The huge missile arsenal Tehran sent to Hezbollah – 13,000 missiles, according to Israel – was intended primarily as a deterrent against Israel should it contemplate an airstrike against its nuclear facilities.
To respond heavily to a Hezbollah provocation could bring down a rain of missiles on Israel’s cities. Surprisingly, it was an Israeli leader without a significant military background, Ehud Olmert, who decided to take on Hezbollah and pay the price.
More than 1000 missiles have struck Israel in the past week but the Israeli public overwhelmingly calls on the Government to continue pressing Hezbollah.
Hezbollah and Iran now find themselves with a deterrent that no longer deters. They also find much of Hezbollah’s infrastructure shattered and many of its leaders, including clerical leaders, killed in the air attacks.
Furthermore, neither the Arab world nor the international community is prepared to stop the pummelling. Israel has not moved ground forces into Lebanon and would prefer not to since casualties are likely to be high.
But if the continuing air, artillery and naval attacks are not sufficient, it clearly will go in.
Israel’s victory over Hezbollah, if such it proves, is also a victory against militant Islam that maybe followed up in the confrontation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
There is still a possibility that long-range missiles will hit Tel Aviv before a ceasefire is achieved, but Israel has made clear it is willing to pay the price.
I hope Rabinovich is right. But this is a situation where too much premature positive talk could be dangerous, or at the least counter-productive. This is a time to finish something for once, to change the playing field.