Israelis Support Government's Response to Crisis
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
A poll out today in Israel shows that a vast majority of Israelis believe that the military campaign against Hezbollah is justified. Nearly 60 percent of those questioned say the attacks should continue until Hezbollah is destroyed. The survey also gives high marks to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
Joining me now is Ze'ev Schiff. He is defense editor of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.
ZE: Good morning to you.
MONTAGNE: Do these poll results surprise you?
SCHIFF: No, not at all. Not at all. The support of most of the public opinion here that the operation will go on. And this is a huge difference between this operation and what happened in 1982, the war in Lebanon.
MONTAGNE: And why the difference in - the war in Lebanon, there was a lot of public opinion against it. Why now?
SCHIFF: Because of no provocation from the Israeli side and suddenly they attacked us as if out of the blue. In 1982, one is to remember that the intent was to go to Beirut to enthrone someone else. And this time we are really, I would say, clean from this point of view.
MONTAGNE: Let's turn to Israel's military strategy. How do you see Israel's military strategy unfolding so far?
SCHIFF: We are not going to find here a military solution. It's clear-cut that we are looking for a political solution. And until now, the military part of the operation is working quite well. But one has to remember that we are not planning to destroy completely the Hezbollah. We know that Hezbollah is a Lebanese organization. It's not al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
The fact is that Lebanese government is weak, unfortunately. Two ministers are from Hezbollah. And furthermore, the Lebanese government allowed the flow of weapons from Tehran, from Iran and Syria into Lebanon. It didn't lift their finger to stop it.
MONTAGNE: Is it likely that there would be a ground invasion of Lebanon?
SCHIFF: I would say no. This is another difference between this war and 1982. Ground forces may be used, but I just don't see a real invasion of ground forces. This is exactly what Hezbollah is waiting us to do and we shall have a lot of casualties. No, the intention is not to occupy any territory. We don't have any territorial debate with Lebanon. We withdrew up to the international border, and it was an understanding with the U.N., and they approved that we withdrew completely.
MONTAGNE: Over the past week, Israeli aircraft has been targeting Lebanon's civilian infrastructure. Why was that necessary?
SCHIFF: Why was it necessary? Very simple. We impose this sort of a siege because on the certain roads and the airport to Tehran and Syria is still sending into Lebanon missiles and rockets. And we are stopping them. This is the reason.
MONTAGNE: Even though Israel says its not aiming or intending to kill any civilians, is Israel intending to show massive force in the face of these earlier attacks?
SCHIFF: Yeah, but civilians are killed. Of course, they are killed. Unfortunately, they are killed, that this is the collateral damage. But if you compare it to other places - I mean, because of the sophisticated ammunition that we have, less people are killed. But they are intending to kill the maximum of Israeli civilians. And if they want to stop the war, they just have to stop firing rockets towards Israel. Very simple.
MONTAGNE: Mr. Schiff, thank you very much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Ze'ev Schiff is defense editor of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. He has written several books on the Middle East conflict, including Israel's Lebanon War and Intifada. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.