I’ve been watching Israel’s military actions in Gaza with great interest. The question in my mind is this: What lessons has Israel learned from its war with Hizballah in 2006?
Make no mistake, this is the second major battle of that war—a rematch. In one corner is America’s ally, Israel. In the other is Iran. Hamas is merely Iran’s proxy, just as Hizballah was Iran’s proxy back in 2006. Israel lost the first battle to Iran. In 2006, Israel’s dual goals of breaking Hizballah and destroying the rocket infrastructure were not achieved. Moreover, Iran (and Hizballah) achieved a two-fold strategic victory. First, by merely surviving a head-to-head match-up against the Middle East’s most powerful military, Hizballah “won.” Furthermore, Hizballah—bankrolled by Iran—moved back into southern Lebanon and provided humanitarian and financial assistance to all Lebanese (regardless of religion) who suffered loss during the war. With these acts, Iran dealt a psychological blow to Israel (the “invincible” was, perhaps, no longer invincible) and successfully undercut the legitimacy of Lebanon’s pro-democratic, pro-Western government.
Fast forward to 2008. We now have Hamas, financed and armed by Iran, precipitating a new war that has cost hundreds of Muslims their lives. Israel has stated that its goal is to stop the attacks from Gaza into Israel. Because the rockets Hamas uses are relatively small and portable, stopping the rocket launches requires “boots on the ground” in order to go door-to-door to seize these weapons. Even if it were possible to find all the rockets, the cost in life—both Muslim and Israeli—is a price too high for Israel to pay…in real terms, in the court of public opinion, and for future peace prospects. Therefore, Israel has no choice but focus its efforts on defeating and destroying Hamas. Israel is already going after Hamas’s leadership. The question is: Has Israel learned its lesson from 2006? Will Israel go after Hamas’ master and chief supporter?
While the world focuses on the tragedy in Gaza, it turns its attention and efforts away from Tehran. In the meantime, more and more centrifuges throughout Iran are brought on line, and money and materiel continue to flow from Iran to Gaza, to Lebanon and to Iraq.
Has Israel learned its lesson from 2006? Have we? The United States, the European Union, and Arab regimes concerned about growing Iranian influence have a common threat in the form of the radical Iranian regime. We must not lose sight of this. Gaza is merely a symptom of the larger problem—the radical Iranian regime. The Obama Administration must focus on Iran if it is to bring about a comprehensive peace process in the Middle East. Whether through the United Nations, through other alliances (mainly the EU), or—gasp—unilateral action, the United States must move swiftly. Iran has proven itself, time and time again, to be a roadblock to peace in the Middle East. It is also, by some estimates, less than a year away from acquiring nuclear capability.