The Israeli military is planning out massive bombings of areas full of innocent civilians.
"The memo on the talks between Ashkenazi and [Congressman Ike] Skelton, as well as numerous other documents from the same period of time, to which Aftenposten has gained access, leave a clear message: The Israeli military is forging ahead at full speed with preparations for a new war in the Middle East."
The paper says that U.S. cables quote Ashkenazi telling the U.S. congressmen, "I'm preparing the Israeli army for a major war, since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite."
The general's plans are driven by fear of growing stockpiles of rockets in Hamas-controlled Gaza and in Hizbullah-controlled Southern Lebanon, the likely theaters of the planned major new war. Ashkenazi does not seem capable of considering that, given a number of Israeli invasions and occupations of those regions, the rockets may be primarily defensive.
Ashkenazi told the visiting delegation that Israeli unmanned drones had had great success in identifying rocket emplacements in southern Lebanon, and that it had been aided in this endeavor by the U.S. National Security Agency, which spies on communications.
The new, major war will be a total war on civilians, Ashkenazi boasted: "In the next war, Israel cannot accept any restrictions on warfare in urban areas." Mind you, the civilian deaths deriving from this massive and unrestricted bombing campaign on targets in the midst of civilian urban populations will be "unintentional." Planning to bomb civilian areas with foreknowledge that you will thereby kill large numbers of civilians is a war crime.
Ashkenazi also admitted to then Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that Hamas is not in control of even more radical groups, which had infiltrated cells into Hamas itself, and which had rocket-making capabilities. In public, Israeli officials routinely demonize Hamas for every rocket fired from the lawless, besieged territory of Gaza, but here in private Ashkenazi was admitting the opposite. He even admitted that Israeli intelligence had no means to distinguish the even-more-radical from the merely Hamas.
Other State Department documents on the same theme say that last year at this time Hizbullah had about 20,000 rockets, some of which can now reach Tel Aviv, and that the Shi'a militia will attempt to stretch out its supplies for a two-month-long war, and would try to lob about 100 rockets at Tel Aviv per day.
In the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, one fourth of the Israeli population was forced to move house. It will be more this time, and for longer.
The memos reveal that none of the goals of Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon and its 2008-9 war on little Gaza were achieved, and that both Hamas and Hizbullah have effectively re-armed. What makes Ashkenazi think things would be different this time? Israel hawks have doomed themselves to the particular hell of Sisyphus, forced to roll the same stone up the hill over and over again with no hope of ever balancing it on the summit.
You know, Israel could have a peace treaty with Syria and Lebanon tomorrow by giving back the Golan Heights and the Shebaa Farms, and by accepting a two-state solution. Instead, its Dr. Strangeloves are planning out massive bombings of areas thick with innocent civilians and willing to subject Tel Aviv to two months worth of rocket fire.
Nor will the United States be held harmless from the blowback in the region caused by another Israeli war of aggression. Before September 11, Israel hawks used to make fun of Americans who warned that eventually there would be hell to pay for the Israeli strangulation of the Palestinians. And, imagine what a war would do to gasoline prices and to the world economy. My deepest fear is that U.S. support for Israeli militarism, and the terrorism that support inevitably engenders, will be what finally finishes off the civil liberties enshrined in the American Constitution.
Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and maintains the popular blog "Informed Comment."