BEIT EL, Israel – While Israeli officials declared this week the Jewish state’s military campaign in Lebanon is achieving its purpose of incapacitating Hezbollah, some politicians here say the Lebanese terrorist group is “winning” the conflict.
“According to the media, [Israel is] winning and it is Hezbollah who have become refugees. [But] we are losing. Hezbollah is winning the war,” Jewish Leadership Chairman Moshe Feiglin, a member of Israel’s Likud Party, told WND.
In a national address yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel rejected any cease-fire while the Israeli Defense Forces continued to attack Hezbollah strongholds and positions.
“Hezbollah has suffered a heavy blow and will take a long time to recover, if at all,” Olmert said. “This is a unique opportunity to change the rules in Lebanon.”
The Israel Defense Forces estimated last night it destroyed about two-thirds of Hezbollah’s long-range missile capabilities. An IDF spokesman said Hezbollah’s infrastructure in south Lebanon had been badly damaged.
The international media has been reporting daily on Israeli operations in Lebanon, regularly updating death counts.
Leaders worldwide claimed Israel committed a war crime this weekend by targeting a residential building in Qana, a strike that reportedly took the lives of 54, including three dozen children. Israeli officials have ordered an investigation into the strike and have offered statements of regret regarding the high number of civilian casualties. Israel also imposed a temporary halt in aerial attacks as it investigates the Qana incident.
The Qana attack culminated the deadliest day in the nearly three-week-old conflict, which began when Hezbollah terrorists crossed Israel’s border, kidnapped two soldiers and killed four others in an ambush on an Israeli military vehicle.
Feiglin said the perception that Israel has the upper hand in the conflict “reminds me a bit of Cairo Radio at the start of the Six Day War reporting that the Egyptian soldiers were already celebrating on the beaches of Tel Aviv.”
Israel went on to steadily defeat the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies in under a week during the war in 1967, with Egyptian troops never advancing anywhere near Israeli population centers. Israel took control of several parcels of land. including Judea and Samaria; Gaza; and Sinai in that war, only to return the Sinai to Egypt in a 1979 peace treaty.
In the current conflict, while considerable damage has been sustained on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border, neither party is ready to concede defeat.
“Hezbollah has controlled the pace of this conflict since the beginning,” Feiglin stated. “And they continue to control the conflict today. There is a new set of rules in the Middle East. You can bomb Israeli cities and come out smiling, alive and kicking.”
Feiglin, himself a candidate for prime minister, finished third behind former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in the most recent primary for the chairmanship of Israel’s Likud Party.
Israeli analysts credit Feiglin for forcing the ideological split in the Likud that resulted in the defection of previous Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, his understudy, current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and 14 other Likud ministers to the newly formed Kadima Party.
“Hezbollah has clear objectives, and they have met them,” Feiglin says. “They seek to remove Jews from their homes and they have done that in nearly a third of the country. In the north, over 2 million Jews have been living in bomb shelters for nearly three weeks.”
“Hezbollah’s goal is to erase Jewish presence from the last parcel of ‘this region of Islam,'” Feiglin explains. “Hezbollah is accomplishing this goal and faster than they thought possible. They see a weak nation that is willing only to run away and not deal with their problems head on.”
Since the war began, Hezbollah has claimed multiple wins in the confrontation with Israel. It has fired about 2,000 Katyusha rockets on northern Israeli cities, gradually increasing the distance of the rocket attacks. Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, is now under regular rocket barrage.
Hezbollah has staged multiple deadly ambushes against Israeli troops, dragging soldiers operating in south Lebanon into face-to-face combat with devastating results.
In what Israel admitted was a major blow to its navy, Hezbollah three weeks ago hit a naval ship with an Iranian Silkworm C-802 radar-guided anti-ship cruise missile, killing four soldiers and damaging the warship. It was the first time the missile had been introduced in the battle with Israel. Military officials here said the Israeli ship’s radar system was not calibrated to detect the Silkworm, which is equipped with an advanced anti-tracking system.
In retaliation for the ambushes, kidnappings and rocket barrages, Israel has attacked installations throughout Lebanon, both in southern Hezbollah strongholds as well as in Lebanon’s larger residential cities of Tyre and Beirut. Lebanese security officials state Israel has killed more than 400 citizens since the conflict began.
“Hezbollah does not care what happens in Beirut,” Feiglin said. “The last thing they care about is how many casualties they absorb.”
Feiglin told WND the “price that Lebanon must pay in Beirut and elsewhere is worth it.”
“Today, Nasrallah is the hero of the Islamic world,” he said.
While Feiglin says Israel is militarily superior to Hezbollah, he claims Israel does not know how to properly organize their resources to defeat the confident terrorist organization.
“Israel has no objectives and therefore has not developed a strategy to win this conflict,” Feiglin states. “There is one side that knows what it wants and there is another side that does not know what it wants. When you don’t have an objective, you cannot possibly succeed.”
Feiglin said Israel has the ability to win, but it must define the enemy.
“The enemy is extreme Islam,” he said.
Feiglin, who promotes the return of traditional religious Jewish values in Israel’s political leadership, states, “Once you realize that this is a spiritual war, you must lean on your own spirit if you want to win. If you do not do that, you will surely lose.”
In Israel’s previous wars, he noted, “when the Arabs fought for land, we always won because we were playing on the same field.”
But now, Feiglin explained, “they have elevated their playing field to the spiritual realm and we cannot continue to fight them on a lower plane.”
He cites the terrorist organization’s name as proof of their religious mission. In Arabic, Hezbollah means “army of God.”
Without a clear strategic goal, Feiglin said, “the most that we can expect under the current circumstances is a cease-fire, or, in other words, an honorable defeat.”
In order to win the war, Feiglin asserted, “the Jews must remember who and what they are fighting for: God, and the inheritance he bestowed upon the Jewish people.”
Alex Traiman is a writer for WND’s Jerusalem bureau