6:27 PM, Nov 28, 2012 • By LEE SMITH
And yet strangely, it seems not to register with many people that Israel won in 2006, even if Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah underlined this fact just last week. Nasrallah threatened that the Lebanese militia could hit targets throughout Israel, “from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat,” but the most relevant point is that Nasrallah did not fire a single missile in support of his Iranian-backed ally Hamas. Why, aside from idle boasts, did he keep his head down when Israel came knocking at the door of his comrades in resistance? Because he is concerned that the Israelis might repeat their 2006 performance that killed several hundred Hezbollah fighters and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. Nasrallah has spent much of the last six years in fear of an Israeli assassination attempt. If your leader is bunkered for more than half a decade, you have not won the engagement that sent him underground. Hezbollah lost in 2006, just like Hamas lost last week.
So why do Israel’s wars, and especially its most recent conflicts with terrorist groups, seem so impervious to rational understanding? In part that’s because of pre-existing narratives that need to be redeemed after the fact, in spite of the facts. Among others, there’s the idea that violence doesn’t work. Israel can’t defeat Hamas militarily, so it didn’t. Or, because Israel’s military actions will only embolden the resistance, Israel can’t win and it didn’t.
Perhaps it is also because many people hold unrealistic, or ahistorical, ideas of war and peace. The reality is that few wars are conclusive, especially in the Middle East. If Hamas and Israel’s other enemies seek to do away with the Jewish state once and for all, Israelis would like to put an end to terror attacks permanently, live forever free from missile fire—and many of them would prefer to co-exist in comity with their neighbors. Neither prospect seems very likely at present. But in a sense Israel already has its own peace—a state, which it must defend periodically with war.
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