At a series of ceremonies commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War on Tuesday, top Israeli officials stressed the need to learn the lessons of the war while reassuring listeners that Israel is prepared to face any threat.
“None of us can forget the war,” said President Reuven Rivlin at a ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem that is the burial site of many soldiers killed in the line of duty. “In just a matter of minutes, soldiers were killed, there was a kidnapping which turned into a day of battle, and that day of battle turned into a 34-day war.”
Rivlin was referencing the incident that triggered the Second Lebanon War on July 12, 2006 when three IDF soldiers were killed and two IDF soldiers (Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev) were abducted during a cross-border raid by the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist. Five other Israeli soldiers were killed during a failed rescue attempt to save Goldwasser and Regev, which consequently turned into a war with Hezbollah.
“It was a wake-up call against our will,” Rivlin added. “Our eyes were opened, as well as those of the commanders and fighters of the Israel Defense Forces.”
The eyes of many other Israelis were opened further following the disclosure of the findings of the Winograd Commission that was set up in September of 2006 to investigate Israel’s shortcomings in the Second Lebanon War. The commission determined that the war constituted a “serious missed opportunity” for Israel as a result of many shortcomings that “had far-reaching implications for [Israel], as well as for [its] enemies, neighbors, and friends in the region and around the world.”
Israel also lost 121 soldiers and approximately 46 civilians during the war, despite managing to kill approximately 600 Hezbollah fighters.
Rivlin, however, stressed that the Winograd Commission also displayed a certain aspect of strength by Israel to be able to come to terms with its mistakes regardless of difficulty or pain.
“The ability to thoroughly investigate and the ability to criticize and to conduct a comprehensive learning process that includes making comprehensive changes as we did following the Second Lebanon War is not to be taken for granted,” Rivlin contended. “It is a testimony to the resilience of the State of Israel.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also spoke at the ceremony on Mount Herzl, said that Israel continues to learn from its shortcomings in the Second Lebanon War.
“Despite the failures and shortcomings that were discovered, we have invested and continue to invest in a huge effort to learn every lesson possible and I would say to implement every lesson possible,” Netanyahu argued.
President Rivlin emphasized that Israel still managed to exact a heavy price from Hezbollah during the war. “Hezbollah received a severe blow during that battle,” stressed Rivlin. “The State of Israel deterred its opponents and in the decade since the end the Second Lebanon War, quiet has returned to the north, tourism is booming, and communities are growing.”
Nevertheless, Rivlin emphasized the need for Israel to remain vigilant.
“We must internalize the essence of the threat that we face and listen at all times to the sounds of war bubbling beneath the deceptive calm,” he said. “Hezbollah continues to rearm itself and it has not ceased its efforts to destroy Israel.”
Hezbollah has succeeded in significantly rearming itself since the deployment of UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon) to southern Lebanon following the UN-imposed ceasefire in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that effectively ended the war.
Netanyahu declared that Israel remained ready and prepared to act with an “iron fist” in fending off any threat or attack from Hezbollah.
“As those aware of the nature of the threats we face, we are preparing ourselves for any scenario,” Netanyahu emphasized. “If we will have to respond to aggression, the response will be powerful.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also echoed the remarks of the prime minister at a commemoration ceremony in the Knesset on Monday afternoon.
“We are not looking for adventures, but we are ready at all times on every front and against every enemy,” said Liberman. “Those who try to put us to the test will be met with an iron fist that will be both powerful and painful.”