Did Bush push Israel into Lebanon?


Richard Moore

    As part of Bush¹s determination to create a ³new Middle
    East² ­ one that is more amenable to U.S. policies and
    desires ­ Bush even urged Israel to attack Syria, but the
    Olmert government refused to go that far, according to
    Israeli sources.

Original source URLs:

Israeli Leaders Fault Bush on War
By Robert Parry
August 13, 2006

Amid the political and diplomatic fallout from Israel¹s faltering invasion of 
Lebanon, some Israeli officials are privately blaming President George W. Bush 
for egging Prime Minister Ehud Olmert into the ill-conceived military adventure 
against the Hezbollah militia in south Lebanon.

Bush conveyed his strong personal support for the military offensive during a 
White House meeting with Olmert on May 23, according to sources familiar with 
the thinking of senior Israeli leaders.

Olmert, who like Bush lacks direct wartime experience, agreed that a dose of 
military force against Hezbollah might damage the guerrilla group¹s influence in
Lebanon and intimidate its allies, Iran and Syria, countries that Bush has 
identified as the chief obstacles to U.S. interests in the Middle East.

As part of Bush¹s determination to create a ³new Middle East² ­ one that is more
amenable to U.S. policies and desires ­ Bush even urged Israel to attack Syria, 
but the Olmert government refused to go that far, according to Israeli sources.

One source said some Israeli officials thought Bush¹s attack-Syria idea was 
³nuts² since much of the world would have seen the bombing campaign as overt 

In an article on July 30, the Jerusalem Post referred to Bush¹s interest in a 
wider war involving Syria. Israeli ³defense officials told the Post last week 
that they were receiving indications from the US that America would be 
interested in seeing Israel attack Syria,² the newspaper reported.

While balking at an expanded war into Syria, Olmert did agree on the need to 
show military muscle in Lebanon as a prelude to facing down Iran over its 
nuclear program, which Olmert has called an ³existential² threat to Israel.

With U.S. forces bogged down in Iraq, Bush and his neoconservative advisers saw 
the inclusion of Israeli forces as crucial for advancing a strategy that would 
punish Syria for supporting Iraqi insurgents, advance the confrontation with 
Iran and isolate Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

But the month-long war has failed to achieve its goals of destroying Hezbollah 
forces in south Lebanon or intimidating Iran and Syria.

Instead, Hezbollah guerrillas fought Israeli troops to a virtual standstill in 
villages near the border and much of the world saw Israel¹s bombing raids across
Lebanon ­ which killed hundreds of civilians ­ as ³disproportionate.²

Now, as the conflict winds down, some Israeli officials are ruing the 
Olmert-Bush pact on May 23 and fault Bush for pushing Olmert into the conflict.

Building Pressure

Soon after the May 23 meeting in Washington, Israel began to ratchet up pressure
on the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories and on Hezbollah and 
other Islamic militants in Lebanon. As part of this process, Israel staged 
low-key attacks in both Lebanon and Gaza. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com 
³A ŒPretext¹ War in Lebanon.²]

The tit-for-tat violence led to the Hamas seizure of an Israeli soldier on June 
24 and then to Israeli retaliatory strikes in Gaza. That, in turn, set the stage
for Hezbollah¹s attack on an Israeli outpost and the capture of two more Israeli
soldiers on July 12.

Hezbollah¹s July 12 raid became the trigger that Bush and Olmert had been 
waiting for. With the earlier attacks unknown or forgotten, Israel and the U.S. 
skillfully rallied international condemnation of Hezbollah for what was called 
an unprovoked attack and a ³kidnapping² of Israeli soldiers.

Behind the international criticism of Hezbollah, Bush and Olmert justified an 
intense air campaign against Lebanese targets, killing civilians and destroying 
much of Lebanon¹s commercial infrastructure. Israeli troops also crossed into 
southern Lebanon with the intent of delivering a devastating military blow 
against Hezbollah, which retaliated by firing Katyusha rockets into Israel..

However, the Israeli operation was eerily reminiscent of the disastrous U.S. 
invasion and occupation of Iraq. Like the U.S. assault, Israel relied heavily on
³shock and awe² air power and committed an inadequate number of soldiers to the 

Israeli newspapers have been filled with complaints from soldiers who say some 
reservists weren¹t issued body armor while other soldiers found their equipment 
either inferior or inappropriate to the battlefield conditions.

Israeli troops also encountered fierce resistance from Hezbollah guerrillas, who
took a page from the Iraqi insurgents by using explosive booby traps and 
ambushes to inflict heavier than expected casualties on the Israelis.

Channel 2 in Israel disclosed that several top military commanders wrote a 
letter to Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, the chief of staff, criticizing the war planning 
as chaotic and out of line with the combat training of the soldiers and 
officers. [Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2006]

One Israeli plan to use llamas to deliver supplies in the rugged terrain of 
south Lebanon turned into an embarrassment when the animals simply sat down.

Reporter Nahum Barnea, who traveled with an Israeli unit in south Lebanon, 
compared the battle to ³the famous Tom and Jerry cartoons² with the powerful 
Israeli military playing the role of the cat Tom and the resourceful Hezbollah 
guerrillas playing the mouse Jerry. ³In every conflict between them, Jerry 
wins,² Barnea wrote.

Olmert Criticized

Back in Israel, some leading newspapers have begun calling for Olmert¹s 

³If Olmert runs away now from the war he initiated, he will not be able to 
remain prime minister for even one more day,² the newspaper Haaretz wrote in a 
front-page analysis. ³You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory,
produce humiliating defeat and remain in power.

³You cannot bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, keep a million Israelis in shelters
for a month and then say, ŒOops, I made a mistake.¹² [See Washington Post, Aug. 
12, 2006]

For his part, Bush spent July and early August fending off international demands
for an immediate cease-fire. Bush wanted to give Olmert as much time as possible
to bomb targets across Lebanon and dislodge Hezbollah forces in the south.

But instead of turning the Lebanese population against Hezbollah ­ as Washington
and Tel Aviv had hoped ­ the devastation rallied public support behind 

As the month-long conflict took on the look of a public-relations disaster for 
Israel, the Bush administration dropped its resistance to international 
cease-fire demands and joined with France in crafting a United Nations plan for 
stopping the fighting.

Quoting ³a senior administration official² with Bush at his ranch in Crawford, 
Texas, the New York Times reported that ³it increasingly seemed that Israel 
would not be able to achieve a military victory, a reality that led the 
Americans to get behind a cease-fire.² [NYT, Aug. 12, 2006]

But the repercussions from Israel¹s failed Lebanon offensive are likely to 
continue. Olmert must now confront the political damage at home and the chief 
U.S. adversaries in the Middle East may be emboldened by the outcome, more than 

As in the Iraq War, Bush has revealed again how reliance on tough talk and 
military might can sometimes undercut ­ not build up ­ U.S. influence in the 
strategically important Middle East.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the 
Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the
Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. 
It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, 
Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

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