After over a month of fighting, a ceasefire has taken hold in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Despite the wanton destruction and nearly 1000 deaths on the Lebanese side, it appears that the loser is Israel. Why?
For starters, hardly any of Israel's strategic goals were obtained. Hezbollah was not defeated, its captured soldiers have not been freed, and the disarmament of the militant Shi'ite militia is not assured. What's more, nearly 150 Israeli's were killed, most of them soldiers, deflating the myth of Israeli military superiority over its arab neighbours and altering the psychological dimensions of Israel's strategic balance.
The political fallout in Israel, and even in the US, will become apparent before year's end. Sniping at Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has already begun. The coalition government will show signs of strain as Avigdor Lieberman and Bibi Netanyahu look to score political points. In the States, the Bush administration is coming under rhetorical fire from the neoconservatives for supporting such a "one-sided" UN resolution.
All of this could have been avoided if the Israeli leadership was humble and wise enough to accede to the reasonable prospect of a prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah and Hamas. If they had returned the prisoners, the disputed territory, and normalized relations, Israel could have claimed the high-ground in any future attack coming from their neighbours territory and would be justified in an overwhelming response.
Instead, Israel's moral, political, and military standings have taken serious blows. Ariel Sharon continues to ail with his legacy crumbling. Meanwhile, the Romans (UN-EU) are resolved to return to the region, threatening the sovereignty of the Jewish state once more. In Israel's case at least, not negotiating with "terrorists" has proven an unwise policy.