Israel's "Ferocity" in Response to Terror

Reporter Ethan Bronner does some heavy blame-shifting in his Sunday Week in Review think-piece on Ehud Olmert, who succeeded Ariel Sharon as Israel's prime minister in "Sharon Set The Stage His Heir Reacts On."

Three times, Bronner describes Israel's reaction to Hezbollah's terrorist acts by using a form of the slanted word "ferocious," and continues by citing a rule of war that seems only to get applied to Israel's actions - "asymmetry."

As if there are a certain number of Israelis who should die as a result of Hezbollah's deadly incursion into Israel.

"As a commander and politician, he made sure that Israel responded to armed provocation with ferocity, helping create Israel's doctrine of asymmetrical deterrence. But paradoxically he was the one who, as prime minister, did virtually nothing for five years as Hezbollah built up a deadly anti-Israel arsenal on its northern border.

"This has left his successor, Ehud Olmert, in an excruciating dilemma, one from which he is still trying to extricate himself. If this war ends for Israel as badly as it has started - it intensified last week after a hiccup of an Israeli ceasefire - it could well mean not only the end of Mr. Olmert's political career but a harsh coda to Mr. Sharon's life's work.

"Like all wars, this one has many causes and serves many functions. It is about the future of Lebanon, the security of Israel's borders, the struggle between the United States and Iran. But it is also about the legacy of Ariel Sharon."

The only "cause" of this war was Hezbollah's incursion into Israel and its killing and capturing of Israeli soldiers.

"The result, he and others argue, is that Mr. Olmert has responded with a ferocity in Lebanon that Mr. Sharon would not have chosen. At the same time, Mr. Sharon's neglect of Hezbollah's arsenal left Mr. Olmert far more vulnerable.

"Leaders of Hezbollah and its sponsors said they did not expect Israel's harsh counteroffensive. However ferociously he had fought Yasir Arafat and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza, Mr. Sharon never reacted that way in Lebanon while prime minister. In 2004, he exchanged 430 prisoners and the bodies of 59 Lebanese for an Israeli citizen taken by Hezbollah and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers held by the militia. Hezbollah calculated that his more moderate successor, Mr. Olmert, would be open to similar negotiations."

Why is it that both Hezbollah and the New York Times seem taken aback and disturbed by Israel's insistence on counterattack?