A drama is slowly but steadily unfolding in Israel that is rare for that nation or any other civilized country. Fresh from the Lebanon battlefield, Israel’s citizen-soldiers, joined by families of the fallen as well as ordinary citizens, are mobilizing again – this time for a campaign of marches, letters, petitions and other public activities in regard to the recent unpleasantness up yonder.
These activists – if one can call ordinary reservists and citizens that – can be found at or near the Prime Minister’s Office, the Knesset and even street corners in Tel Aviv. Western countries are all too familiar with marches and protests by activists opposed to the war policies of a given (usually U.S.) government. What makes this nascent movement unusual is that unlike the garden variety “peace protests” to which we are accustomed, the theme of these protests might as well be “Give war a chance.”
On the surface, this is about accountability. Many IDF regulars and reservists feel betrayed by their higher-ups, especially those in the “political echelons”- as the Israeli press often refers to government officials- for their indecision and incompetence in managing the war. Complaints range from the absence or obsolescence of weapons, munitions and materiel for reserve battalions, to the lack of food or even water for the fighting men at the front.
As reported in the Israeli press recently, soldiers told the chief of general staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, that men had to break into Lebanese stores in order to stave off hunger and thirst between battles with Hizbullah.
More damning and damaging to the body politic, or at least to the political bodies of some high officials, is the evident self-delusion and self-dealing on the part of some in the military high command and political leadership. Israel’s fighting men were willing to sacrifice their lives and limbs for the just cause of protecting their citizenry and saving their nation from those who would happily destroy both, and would have found the lack of cold bottles of water at the front a minor annoyance if that was their chief complaint.
What these men wanted above all, and what was absent to the umpteenth power, was moral clarity and integrity on the part of their leaders – the sine qua non of leadership. “You kept us from winning” was the sentiment delivered to Lt. General Halutz by a soldier, and is likely to stand as an epitaph for the political firm of Olmert, Peretz, Halutz & Livni, LLC.
Chief of Staff Halutz stands accused of betting against his own team by dumping his stock shares on the eve of the war. Prime Minister Olmert is being investigated for cronyism and bribery. These allegations are troubling, but not as troubling as Olmert’s seeming detachment from reality, which appears to grow with each passing day.
Early on he clamed the war bolstered his government’s plan for convergence or contraction or appeasement or whatever he calls the planned forced eviction of 100,000 Jews from Judea and Samaria (now supported by a whopping 9 percent of the Israeli public). Next came his fantasy that if Hizbullah violates the U.N.-brokered cease-fire he went begging for, the world will rally to Israel’s side. And lately he has taken to hailing the deployment of the Lebanese regular “army” and the multinational not-ready-for-prime time force-in-formation in the south of Lebanon as a victory for Israel.
This suggests that Olmert believes at least four things: One, that these forces will actually materialize in any cohesive sense. Two, that the mandate of these forces is to disarm Hizbullah and prevent the transshipment of weapons into Lebanon through Syria. Three, that even if so mandated the forces could and would actually do so. And four, that
Israel’s ability to respond to new Hizbullah aggression won’t be compromised by the forces’ presence. Belief in any one of these is sufficient to prove the extent of his grand delusion.
At least Defense Minister Peretz is not a fantasist. He is merely a leftist dreamer who in the face of baby Assad’s statements that war is the answer to the Golan problem, insists that Israel needs to negotiate with Syria when “conditions are right.” In this dream Peretz is joined by Foreign Minister Livni, as well as many of Israel’s and the West’s political, academic and media elite.