GLOBES INTERVIEW: Major General Yaakov Amidror (Res): “Tough war unavoidable”

Major General Yaakov Amidror (Res): “Tough war unavoidable

Globes: The conflict in the north, which began with the kidnapping and killing of IDF soldiers and progressed to Katushya attacks that resulted in the death of a Nahariya woman, requires the political leadership to take tough decisions on Israel’s response. This is the opinion of Major General Yaakov Amidror (Res), formerly former commander of the IDF’s National Defense College and the IDF Staff and Command College, and also former head of the research branch of the Intelligence division. A tough war is unavoidable, he believes.

Globes: How did we reach this escalation?

Amidror: “Hizbullah decided to use the force that it has been building uninterrupted for years. For political reasons, the IDF was not able to prevent the build-up of this force, due to its desire to maintain the political framework that served as the basis for the unilateral withdrawal to the international border (as mapped out by the UN). Hizbullah was able, therefore, to go about its activities unimpeded. It was able to bring forward missiles, move equipment, position its forces on a ridge that enabled them to observe our operations, and primarily, to build its deterrent capacity through a stockpile of high trajectory missiles with a range that can reach south of Haifa. These were provided by Iran, through Syria, and by Syria itself. The IDF couldn’t do a thing even if it knew what was going on.

“For the last six years, Hizbullah operated every few months, with its success or failure dependent on luck and IDF readiness. It should not be forgotten that, during this period, soldiers were kidnapped, civilians in settlements on the northern border were murdered and soldiers at Har Dov came under attack. After a series of failures, Hizbullah has now scored a major success. This was why it appeared that Israel had benefited from a long period of quiet as a result of the unilateral withdrawal.”

Globes: Where do we go from here, and what options do you think Israel has now?

Amidror: “The State of Israel has to decide whether it wishes to continue with the situation we’ve had for the last six years, i.e. a period of calm interrupted every few months by Hizbullah operations, which occasionally succeed, or alternatively, to launch a war whose purpose will be to change the rules and cause substantial harm to Hizbullah’s capability. Such a war will be long and complex, and while it is going on, northern Israel will be exposed to Katushya attacks. So we have two tough options here and this is not an easy decision to make. Although residents in the north will have to suffer for a long period, it appears to me that, from a national perspective, the price is right, provided that the IDF is allowed to take the necessary measures to cause substantial to harm to Hizbullah’s capability.”

Globes:What option do you support?

Amidror: “My view is that if we want to remove the threat of ongoing terror from the north, and not allow Iran to operate against us in its hour of distress, a development that is related indirectly to the campaign against the Iranian nuclear arms program, we have no alternative but to engage in an extremely tough war. However, this should be done after we have won international public opinion to our side, even if this process takes time. We should allow a short period of between a week to 10 days for the crisis to be resolved through the return of the kidnapped soldiers. The international community is readier today that it was in the past to understand that Hizbullah must be disarmed as part of the process of rebuilding Lebanon as a normal country.

Globes: “Israel’s negotiating partners to the north are not terrorist organizations of the likes of Hizbullah, but sovereign states such as Lebanon and Syria which are members of the UN, and as such, they bear full responsibility for what happens on their territory and must therefore bear the consequences.”

Was Israel right to attack civilian infrastructure targets in Lebanon?

Amidror: “In a just war, any action that ultimately results in the disarming of the force that is fighting against us is justified, and if such action entails the destruction of infrastructure in Lebanon, then so be it. Lebanon is a sovereign state that bears responsibility for what happens on its territory. Last year, it managed to bring about the withdrawal of most of the Syrian troops that were stationed there, and there is no reason why it should not take similar action against Hizbullah.

Globes: Lebanon has a political problem when it comes to confronting Hizbullah, since the latter is also part of its government

Amidror: “A political problem is no justification as far as we are concerned, and for this very reason, we are engaging with a state and a sovereign government. The difference between Gaza and Lebanon is that Gaza has no real sovereign government, while Lebanon demonstrated its ability to exercise its sovereignty, when it removed Syrian troops from its territory.”

Globes: How should the conflict on both fronts be handled, given that people have been kidnapped in both the northern and southern fronts?

Amidror: “I think that Olmert’s policy on the kidnapped soldiers is appropriate, because if Israel capitulates and releases prisoners in exchange for the hostages, there’ll never be an end to it. Every single citizen in Israel will become a natural candidate for kidnapping. Israel is today paying the price today of mistakes made by Israeli governments over the last 25 years. The other side won’t kill the hostages since they are much more valuable as bargaining chips if they are alive, even if they are kept in captivity for a long time. Their return should be part of arrangement that will see Hizbullah completely stripped of its military capacity.”

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