Aluf Benn in Haaretz is a reliable source of info and analysis, so I read his latest Giving the war an image of victory, not a draw with great interest.
Borrowing from the world of soccer beloved to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Israel Defense Forces operation in Lebanon went into overtime on Monday.
Olmert wants to take another stab at a decisive conclusion before the UN Security Council blows the final whistle. That's why he convened the cabinet on Monday to approve a wide-scale ground operation targeting villages used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
Olmert is fighting the battle over public opinion, both at home and abroad. He wants people to see the war as a victory, not a draw. It was this attitude that led Olmert to tell a conference of mayors on Monday that the operation is continuing despite the unfortunate deaths of dozens of Lebanese civilians in Qana Sunday.
"Israel is continuing to fight," the prime minister said. One can imagine the slogan as part of a commercial for a bank, on billboards or car bumpers. "There is no cease-fire, and there will be no cease-fire in the upcoming days," Olmert promised to the cheers of mayors in attendance. Conference participants made it clear they want the operation to continue.
Olmert read a long speech, filled with the now familiar components of his recent speeches: the reference to the fallen and captive soldiers, the appeal to the Lebanese people, the promise to win at the price of "worry, uncertainty − and yes, also pain, tears and blood." This time around, Olmert's speechwriter, Shaul Shenhav, also included a quote from Israeli poet Nathan Alterman.
The prime minister also contributed quite a few of his own words, and practiced the speech twice at his bureau before getting on stage to win public support for the next − and possibly final − phase of the Lebanon operation.
But for all the speeches, this conflict is lacking the kind of image that will help make it memorable - images like the paratroopers at the Western Wall or Ariel Sharon with a bandage around his head. What will the image of the second Lebanon war be?
Officials at the prime minister's bureau say it will be the image of soldiers in the multinational force who will deploy on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line and at the Syrian and Lebanese border crossings. It's hard to believe, but there you have it: The Israeli political elite are looking forward to the arrival of Captain Francoise of the French Foreign Legion and his comrades, who will be stationed on the border along with Lebanese army units. That hadn't crossed anyone's mind three weeks ago, and now it's the objective of the Israeli war; Olmert promised to continue fighting until the international army takes control of positions and villages that Hezbollah had been using until the war.
Unless this is part of a disinformation campaign, it seems to me it would be very difficult to spin this outcome as a "victory" for Israel. I'm also not sure how the role of Syria is brought into all of this. My own sources tell me that the Bushies are pissed-off big time at the failure of the Israelis to deliver swift victory over the Hizbollah.