Sunday, January 25, 2009

First Polling in Israel

The first of this week's election polls are being broadcast by Israel's Channel One, and there is nothing to suggest that the electoral outcome on February 10 will significanly vary from the results that pre-war polls indicated. Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud party continues to lead with a projected 30 mandates (seats in the 120-seat Kenesset); Tzipi Livni's Kadima party is projected to receive 22 seats, and Ehud Barak's Labour is projecting 17 seats. Whatever improvement registered by Labour has simply come out of the hide of Kadima. On Tuesday the political parties will start broadcasting their political campaign ads (in Israel, the parties are granted free air time according to a complicated formula), and while these are always interesting to watch, they rarely shift voter sentiments.

If these new Channel One poll numbers are correct (and I have no reason to doubt them), it confirms the sense that the perpetual 20% of the Israeli electorate that might be lured to the left or to the right has swung decisively to the right for this election cycle. The next Israeli government, the one that President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and Special Envoy George Mitchell will be dealing with, will be made up of a coalition of Likud, right-leaning and theocratically-oriented smaller parties, and Kadima (now as clear 2nd fiddle). The smaller right parties (and some of the more right-leaning Likud MKs) will effectively block any initiative proposed by the Americans. Netanyahu will be able to hide behind the democratic dynamics of coalition politics when he delivers his "no" to President Obama. Makes me think that maybe Obama initially offerred the job of Special Envoy to one of the State Department "old hands" (Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, Dan Kurtzer). When they all realized that it would be Netanyahu that would be sitting in the Israeli PM chair, they all said (in unison): "Thanks, but no thanks. Let George do it!"

The good news? The political logjam that has crippled Israel these last 12 months because of Olmert's ongoing corruption problems is coming to an end. The bad news? Instead of political paralysis in Israel, there will be a highly infelexible and unresponsive (or, from a domestic perspective: a highly cautious and self-protective) Israeli leadership.

So what can the diplomatic triumvirate of Obama-Clinton-Mitchell expect? An ongoing internal Palestinian hatefest as the Fatah-Hamas rift festers with no resolution in sight; and on the Israeli side, a few months of coalition maneuvering until a feeble right-wing government emerges. This new Israel will be even more averse to talking to any Fatah-Hamas coalition government; whatever Palestinian leadership that engages with Israel will find Israel even more committed to deferring big decisions until its definition of security is obtained. Don't expect "change we can believe in" in the Arab-Israeli conflict anytime soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: The Next Mother India?

It's been over 2 years since I last wrote about Indian cinema. But today's Oscar nominations cause me to take a gander at Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle's incredible sleeper of the 2009 season. It started by running in arthouses in November, and now with its Golden Globe win and 10 Oscar nominations, this movie is getting the kind of distribution very few arthouse films receive.

Based on Vikas Swarup's novel Q & A, Slumdog Millioniare opened finally this week in Mumbai. The movie has generated some controversy inside India. On his blog site, the great Indian Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan initially attacked the movie: "[It] projects India as Third World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots." Bachchan actually "appears" in the film in a most novel way, and it might be a touch of pique that prompted this soon-retracted comment.

With all these Oscar nominations, it might be good to look back upon Indian cinema's history with the Oscars. The great 1957 classic, Mother India, directed by Mehboob Khan, was the first Indian film nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. One of the first great color epics, Mother India was the story of an ancient/young nation sacrificing for some better future, told through the bitter life of a mother and her two sons. It is often compared to Gone With the Wind for its historical reach and its tragic scope.

It was not until 2002 when India again received a nomination, and this time it was Ashutosh Gorwiker's Lagaan. Lagaan is remembered for its breakthrough technology (live miking of actors as they performed scenes) and its incredible musical score by A. R. Rahman, the greatest composer of contemporary Bollywood.

Despite the foreign funding, the lead director and screenwriter both Brits -- Slumdog Millionaire is a fantastic Indian film. Foreign funding might be a problem for nationalists, but is a welcome development for the new globe-reaching Bollywood.

Slumdog Millionaire continues the narrative of Mother India, propelling the modern Indian story into the next generation -- the urban generation of cable television and cell phones, of IT call centers and abject slums existing side-by-side. And in the best spirit of Mumbai's tolerant and slightly subversive Indian film community, the movie refreshingly does not tell the story of Hindustani suffering, but instead tells the story of Muslims in a country of continuing Hindu-exclusive nationalism. The story of Muslims in modern India has occasionally been addressed, but in Slumdog Millionaire it is portrayed in all its vicious intensity.

With a knee-tapping soundtrack by A. R. Rahman, and a story of love and romance, Slumdog Millionaire is one of the most compelling must-sees of this Oscar season.

And Bollywood fans -- stay for the credits!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cease fire?

At this moment, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert is addressing in Hebrew the Israeli people with word of an unilateral cease fire, based on 2 agreements: one signed yesterday between Israeli Foregin Minister Tzipi Livni and American Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice; and a second between the government of Israel and the government of Egypt. The cease fire will be applied Sunday morning local time at 2 am, or 7 pm Saturday evening East Coast time. Hamas for its part has defiantly announced that it is not a party to any cease fire agreement. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether the cease fire will take hold, and whether Israeli forces will begin to withdraw from Gaza. For the moment, the bitter pill of Israeli forces remaining in Gaza will be a source of ongoing Hamas consternation, which might place this unilateral cease fire in doubt.

Now the truly "snap" election begins in Israel, with a campaign that will last barely more than three weeks. Olmert for his part is declaring victory, and if the Israeli electorate accepts that judgment, it is likely that the electoral standing of first Ehud Barak, and second Livni, will have improved, at the expense of Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu. There is much in this somewhat murky conclusion to Operation Cast Lead for Likud to criticize. If indeed a regime has been created which will truly prevent the smuggling of armaments into Gaza from Egypt, a truly decisive change has been introduced into the Hamas-Israel struggle. But even so, there might well be many Israeli voters unhappy to see Hamas still entrenched in Gaza.

If this is indeed the end of the Gaza War, it ends in a way quite different than the 2006 Second Lebanon War. It ends with few Israeli casualties, and with serious damage done to its intended adversary -- Hamas. The Israeli electorate never soured on Operation Cast Lead. As it began, so it ends -- with widespread support and increased confidence in the Israeli army and its military leaders. Israel will certainly have to answer for some of the more controversial incidents of this war on the international stage of public opinion, but honestly this matters little in the calculations of Israeli voters. We'll have to wait for some new polling data to see just exactly how the Israeli public digests the outcome of these past three weeks of warfare.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Dangerous Endgame

Imagine for a moment you are the weak, ineffectual Secretary General of the weak, ineffectual United Nations. But being the third-level diplomatic bureaucrat you are, you fly off to the Middle East armed with a toothless Security Council resolution calling for a cease fire, and meet in all the relevant regional capitals urging the Israelis and Hamas to stop their warring. As it happens, the day you arrive in Jerusalem, the Israeli army shells your clearly delineated refugee headquarters in Gaza City. How's that for a nice "fuck you"?

The Israelis claim that an RPG was fired at Israeli troops out of the UN compound -- hence the return fire. Maybe -- but since there aren't any qualified journalists in Gaza City, all we have is indignant UN workers (whose sympathies are with the Palestinian cause) and the less than impartial IDF spokesman to deal with. As with every other incident (like the al-Fakhura school incident), there is enough dis- and mis-information to keep both sides happy and miserable.

By all accounts, we are witnessing the dangerous endgame to Operation Cast Lead. Israeli and Hamas diplomats are speaking indirectly through Cairo on either a temporary cease fire or a permanent cessation of hostilities. If anyone seriously believed some of the earlier Israeli ministerial pronouncements that Cast Lead would lead to the toppling of Hamas, the talks in Cairo, in which Israel is yet again dealing with Hamas, prove otherwise. The Israeli Army is reportedly pressing ahead slowly into Gaza City itself (not because of great resistance, I imagine, but because slow steady pressure will likely produce a "better" cease fire deal for Israel). Late today, Israel announced it had killed Said Siam, the Hamas Interior Minister (essentially in charge of internal security -- a major player). Hamas for its part has fired off some of its longer range Grad missiles into Beersheva, with serious injuries. The tempo is picking up on both sides. Will the fighting stop in time for Barack Obama's inauguration? That now seems to be the artificial deadline that Israel is working with.

But if Olmert can say "fuck you" to UN Secretary General Ban, and can announce in public that President Bush is his poodle, what is to prevent this bizarre little "leader" from making the same mistake twice (that last weekend of the Second Lebanon War), and pushing the endgame into some awful and unexpected outcome? Of course, Olmert alone is not in charge -- he still must work in tandem with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but the unpredictability of urban ground fighting makes these next few hours particularly fragile.

Whatever happens in the Gaza Strip the next few days, the inevitable result is this: the "military" power of Hamas has been seriously decreased, but its international, popular, and inter-Arab prestige has been increased. This is why I wrote at the outset of the Israeli operation that I could not understand why Israel started this war. Let's say Tom Friedman was right yesterday in The New York Times and the tactical winner of the 2006 Lebanon War was Israel. According to Friedman, by pounding Lebanon the way it did, Israel created a credible deterrent force which caused Hezbollah to essentially remain a paper tiger throughout this current conflict. But at what cost? Lebanon is now a Hezbollah-run country, Hezbollah's missile capacity remains strong, and the clock ticks towards the day when Hezbollah will choose to unleash its arsenal.

So now let's look at Gaza and Hamas: Hamas has been crushed, but it will still have missiles; Hamas has been humiliated on the battlefield, but it is now legitimated internationally by engaging Israel in a new round of political negotiations; Gaza has been seriously damaged, and all of Hamas's infrastructure is decimated, but when the dust settles, it will be Hamas that supervises reconstruction and compensation (in league with Israel, which will continue to be the principle choke point for all ingoing supplies and materiel) and return to its social-network glory.

The good news? This war may soon end. The bad news? This war may soon end. With a cessation to fighting on the horizon, watch for both sides to pull out all the stops in the unsettling Middle Eastern variation of the game "chicken."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What happened to 1860? Olmert the Fool

On January 8, the United Nations Security Council passed a UK-sponsored resolution, number 1860, by a vote of 14-0, with the United States abstaining. The resolution, which the US worked to develop, called for an immediate cease fire in the Gaza war. As is usual with these things, there was a great deal of give-and-take in developing language that would be acceptable to the Arab members of the organization, and to Israel. The resolution was thus a toothless mess. While it expressed great concern for the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, it said nothing about the missile attacks on Israel.

Israel wasn't happy with the language. And so as the vote was about to occur, Israel's accidental Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanded to speak with President George Bush. By Olmert's own account, recorded before cameras, he called looking for the outgoing President, who at the time was speaking before a group in Philadelphia.

Olmert told a group of regional council members in Ashkelon on Monday (I saw the video on Israeli TV, but try as a can I can't find it anywhere on the internet): "All of a sudden it became clear that there was going to be a vote in 10 minutes. I wanted to speak to Bush. They told me he was giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I don't care what he is doing - pull him out of the speech! They pulled him out and I said to him that it isn't possible that the US would vote for a resolution which isn't good for Israel. He said he didn't know what the text said. I told him I knew exactly what it said. He contacted Rice and told her not to vote for it...The outcome is that she is quite embarrassed. The result was that the resolution she helped draft and organize, in the end she had to vote against."

For years we've known that this idiot Olmert has a big mouth, and will use any opportunity to inflate his own puny significance. Don't forget, it was Olmert who in a gaffe on German television let the nuclear cat out of the bag when two years ago he became the first Israeli PM to openly brag about Israel's nuclear capability.

Olmert now finds himself in opposition with his own inner cabinet, continuing to push for an expanded military assault on Gaza, just as he did in the final weekend of the 2006 Lebanon War, to disastrous results. Every other responsible authority was forced to resign after 2006 -- but Olmert refused to take ministerial responsibility for his role as lead incompetent. Would that he had left after the Winograd commission had issued its report! Maybe we would not be looking at this current war. But Olmert stayed on, until he was finally forced to resign because of his own personal greed. But there was just enough time for one more military adventure.

Olmert's idiotic instinct to press even harder at the endgame is repeating itself, using innocent Arabs and Israeli citizen-soldiers as canon fodder. In the future, Israelis will scratch their collective heads over how they allowed themselves to be led into 2 unnecessary wars by such a fool.

On January 20, the man who is responsible for putting Hamas in power in Gaza will thankfully step down from the US presidency. It was George W. Bush and his neocons who in 2005 were intent on proving to the world that democracy was breaking out throughout the Middle East. As voters were going to the polls in Iraq and a democracy movement was taking to the streets in Lebanon, the neocons insisted on holding a vote in the Palestinian Authority. The west-oriented Fatah leadership warned about the instability in Palestine, and counseled against holding a vote, but Bush was insistent. Under a complicated voting scheme, Hamas "won" the 2006 legislative elections, and within months brutally suppressed and exiled Fatah from Gaza. Thank George W. Bush for this intolerable, intractable situation where a radical Islamist movement wields control over a hopeless slum of 1.4 million people.

Sometime after February 10, the man who is responsible for 2 wars in 30 months will thankfully leave office. Olmert will probably be replaced by an even more muscular and aggressive successor. There isn't much reason to welcome Binyamin Netanyahu to the Israeli Prime Ministership (he still remains the likely electoral victor in less than a month), but one can hope that Netanyahu's many faults do not include the strategic vacuousness and downright callousness that will forever mark the short, useless, pathetic leadership of Ehud Olmert.

Getting Good Information on the Gaza War

OK, web and techie types, this blog is for you.

I've been trying to get good real-time information on the War in Gaza. As usual, I've been scanning the various Israeli and Palestinian web sites. And 2 days ago, I found an add-on tool for my IE browser (there is also a version for Firefox) from, a localized version of Google, which allows me to watch live Israel Channel 10 & 1, al-Jazeera in Arabic and English, BBC, SkyNews, CNN, Iranian TV, Hezbollah's al-Manar station - you name it. Unfortunately, the interface of the add-in bar is in Hebrew, so I can't recommend it to everyone. I've got a PC connected to my 1080p 60" HDTV, so I can watch any of these things in my living room, full screen. Right now I am watching Uri Avneri being interviewed live from Tel Aviv and Daniel Pipes live from Philadelphia on al-Jazeera English (what a combination!). A minute ago I was watching the Channel 10 morning news, just as 3 Katyusha missiles hit northern Israel. This add-on toolbar is incredible.

Another way to go is Livestation. This might work better for those who can't use a Hebrew interface, or on a MAC or Linux. It's one way you can get Ramattan's live feed from Gaza City, as well as most of the channels I've mentioned above, and it allows full screen mode.

Based on my viewing, what Ethan Bronner reported in Tuesday's New York Times is absolutely true: Israeli media is ignoring (I am compelled to say censoring) the images and stories of humanitarian havoc in Gaza; on the other hand, these images and stories are all that one can see on al-Jazeera, where Hamas missileers are referred to as "fighters." No wonder Israeli public opinion is 90% supportive of what its army has done, and the Arab world is so inflamed. In Israel, there has been very slight coverage of the bombing of the al-Fakhura school, or the incident in Zeitoun, or the use of horrific white phosphorous armaments on human targets. (Update note: White phosphorous is not a banned armament, and is normally used for smoke screens. In 2006, the US was accused of using white phosphorus against humans in Fallujah.) I find only two Israeli journalistic voices who are attempting to report and comment on the human wreckage inside Gaza, and both write for Haaretz: Gideon Levi and Amira Hass, who are being simultaneously picked apart by colleagues on their own paper. I suggest people take a look at their writing on the Haaretz English web site -- Hass has a piece in today's Hebrew edition, which I suspect will make its way over to the English site later today.

I'll mention one other interesting online open-source tool which I heard about earlier this evening on BBC: the software is called ushahidi (Swahili for "testimony"), and al-Jazeera is using this open-source software to aggregate reports on an interactive map. This is a far from reliable informational tool, since it relies on anonymous, non-journalistic reports (even Twitter postings), but it nevertheless is an interesting and novel application of web technology.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Israel in Gaza: What of Stage 3?

Contradictory signals in the Israeli morning newspapers, on the 17th day of the Gaza War. Yesterday Maariv reported that the Israeli cabinet approved a decision to move ahead with a so-called "Stage 3" of the military operation. To briefly review, Stage 1 was the "shock and awe" air assault on Gaza, which essentially transpired during the first week. Stage 2 was the "ground incursion" into Gaza, largely accomplished by the IDF standing army over the last 10 days. Stage 3 is reportedly the insertion of thousands of fresh reservists into Gaza with the apparent intent of re-occupying portions of the Gaza Strip, particularly the Philadelphi road corridor on the Western edge of the Gaza Strip (the site of dozens of underground tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle in supplies and military equipment), as well as a far greater ground push into the built-up urban areas of the Gaza Strip.

But Maariv may have it wrong. The more reliable Haaretz is reporting today on its web site of a serious disagreement within the Israeli inner cabinet. According to Haaretz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak (who is most identified with Operation "Cast Lead") and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (who was the first cabinet member to question the operation of the Lebanon War in 2006) both expressed in a gathering of the inner cabinet on Sunday opposition to upping the ante with Stage 3, with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pressing for a full-cabinet green light for Stage 3. Olmert, we should all remember, does not have to answer to the Israeli voters in 4 weeks. Both Barak and Livni are obliged to cast an eye towards a longer-term future. It is not just the need to wind this up by January 20th (Barack Obama's inauguration day); there must be a hope on the part of these two politicians to see this matter more or less resolved by February 10th, Israeli election day. If thousands of reservists are patrolling the streets of conquered and broken Gaza City on February 10th, both understand their political futures will be bleak.

It seems that from Day One of this (mis)adventure, the Israeli leadership was working with a very tight timetable that was largely dictated by the expiration date of the 6-month ceasefire on December 19, 2008. Clearly, when the "shock and awe" started, the Israeli leadership must have imagined a conclusion to the military assault before Stage 3 would have to be implemented. It is not that Hamas has been particularly tough (as Hizbollah was in Southern Lebanon in 2006) -- it is simply that the Israeli "best case" scenario has not panned out on Israel's hoped-for accelerated schedule. And while so far there is nothing resembling an unpopular quagmire for the Israeli military in Gaza, Stage 3 has the potential for quagmire.

Meanwhile, as each day passes and the humanitarian dimensions of the assault on Gaza have become more evident, criticism (or at the very least questions) of the operation has been growing in the Israeli media. Forthe first time since the start of this war, Israeli media is reporting that a soldier has refused to carry out an order on moral grounds. Since Friday, leading Israeli columnists (Ari Shavit, Nahum Barnea) are openly questioning the wisdom of pressing the military campaign, and simultaneously calling for a greater effort to quickly press for a diplomatic endgame.

Even as its forces are being overrun in Gaza, Hamas leaders both inside Gaza and in Damascus continue to posture defiantly, though there are indications that some Hamas leaders, particularly inside Gaza, are ready to turn to a "defeatist" political track. As each day passes without an acceptable ceasefire to the two sides, the logic of the Israeli strategy forces them to press harder, with all the attendant humanitarian havoc. With every day, the alleged strategic gains achieved in the first week of the war are diluted by continued brutal urban warfare. Whatever operational secrecy existed at the outset of the Israeli assault, that secrecy has now been obliterated by the published reports of a serious argument within the Israeli leadership. Both sides are beginning to crack a bit. It's precisely at such moments when horrible mistakes -- even worse than those that have occurred so far -- can occur.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Splitscreen War: Lebanon & Gaza

In my last blog entry, I noted the intriguing fact that no missiles had been fired from Lebanon. So much for that. I also observed earlier that all it would take is one awful set of images from a misguided rocket attack on a civilian target, and Israel would face the same international PR fiasco as it did on July 30, 2006, after it hit a UN refugee site in Qana, Lebanon. And that scenario unfolded 48 hours ago, when Israeli missiles hit a UN-run elementary school, killing 40 civilians. Let me also note that most of Israel's military deaths in this operation (now up to 7) are friendly fire casualties.

On the 13th day of Israel's war on Gaza, a second missile front opened on Israel's northern border. Even as diplomats gathered in Cairo to work on a possible conclusion to the nearly 2-week assault on Gaza and the Hamas rocket barrage on southern Israel, a set of 4 Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanon into northern Israel this morning, opening up a 2nd front. In an apparent failure of Israel's early warning system, no sirens went off anywhere in the north before the Katyushas fell. One Katyusha hit an old-age home in Nahariya, with minor injuries. Israel initially responded with artillery fire into Lebanon, about 5 km north of the Lebanese-Israeli border. No IAF attacks on Lebanon -- at least not yet, but the Lebanese Army is being mobilized in the south for just such a contingency. Hizbollah has specifically disclaimed responsibility for the attack, even though Hizbollah's leader Shaykh Hasan Nasrallah delivers a nightly speech on Hizbollah TV threatening all sorts of bellicose responses to the Gaza situation. About a week ago, even as he was stating on al-Manar TV that Israel dare not enter Gaza with a land assault, the crawl underneath him reported Israel's entry into Gaza. It was an embarrasing moment for Nasrallah. For the last 5 days, Nasrallah has been caught in a difficult situation, boxed in between his threatening rhetoric and Hizbollah's inaction. It is indeed possible that some group not specifically under Nasrallah's control (like Fatah al-Islam) fired those 4 rockets, in an effort to express solidarity with Hamas. But it is also possible that this is the beginning of a 2nd front.

On Israeli TV, viewers for the first time were subjected to a splitscreen war: on the right side stood a reporter in Sederot, reporting on rockets from the south; on the left side stood a reporter in Nahariya, reporting on Katyushas from the north. Inevitably, the linkage between the unpopular war of 2006 and the still popular war of 2009 was visible for all to see.

This afternoon the 2nd daily humanitarian pause of 3 hours duration occurred, and while Israel is reported to have observed the pause, Hamas did fire into Israel during the pause. Israel immediately reengaged as soon as the pause expired.

With Israel indicating that it is considering bringing its assault on Hamas to an end, Israel's neighbors may be noting that Israel's leadership is beginning to lose its nerve, while Hamas seems to be signalling its steadfast dissatisfaction with the diplomatic package. With the opening of a new front, Israel's leadership is indeed facing a new "worser case scenario." How much longer the Israeli public will feel confident in its political leadership and military remains a significant and open question. How all of this will play out in the upcoming elections, now barely a month away, I will explore in an upcoming blog entry.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

And Now, A Ground War

On July 20, 2006, eight days into what would eventually be called the Second Lebanon War, I wrote a blog entry entitled "And Now, A Ground War." Here we are -- sadly -- a little less than 30 months later, and I find myself returning to the same title for today's post. On the eighth day of an apparently effective Israeli military air operation (still no name for this war yet), the Israeli government has added a new ingredient to its operational playbook in the form of a "ground incursion" into northern Gaza. Military censorship and the absence of professional journalists in the battle zone makes first accounts of the scope and lethality of the ground incursion frustratingly vague. Is this a full-scale re-occupation of Gaza? Hardly likely; why blow up the entire civilian infrastructure and then take responsibility for reconstructing a slum you yourself ruined? Is this going to be a major ground offensive designed to topple the Hamas regime, but just shy of reoccupation? I doubt it, but there certainly is a scenario which allows for that chaotic possibility. Will Hamas fighters prove to be as tough as Hizbollah of 2006? Will the Israeli Southern Command of 2009 prove to be as poorly run as Northern Command was in 2006? Will Israeli public opinion turn from its current support for this relatively painless, low-involvement stand-off air campaign to the scepticism and distaste that high-casualty ground wars usually produce?

I never would have counseled or endorsed going to war against Hamas in Gaza, and said so often enough to questioners who asked me what should be done about Hamas. But that train has left the station. Now there is a war, and I freely admit that I am utterly baffled as to the objectives, the timing, and the wisdom of this war. It has some dimensions that are arguably quite different from 2006, but there are too many close parallels that cause me to scratch my head and wonder why this is happening.

One thing is rather intriguing: by most accounts (including my own), the 2006 war was a strategic failure for Israel. And yet, we have not seen a single missile fired or kidnapping operation attempted anywhere these past 8 days along the Lebanese border. Did Israel accomplish some kind of useful deterrent standoff with Hizbollah back in 2006 that persists until this day? and is it now using approximately similar tactics against Hamas to achieve a similar deterrent standoff for the future?

Time will tell, but on the eve of what may very well be a full-fledged ground war, I for one remain a skeptic. I just don't understand how this will end well for those who started it.