Telegraph | News | The five options open to Israel
The five options open to Israel
Act with restraint
It might already be too late for this but Israel could hold back in the hope
of focusing international pressure on Hizbollah and Hamas rather than on
It has a stronger case in Lebanon, where it has withdrawn to the
UN-demarcated international border. Moreover, the Security Council has
called for Hizbollah to be disarmed.
In Gaza, Israel has formally withdrawn but still maintains a stranglehold on
the borders and occupies the West Bank.
Negotiate a prisoner exchange
Israel has in the past been willing to release scores of Arab prisoners to
recover captured Israelis. It is part of the unspoken compact in Israel’s
conscript army that the government will do everything to bring its sons
home. Ehud Olmert says this will only encourage more kidnapping.
Negotiate ‘red lines’
In the past, large-scale Israeli operations have been ended by third-party
mediators negotiating unofficial agreements setting “red lines”. For years
it was understood that Hizbollah would not carry out raids in Israel itself
and refrain from firing rockets on Israeli cities if Israel did not hurt
But the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon has deprived Hizbollah of targets
and it has clung to the notion that Israel is still occupying a parcel of
Lebanese territory known as the Shebaa Farms. Israel would like to halt the
rocket fire and push Hizbollah back from its positions on Israel’s border
but may not find anybody able to impose such an arrangement.
Re-occupy Gaza and south Lebanon
A growing number of Israeli commentators argue that it was a mistake to
withdraw from south Lebanon and Gaza unilaterally, without agreements that
would ensure calm in the evacuated territories. Some advocate a partial
re-occupation of Gaza, at least to push back the home-made rockets
threatening southern Israeli cities. But many Israeli civilians are wary of
returning to the “quagmire” of these areas.
Israel claims the real culprits are Syria and Iran, which support Hamas and
Hizbollah. Israeli jets last month flew over the summer residence of Syria’s
President Bashar al-Assad in a clear threat. The US also accuses Syria of
fomenting the insurgency in Iraq.
But both the US and Israel will be wary of trying to topple the Ba’athist
leadership, not least because it could be replaced with an overtly Islamist
government. Israel has repeatedly rattled its sabre against Iran but will
not want to undermine world action to halt its nuclear programme.
Israeli forces bombard Lebanon
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