Please consider a few points on the eve of what could be yet another disasterous war in the Mideast
There are sadly only a few things militating against a major escalation in terms only of “facts on the ground:”
— Perhaps “only” two Israeli soldiers – and yes soldiers, apparently not civilians – were killed. None captured.
— The attack does appear to have taken place NOT within Israel but within the occupied Shebaa Farms – whether syrian or lebanese territory is a secondary issue.
In both of these aspects, Hizbullah and the Iranians have given Israel a “reasonable” way forward: a proportional, finite response by the Israelis tonight would likely be met by de-escalatory actions by Hizbullah.
At the very least, the Israelis have the ability (something that could later seem a luxury) to test this: If they attack a Hizbullah training camp in the Bekaa tonight and kill a few Hizb members and Hizbullah does not respond, then it could be “over.” Hizbullah will likely be hard pressed to then up the ante again with a counter-attack.
But they may up the ante – the point is that strategically and morally, the best way forward for the Israelis is to test this logic. I think it would lead to de-escalation. If it did not, and Hizbullah responded with additional violence or a higher degree of violence, the Israelis would be in a much better position going forward, and Hizbullah would be in a weaker position here in Lebanon.
REMEMBER JULY 12-13 2006: The Israelis had the possibility then of acting proportionately. They had virtually the whole world on their side – including many arab states – after the capturing of their soldiers within Israel proper… and the killing of others within Israel and Lebanon. They also – we now know from wikileaks – had almost all other lebanese parties angry at hizbullah, who stood to become a minority, shia party that all sides here felt were irresponsible.
Instead, as in so many past conflicts, the Israelis squandered this advantage (partially because they and the Bush admin could not really understand the long term value of this kind of thinking) and ended up in a very costly war, attacking widely on the second day of the war, far beyond Hizbullah.
As many of us have argued since then: the next Hizbullah-Israel conflict will be extremely costly – and it will also be much more painful for Israel too… not just for Hizbullah and Lebanon.
It will also totally collapse the deteriorating security structures all around Israel as the effect of a major conflict, in this post 2011/ISIS framework, ripples across the whole rotten construction.
Indeed, the mid-east system is broken on so many fronts that none of the actors involved can afford an escalation now, except ISIS and its fellow travelers. Hopefully the Israeli leadership will see this tonight, will hit back in a proportionate way, and realize that the war in syria is the main driver now of instability in the region and that it must be stopped before more madness consumes more of us all.
Hopefully Hizbullah, too, is calculating as such.