As you members of Josha's Army know, I've devoted a number of articles to the farcical nature of the UN `ceasefire' in Lebanon.
And a number of you have posted comments wondering: `Why did Israel accept this? How did Israel benefit..the two kidnapped soldiers weren't even released. Was Israel threatened into accepting it? By whom?'
All of which makes fertile soil for an article on this very subject...one of the many occasions where Joshua's Army members have helped out enormously by tossing a grenade or two into the `comments' section or sending me an e-mail.
So what happened?
For a start, it's helpful to know the background.
Both the Sharon government and the Olmert government were tacitly aware of Hezbollah's threat on Israel's northern border...but they were unaware of how dangerous the threat was and how well dug in Hezbollah was.
Part of the reason for this, and one some of you may be unaware of is the purge carried out by Sharon and Olmert, his deputy, on Israeli generals and intel chiefs who disagreed with the party line on `disengagement'in Gaza and elsewhere...including General Y'aalon, the highly capable IDF Chief of staff who was unceremoniously booted out to make way for loyal party liner General Halutz.
Olmert had been under major political skeptism and criticism and had image problems in Israel because of his pushing the ethnic cleansing of Jews from their homes, his lack of military credentials and his notoriously far left(and very public) wife and children.
It's also helpful to understand that Olmert's cobbled together party, Kadima, does not have anything like a majority and had to build a majority with the most blatant coalition politics- which is why Israel, for the first time in its history has a defense minister, Peretz, with no military commmand experience whatsoever and who's chief recommendation for the job is his leadership of the Leftist Labor party.
Olmert sent the IDF into Lebanon precipitously, without adequate intel or supplies and severely undermanned, counting on Israel's airforce to take out Hezbollah and figuring on a `nice, quick little victory' to make him look strong on defense..and provide an impetus for the further ethnic cleansing of Jews from Judea and Samaria. If you remember, he stupidly said as much, back when it was thought the war was going well. Those remarks, by the way, severely impacted IDF morale as many of the IDF combat troops realized that, according to Olmert, they were fighting Hezbollah so that he could them and their families homeless after the war.
Instead of a quick victory, the IDF was surprised by well armed, highly disciplined Hezbollah troops, stiffened with a core of Iranian Republican guards fighting on fortified terrain. And unlike previous Israeli wars,the IDF was unable to make an end run in force while surrounding the fortified strong points because Olmert refused to commit the troops necessary to do so. In doing do, he overuled his own chief of staff.
The IDF adapted quickly, but were hampered by Olmert's indecisiveness. It's worth noting that even in the brief time they were allotted (less than 48 hours) once Olmert gave the green light to the offensive the IDF wanted all along, the Israelis reached the Litani River and had most of Hezbollah's forces surrounded and cut off in a large pocket that extended from the Litani River in the north, to Tyre in the southwest. And this was with a slipshod, ill planned assault on the ground.
One can only regret that the IDF was not given free rein a lot sooner, and in force.
The ceasefire happened because Olmert asked for it, in my opinion, and painted himself into a corner thanks to his own ineptitude. He froze at the wheel and wanted out. The repudiation on the ground to his pet policies and the revealation of Olmert as a political hack lacking ideas or the ability to lead made him want to turn to diplomacy in an effort to try and salvage something from the mess.
Here's what I think happened:
The Bush Administration held out for almost a month, but were under increasing pressure from the EU and the Arab states to bring this to some kind of ceasefire, and finally acquiesed, especially as Israel seemed unable to clearly win the war. What's more, faced with an increasingly disaffected IDF and Israeli public, criticism by the EU and UN and massive criticism at home, and most tellingly a lack of will, Olmert and his cohorts opted to go for pretty much anything offered, as long as it looked and sounded good.
Another factor is Olmert and Foreign minister Tzip Livni's desire to look good to the EU,the UN and the `international community'...regardless of how that affected Israel's interests.
The initial UN draft actually might have ended the conflict positively, if it had been enforced, but once the French got their orders from Iran and the Arab League, the resolution was watered down to the point of beiong nothing more than a grim joke. Of course by that time, having committed in principle to a ceasefire, it was too late for Israel to mouth any major objections.
Hezbollah was damaged, but not destroyed, and there is now an important precedent in place..the idea of UN/EU troops being used as a `buffer' doing nothing to prevent Arab attacks on Israel while impeding the IDF from responding.
Look for Kofi Annan and the rest of Israel's enemies to try to extend this concept to Gaza to protect Hamas.
On the plus side, Olmert and his policies have been thoroughly discredited, and Israel will at least have the opportunity to obtain the leadership it will need to fight the next round...which may be closer than anyone thinks.
That's not a neglible benefit.