This is a partial transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," August 6, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Hezbollah militants fired a record number of rockets into Israel this week as the IDF carried out its deepest raids yet into Lebanese territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his country will not stop its offensive until a multinational peacekeeping force is in place.
Can Israel deliver a decisive blow before a cease-fire? Michael Oren is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and a reserve major in the Israeli Defense Forces. He joins me now from Jerusalem.
Michael, thank you for being with us.
MICHAEL OREN, SENIOR FELLOW, SHALEM: Pleasure to be with you, Paul.
GIGOT: This week you wrote in the New Republic, quote, "A disaster of regional and perhaps global dimensions appears eminent unless Israel seizes its last opportunity to regain the initiative and deliver a decisive blow to Islamic extremism," unquote.
What did you mean by that?
OREN: Well, understand, Paul, that this is not a battle between Israel and Hezbollah, not a battle between Israel and Lebanon, but very much a battle between the modern free world, if you will, and militant Islam. And it's not only Israel that stands to lose catastrophically if Israel does not achieve its minimal objectives in this campaign.
An Israeli defeat, or rather the perception of a Israeli defeat in this campaign will grievously endanger moderate Arab regimes, Jordan, Egypt, even Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries will be it endangered by an ascended Iran that feels it has overwhelmed Israel, and through Israel, really emerged triumphant over Israel's American backers.
GIGOT: Well, when you say decisive blow — Israel must deal a decisive blow, how do you define that. Is that defined by getting rid of all of Hezbollah's heavy weapons, its missiles, or is it taking out the Hezbollah leadership? How do you define it?
OREN: Well, clearly, getting rid of all of the missiles is beyond Israel's capability. Probably beyond the capability of any country at this stage with our current level or technology. Yes, we can strike a blow at Hezbollah by eliminating its upper echelon leaderships.
But the decisive blow we can deliver on the ground, certainly the most tangible blow, is by conquering southern Lebanon up to the Litani River. That's a depth of 15 miles into Lebanon.
Now, keep in mind, that area of southern Lebanon was the heartland of Hezbollah. That's where its prestige was invested. It was from those areas that it launched attacks both in the air on the ground against Israel.
If Hezbollah is no longer deployed in the south, then it's hard to maintain its prestige, its claim that it is on the forefront of the battle against the Zionist entity, as they call us.
So it's very important to deliver that decisive blow by pushing Hezbollah 15-20 miles back from Israel's border.
GIGOT: So the air campaign that the prime minister started with you think was a mistake to be so limited? But are they now making progress toward this delivering this blow on the ground? Are they doing enough? And do they have enough time, in your view, to get this done?
OREN: Well, clearly, it was a mistake at the opening of the campaign to rely so heavily on air power. Israel was reluctant to send in large numbers of troops into southern Lebanon for several reasons. One was the fear of losing a large number of soldiers; two, the memories of our rather unfortunate 18 years occupation of southern Lebanon, 1982-2000.
And third, we had problems mobilizing our reserves. The last five, six years, we've been engaged in a low intensity war in Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza. And the army was not prepared — certainly not the reserve part of the army — was ill prepared to engage in a larger- scale, more conventional style war in the south.
Now, over three weeks into this conflict, the reserves are poised to move in. We currently have about 12,000 troops operating in southern Lebanon. That number is going to have to get up around 20,000, topping it.