The Bush administration was informed in advance and gave the "green
light" to Israel's military strikes against Hizbollah with plans
drawn up months before two Israeli soldiers were seized it has been
The US reportedly considered Israel's actions as a necessary prerequisite
for a possible strike against Iran. A report by a leading investigative
reporter says that earlier this summer Israeli officials visited Washington
to brief the government on its plan to respond to any Hizbollah provocation
and to "find out how much the US would bear".
The officials apparently started their inquiries with Vice-President Dick
Cheney, knowing that if they secured his support, obtaining the backing of
President Bush and Condoleezza Rice would be easier.
The report by Seymour Hersh quotes an unidentified US government consultant
with close ties to the Israelis who says: "The Israelis told us it
would be a cheap war with many benefits. Why oppose it? We'll be able to
hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be
a demo for Iran."
A former intelligence officer, also quoted, says: "We told
Israel,'Look, if you guys have to go, we're behind you all the way. But we
think it should be sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the less
time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office'."
Both Israeli and US officials say that the Israeli military operation
against Hizbollah was triggered by the seizing of two Israeli soldiers,
apparently to be bargained with for a possible prisoner swap. But Hersh's
report, published in today's issue of The New Yorker, adds to evidence that
Israel had been anticipating a Hizbollah provocation for some time and
planning its response a response that was widely condemned for being
Last month the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "Israel's military
response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week
by Hizbollah militants was unfolding according to a plan finalised more than
a year ago". The report said that a senior Israeli army officer had
been briefing diplomats, journalists and think-tanks for more than a year
about the plan and it quoted Gerald Steinberg, professor of political
science at [Israel's] Bar-Ilan University, who said: "Of all of
Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most
prepared." Last week the New Statesman magazine reported that Britain
had also been informed in advance of the military preparations and that the
Prime Minister had chosen not to try to stop them "because he did not
This latest report is the first to tie the Israeli operation to a broader
framework that includes a possible US strike against Iran.
Unidentified officials said a strike could "ease Israel's security
concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American pre-emptive
attack". Shabtai Shavit, a national security adviser to the Knesset,
said: "We do what we think is best for us, and if it happens to meet
America's requirements, that's just part of a relationship between two
friends. Hizbollah is armed to the teeth and trained in the most advanced
technology of guerrilla warfare. It was just a matter of time."
An anonymous Middle East expert claimed that while the State Department
supported the plan because it believed it would help the Lebanese government
assert control over the south, the White House was focussed on stripping
Hizbollah of its missiles.
The expert added: "If there was to be a military option against Iran's
nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hizbollah could
use in a potential retaliation at Israel. Bush was going after Iran, as part
of the 'axis of evil', and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going
after Hizbollah as part of his interest in democratisation."
Last night the White House denied the allegations contained in Hersh's piece
with a brief statement from the President describing it as "patently
untrue". Mr Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, added: "
The suggestion that the US and Israel planned and co-ordinated an attack on
Hizbollah and did so as a prelude to an attack on Iran is just flat