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Commentary Last Updated: Jun 24th, 2008 - 00:53:41

Israeli cover-ups, the Lebanese videotape and regional politics
By Dr. Marwan Asmar
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 24, 2008, 00:10

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If Arab countries are to live in the new world of globalization, they must learn to plan effectively. This is the sum conclusion of what many observers believe, especially in the light of new information released by the French secret service about the soaring losses incurred by Israel as a result of its war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

At that time it was shown Israeli did receive a bloody nose from Hizbollah but very few in the Arab world capitalized on the fact.

Instead, major chunks of Beirut and southern Lebanon were totally destroyed, Israel withdrew, and everyone went back to whatever they were doing. Apart from some studies, here and there, Arabs failed once again to use the Israeli losses/the Hizbollah and Lebanese gains for the building of long-term Arab strategic plans to confront an ideological and military Israeli state whose war showed it to be no more than a paper tiger only strong enough to beat the occupied Palestinians.

The French secret service report translated into English by an American in effect showed how vulnerable Israel is in fighting regional wars as underlined by its heavy losses which it covered up, while the Arab and international media parroted lies and deceitful statistics put out, no doubt, by Israeli PR managers.

The first lie was Israel had only lost 119 soldiers in its war on Lebanon: French intelligence report now says not so: The number of Israeli soldiers killed was 2,300, including 65 who died as they took cover in houses left by their Lebanese owners under bombardment from the air by Israeli military planes and missiles.

The report also says 600 of the total deaths where of Israeli soldiers who died in hospital as a result of their injuries. The injured as well were put at 700 soldiers. Israeli defense institutes may have already analyzed what is seen as the catastrophic consequences of the Israeli war and could well be in the midst of drawing up scenarios about the new regional security environment Israel finds itself in.

Indeed anyone, excluding US President George W. Bush who attended Israel�s 60th birthday last May and said he would be looking forward to celebrating Israel�s 120th year, must now be wondering if Israel is really the superpower of the region extenuated by hollow talk.

Such statistics must be flung far out into the open and used to build up a new Arab-Israeli strategic equation and force Tel Aviv to succumb to new realities on the ground of changing military strength vis-�-vis its regional neighbors.

It is up to the Arab world and through such institutions as the Arab League to make its first move and begin to build up political bricks and future scenarios to understand just what makes the Israeli paper tiger tick, with its aggressive halo, its dogmatism and austere security perceptions and the changing military environment.

The French intelligence report says Israel suffered much in military hardware. Hizbollah forces completely destroyed 65 Israeli tanks and troop carriers in the war, including 38 Mirkava top-notch tanks through anti-missiles and 15 tanks through landmines. In addition, the report says 93 other tanks and troop carriers were badly hit.

This is despite the fact the Israeli military displayed an unusual ferocity it what it called its limited war in Lebanon in July and early August 2006. The French report says the Israeli air force made 12,000 air raids on Lebanon during the July/early August period, not to mention the 2,500 shells and missiles fired by the Israeli navy from the sea onto Lebanese towns and cities and the 100,000 grenades from the Israeli army when it started its land war on the country.

Observers have since argued, in fact immediately during and after the war, that the image of the Israeli army as an elite force that could not be beaten was being cracked and shattered in the light of the stiff resistance by Hizbollah and because of the firing of missiles on northern Israeli towns and cities, which had a tremendous psychological impact on the Israeli population if not destructive potency.

About 30 percent of the Lebanese killed were children and Israel destroy,ed 400 kilometers of roads and highways, bombed 73 bridges, destroyed 31 civilian targets including the airport and seaports and sewage systems, 25 gas stations, 900 shops, 350 schools and hospitals and 15,000 houses, and 130,000 houses were badly damaged.

Despite this, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is on record for telling the Knesset �We destroyed the place,� many people, including Israelis, say Israel most definitely lost the war in Lebanon because of the high losses incurred.

Because of this Arabs must start to plan for a new phase or stage of development in the conflict that is beyond the Israeli/Palestinian geography, but one that has a regional/international dimension.

Israeli policy-makers have certainly begun doing this because they now realize despite American aid and her possession of nuclear warheads, they can�t win a regional war against protagonists, either states or non-state actors like Hizbollah.

That�s why we also now realize the reasons behind the Israeli overtures to Syria via Turkish mediation. Although much ballyhoo is being made about progress on the Syrian-Israeli peace track and the return of the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967, the fact of the matter is that it is very difficult to trust Tel Aviv which has been limping the peace process along ever since the Madrid peace conference in 1991.

It is well known why Israel is making overtures to Syria that very probably won�t likely lead anywhere. Through talking to Damascus, which could very well be an American ploy, Israel could be having one more try at neutralizing both Hizbollah and Iran from the diplomatic regional power game.

But Syria is by no means an easy pushover. First of all, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has inherited his father�s legacy. Hafez Al Assad was long been regarded for his political brinkmanship and his �sit-back-and-wait� attitude.

This policy has been long adopted within the Syrian leadership and decision-making body that have the ability to react and deal pragmatically but maintain principled stances at the same time.

So if Israel is trying out a new political game through the meetings in Turkey, where it believes it can drag it�s opponent into a political vacuum, it may need to think again because Syria is a formidable force which is unlikely to drop its cards in favor of an illusive peace that would probably lead to nowhere, judging from the Israeli mentality of playing for time as long as possible.

Although different progress on the peace tracks were made, most of all with the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Egyptians, Israel and the US are unlikely to find another partner in Syria that would split the regional cake, make peace with Lebanon, isolate Hizbollah and Iran, impose a regional peace in its own image, and give the aggrieved parties as little as possible while reducing them to pawns to be manipulated at will.

The Arab world should not fritter the gains of the 2006 war on Lebanon, as they did when Israel nearly lost the October 1973 War, but for the American military airlift, but need to mobilize their forces and resources to see possible ways out of the present Israeli destruction of the West Bank, its continuing siege of Gaza and her myopic but arrogant attitude toward the region.

Dr. Marwan Asmar is an Amman, Jordan-based writer and frequently comments on Arab and Palestinian affairs.

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