Israel’s next war.

“Lebanon? That’s so 80s.”

We learned on Friday that America and Israel have concluded that the bomber in last week’s bloody attack in the Bulgarian city of Burgas was an operative working with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, under orders from Iran “to avenge assassinations targeting its nuclear scientists” (such as Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, killed in January when an assassin bombed his car in Tehran).

In the meantime, we’ve also learned that the New York police have found evidence linking Iran or its proxies to nine other plots against Israeli or Jewish targets around the world. According to former Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, this should not surprise us – and Israel is “to a large extent, the initiators.”

We hit [senior Hezbollah leader] Imad Mughniye [in 2008], and, mainly, we’re leading a struggle against Iran. We’re not a passive side. And the other side is the defending, deterring, and attacking one.

…If Israel will respond in such a way, it will have to take into account that its response will be followed by a response. That’s the dynamic.

That’s the dynamic. That’s always been the dynamic.

Not just in Israel, not just in the Middle East, but in every place that people have ever found themselves. Humans respond to violence with violence. It’s what Israel does – why on earth would Iran and Hezbollah be any less human than the Israelis?

As Arad went on to say:

Iran can’t stay disinterested, and it’s natural that it or its proxies such as Hezbollah will try to commit such attacks and exact a price from Israel.

In the meantime, of course, Prime Minister Netanyahu has threatened harsh retaliation:

We will pursue the attackers and extract a heavy price from those who sent them. We will continue fighting Iranian terror, we will act against it with great force.

Because that’s the dynamic.

My fear is that this dynamic will ultimately mean that the appalling murder of innocent people will  serve as an excuse for one of two ghastly outcomes: a direct Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities – an option that Netanyahu appears palpably anxious to pursue – or a third Lebanon War.

Just two weeks ago, Brigardier-General Hertzi Halevy told the Israeli press press that

The IDF is preparing seriously and professionally for another Lebanon war. The response will need to be sharper, harder, and in some ways very violent. The next war will be with very heavy exchanges of fire on both sides, and so both need to make every effort to stop this happening.

In the Goldstone Report, the community and the world tended to get confused and think that this can be done in a nicer way. It cannot be nice. Without the use of great force, we will find it difficult to achieve the aim, and the enemy should also know that.

Note: Halevy says “both [sides] need to make every effort to stop” another war in Lebanon; likewise, a slew of Israeli military experts believe an attack on Iran would be disastrousand Israeli public opinion is torn on the matter as well, in part because most Israelis think that attacking Iran would lead to war Hezbollah, a war which would last “for at least a few months.

I’m not going to spit in the face of reality and suggest that if only we invited the Iranians and their Hezbollah pals to a nice nosh, we’d all get along. The most recent examples of tit-for-tat killings may still only be a “shadow war,” as some have termed it, but the people killed are no less dead for all that – and history has shown just how often “shadow wars” turn into the real thing.

But I think that Uzi Arad gets it right when he says

Israel must continue its struggle, but must take its consequences into consideration, and that’s part of the dynamics. Israel must manage the struggle, reduce the risks, and be prepared intelligence-wise.

I fervently hope that Israel’s government is listening. I simply cannot believe that either bombing Iran or going to war in Lebanon with serve to ether manage the struggle, or reduce the risks.

On the contrary, given the dynamic, I can only believe that the results of either would make the losses in Burgas pale in comparison.


  1. That’s the dynamic. That’s always been the dynamic.Not just in Israel, not just in the Middle East, but in every place that people have ever found themselves. Humans respond to violence with violence.

    Paul Dirks had a thoughtful comment along those lines a few years ago:

    Warfare relies on a tacit agreement among people to consider each other enemies. … Any suggestion that one side and one side only is culpable is misguided. But to deny that the side with all the soldiers and weaponry is in control of whether the conflict escalates or recedes is to deny simple reality.

    Always struck me as elegant and thoughtful.

    What’s more, it seems to me that Israel doesn’t have any choice but to be “the bigger man.” It’s a country of around 8 million people; for the time being it has the far more advanced economy and military than its neighbors. I don’t see how “perpetual state of enmity” works as and endgame– which is, of course, what the Israeli military experts you link to, and strategists like Meir Dagan, are arguing.

    PM Netanyahu reminds me of Pres. Bush Jr. Steeped in right-wing talking points, indifferent to strategic thinking. I hope I’m wrong about him. I don’t think Israel has the margin for error that the US has had.

    • I love that Paul Dirks quote (with which I was entirely unfamiliar – thank you!) and may be using it all over the place now. That is completely the truth.

  2. Thank you for this analysis, Emily. It’s depressing but I appreciate your putting it out there.

  3. Darth Thulhu

     /  July 24, 2012

    Disheartening but needful to read. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis.

  4. zenobiajo

     /  July 24, 2012

    Very sobering. Thanks for your thoughtful and provocative posts on this issue.

  5. dmf

     /  July 24, 2012

    keep after them ee, the fight is long but the company is good:

  6. I re-blogged that with some additional comment of my own. Superb analysis, and very timely.

  7. Want2Know

     /  July 30, 2012

    Right wing though he is, Netanyahu, in his military/security actions, has been very cautious. He is actually most agressive at doing nothing. Since he returned to office in early 2009, there have been no big Israeli military operations in Gaza, Lebanon or elsewhere. My sense is that he will only act if there is a very well thought out plan and defined objective. The choice, however, is not only Israel’s to make. As to Hizbollah, Nasrallah will only be willling to provoke a conflict if he thinks it somehow serves his needs. If, indeed, Hizbhollah had a role in the recent attack and other planned actions, Nasrallah may have made that calculation.

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