The full measure of Israel’s military achievements in the war against Hezbollah cannot be fully appreciated without looking at the realities Israel faced when it was attacked on July 12.

Hezbollah had six years to prepare for this war. It had built dozens of bunkers and fortified positions along the border with Israel. It booby-trapped the roads around the bases of operations, weapons storage facilities and operation centers throughout south Lebanon, Beirut and the Beka’a Valley. It was funded and trained by the Iranians, equipped with the most advanced weapons and sophisticated technological systems. It is not a rag-tag group of terrorists but a modern terrorist army, which combines military tactics with guerilla warfare. Hezbollah fighters were in position, dug in and enjoyed tactical topographical advantage over the Israeli soldiers and the full support of the local civilians among whom they hid.

Israel’s forces had to be called up, trained and moved into position, while our civilian population was under attack. Clearly, not a good starting point. Yet, at the end of the war, Israel sat nearly 30 kms in Hezbollah territory, while not a single one of the Hezbollah’s fortified positions along the border with Israel exists. Every Hezbollah location, center and building was destroyed or hit and hundreds of their fighters were killed. Every time they engaged Israeli forces, they were soundly defeated. Every rocket launcher exposed was destroyed. Hezbollah leaders are on the run and remain in hiding, knowing very well that when they finally do expose themselves, Israel will avenge the murder of its civilians.

Therefore, under every military parameter, Israel was clearly successful, in this stage of the war, and clearly victorious.

This is not to say that there were no problems or deficiencies. There were plenty, they are serious and they should be exposed and corrected. That is what a strong and healthy democracy does. There may have been mistakes on the part of the leadership of Israel as well. Nevertheless, none of this should, in anyway, detract from the overwhelming military victory in this battle or diminish the extent of the resolve and tenacity shown by the Israeli soldiers and the Israeli public over the past month.

Supporters of Israel are welcomed to raise concerns, but should not be carried away with unfounded hysteria that plays into the hands of the enemies of liberty and freedom. We in Israel will make the necessary amends. We realize there is a long fight before us. We understand, as Winston Churchill said, that this was just “the end of the beginning”.