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NYT: Israel fights to win 'battle of perception'

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Published: Wednesday August 2, 2006

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is undertaking a battle of perception, taking steps to make sure that Israelis emerge from the war with Lebanon looking like the clear victors, according to an article slated for Thursday's New York Times.

"As Israeli troops press the ground offensive in southern Lebanon and commandos make an unexpected raid far to the north in Baalbek, Israel is fighting now to win the battle of perceptions," writes Steven Erlanger for the Times.

"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to ensure that when a cease-fire is finally arranged, Israel is seen as having won a decisive victory over Hezbollah," the article continues. "It is important for him politically, especially after a slow and fumbling start to this war."

"In part, Israel wants to recover from an image of an unimpressive military venture against a tough, small, but well-trained group of fighters," Erlanger writes.

"Israel also wants to send a message to the Palestinians and Hezbollah and its sponsors, Syria and Iran, that attacks on Israel will be met with overwhelming force, and that the cost is not worth the effort," the article continues. "How soon that message is perceived will play a central role in its decision to stop the war."

Excerpts from Times article:

For Hezbollah, victory means simply avoiding defeat. Hezbollah will be perceived by many Muslims to have won by surviving and keeping the capacity to fire even short-range rockets into Israel.

Gidi Grinstein, a former Israeli negotiator and director of the Reut Institute, a research group, calls it the "90-10 paradox." Israel can eliminate 90 percent of Hezbollah's fighting capacity, but Hezbollah can still declare victory and claim that it fought the mighty Israeli army to a draw.

"At the end of the war, they'll have a narrative, and so will we," Grinstein said. "It's all about perception."

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Link to full article here...