Israel’s graduated “massive retaliation” against the Lebanese government continues.

Israel intensified its attacks against Lebanon on Thursday, blasting Beirut’s airport in its heaviest air campaign against its neighbor in 24 years. Four dozen civilians had died in the violence following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah, officials said.

After warplanes punched holes in the airport’s runways just south of Beirut, Israel’s army chief Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz warned that “nothing is safe” in Lebanon. He said Beirut itself — particularly offices and residences of Hezbollah officials — would be a target.

Michael Stickling provides a useful update. Haaretz reports on the policy adopted by the Israeli cabinet:

In a late-night cabinet session in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, the Israeli government decided on a sharp departure from its response to previous Hezbollah attacks, unanimously agreeing that Beirut should be held responsible for Wednesday’s events. In the past, Israel has generally pointed its finger at Hezbollah’s patrons, Syria and Iran.

Meanwhile, Hamas is trying to revive mediation:

Hamas held talks with Egypt on Thursday on trying to revive mediation with Israel over the release of an Israeli soldier held by the Palestinian militant group, senior officials said.

Haaretz runs a number of interesting opinion-editorials, but since their server appears to be down I can only repost from my RSS feed.

“‘No’ to Lebananon War II”:

The shooting attack and abduction initiated by Hezbollah in the north of the country yesterday presents the Israeli government and the Israel Defense Forces with a dilemma. On the one hand, we cannot accept the scathing attack on Israeli sovereignty. The IDF withdrew from Lebanon to the international border, the withdrawal was officially approved by the United Nations, and the government declared at the time – both domestically and internationally – that Israel will know how to defend its citizens and its land from within its territory. The credibility of this deterrence suffered a blow yesterday. The clear connection to the abduction of Gilad Shalit in the south makes the incident in the north still more grave. The natural inclination is to react with force, and thus bolster the deterrence that has been damaged.

“The Situation is to Blame”:

In less than three week, Israel has been hit with two incidents in which its soldiers have been abducted or killed, in Kerem Shalom and in the Galilee. The relative quiet, more imaginary than genuine, was violated twice, and will not be restored in the near future. The tranquillity of the summer – at least for those not living in Sderot or on the razor’s edge of the northern border communities – was shattered. Shattered, too, was the great illusion of the two withdrawals carried out since May 2000, from Lebanon and from the Gaza Strip.

“The End of the Third Way”:

Initially, there was the First Way – the occupation, nonrecognition of the Palestinians, a belief in the entire Land of Israel. In the 20 years between the Six-Day War and the outbreak of the first intifada, the Israeli worldview was one of war, and nothing else. We will strike them, we will settle among them, we will solve the conflict through force.

Yossi Klein Halevi argues that Israel should pick up the current slack in the Bush Doctrine. After all, if Bush can’t do it, why not try to get a client to do it for them?

The next Middle East war–Israel against genocidal Islamism–has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah’s latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel’s antagonists won’t be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites.

The goals of the war should be the destruction of the Hamas regime and the dismantling of the Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon. Israel cannot coexist with Iranian proxies pressing in on its borders. In particular, allowing Hamas to remain in power–and to run the Palestinian educational system–will mean the end of hopes for Arab-Israeli reconciliation not only in this generation but in the next one too. . . .

The ultimate threat, though, isn’t Hezbollah or Hamas but Iran. And as Iran draws closer to nuclear capability–which the Israeli intelligence community believes could happen this year–an Israeli-Iranian showdown becomes increasingly likely. According to a very senior military source with whom I’ve spoken, Israel is still hoping that an international effort will stop a nuclear Iran; if that fails, then Israel is hoping for an American attack. But if the Bush administration is too weakened to take on Iran, then, as a last resort, Israel will have to act unilaterally. And, added the source, Israel has the operational capability to do so.

Via Yglesias, who doesn’t think much of the idea.

Halevi’s article reminds us, however, of an important fact. No matter how one comes down on the question of whether or not Israel has shown appropriate restraint in Gaza and the West Bank over the last few years, Israeli military capability is such that they could inflict massive damage on their neighbors if they wanted to. Perhaps this is one reason why the Bush administration, which hasn’t been much help since taking office, at least is calling upon Israel to show some “restraint.”

As I argued yesterday, Israel’s in a difficult position and their current policies are likely to backfire. I hope I’m wrong, or that someone breaks the current crisis, but my optimism on these issues all got used up after the outbreak of the second Intifada.

None of the links to Haaretz work right now, so no need to complain in the comments section.

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