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Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New York Post. Register here for access to the Post's Online Edition.



PETERS Israel Gets Serious
by Ralph Peters [author, novelist] 8/4/06

Thank God. Israel's fighting. Really fighting. At last. Now the crucial thing is not to stop. Hezbollah must be left in desolation, its terrorists slain and its dreams of glory smashed.

Even the finest, most-determined military efforts won't eliminate Hezbollah entirely. But uncompromising ferocity on the part of the Israeli Defense Forces can weaken, humble and humiliate the terrorist leadership.

That's what it's going to take.

Now that the IDF's punching into Lebanon and raiding deep to strike terrorist headquarters, the great danger is that Israel's civilian leaders will lose their nerve and agree to a premature cease-fire (they claim they won't, but politicians are politicians).

Ralph Peters - Contributor
Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications. [go to Peters Index]

Any cease-fire or bogus "cessation of hostilities" would only reward Hezbollah, leaving it the perceived victor. Israel must make all it can of this opportunity to devastate Hezbollah - and to teach Syria and Iran that they won't rule the Middle East with terror.

The introduction of ground forces in increasing strength will create new opportunities. Despite weeks of airstrikes, Hezbollah retained the initiative, waging an artful propaganda war while raining rockets on Israel. Now Hezbollah's been pushed onto the defensive where it matters - in its terror-fortress of villages, bunkers and hills in southern Lebanon.

Now the pressure's swelling on Hezbollah as IDF tanks and infantrymen root out its fighters and kill them. Now it's Hezbollah's turn to make mistakes. And the terrorists will make them. Guaranteed.

Yesterday, Hezbollah fired more than 200 rockets into Israel - the greatest one-day tally yet. One even reached the West Bank. On the surface, the volleys appeared to be another display of Hezbollah's resilience, mocking Israeli claims that much of its arsenal had been destroyed. But yesterday's barrage may have signaled something else - a hasty effort to "prove" that the IDF's ground offensive is having no effect.

To maintain its jumped-up credit rating in the Middle East, Hezbollah has to be perceived as unvanquished. To that end, the terrorists will struggle to keep dumping rockets on Israel.

That means they'll have to take ever-greater risks as the IDF advances. That means presenting more targets. In war, the side under the greatest pressure generally makes the most mistakes. And mistakes are deadly.

The paradox of this kind of war is that, while air power alone is not only ineffective, but often counter-productive (as at Qana), once ground troops enter the fight, they force the enemy to come out of hiding. That's when air power comes into its own, popping the rabbits flushed out by the grunts.

It's great to see the IDF looking like its old self again - a determined fighting machine.

But Israel must be uncompromising for its sacrifices to date to have enduring worth. You can't defeat terror with hugs and kisses. Hezbollah sets up women and children as sacrificial targets (and not only at Qana). The terrorists use ambulances to restock their weapons or smuggle their leaders to safety. They claimed a rear-area headquarters was a "hospital," yet an Israeli commando raid on Baalbeck killed 10 terrorists at the scene and captured five terrorist leaders in the building (they couldn't seem to find the charity ward).

Meanwhile, the gullible (when not pro-terrorist) media refuse to investigate Hezbollah-staged "Israeli atrocities."

Hezbollah's broken virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention. Even if the Baalbeck raid's target had been a working hospital, the laws of war state firmly that, if used for military purposes, the facility's immunity is canceled. In other words, Israel was right either way. And Hezbollah's in the wrong in every way.

Meanwhile, dangers loom on the diplomatic front. Our secretary of state performed splendidly in the first weeks of the war, defending Israel as the victim of terror. But Condoleezza Rice's brutal schedule is wearing her down: Her recent statement that a cease-fire could come in a matter of days was a gift to our mutual enemies.

We wouldn't want Israel - or anybody - shoving a timetable for Iraq down our throats. All timetables and deadlines only encourage our enemies to resist, to hang on, to hope. Statements conflicted within the Israeli government, too, with some voices guessing the war will last another week or two, while others speak of months.

My best advice to Israel: Everybody just shut up. Fight. Win the damned war. Then talk.

Israel's public pronouncements over the past three weeks have done the country nothing but harm, playing into Hezbollah's hands. Don't claim you've knocked out 40 percent of the enemy's capabilities when you don't have a clue. And don't brag that you'll "eliminate" Hezbollah. You won't (although you can cripple the organization, and that objective is well worthwhile).

And don't belittle the enemy's capabilities - whenever you do, you set yourself up for a fall. Respect the enemy. And kill him every time you have the chance.

Don't let anyone, not even the United States, push you into accepting arbitrary deadlines. You have nothing to lose by fighting to win and everything to gain.

To date, Hezbollah has been allowed to portray itself as the only Arab force that fought the IDF to a standstill. That image must be shattered. No matter what it costs. And Israel's on course to do what must be done.

But Israel's leaders must not waver. That goes for our leadership, too.

Let Syria rant. Let Iran threaten. Let Hezbollah rave. Israel should speak with battlefield results. As the IDF has now begun to do. CRO

Ralph Peters' latest book is Never Quit The Fight.

This piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2006 - NY Post

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