Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a war Israel was more afraid of winning than of losing.
It was a war whose battlefield strategy was based on posturing – on acting as if Israel were conducting an actual all-out war.
It was a war in which Israel attempted to defeat the enemy by not defeating him.
It was a war of the make-pretend.
Let us be clear. Every war has its share of mishaps, glitches, and human errors, and this one was no exception. But this war was fought after many years of massive budget cuts for the military. Convinced that the era of peace was anon, the politicians had conducted a sort of fiscal hari-kari on the army in order to allocate far more funding for nice things like social spending and pork projects.
The result was tanks going off to battle without basic protective electronics, and troops marching off without medicine, ammunition and food.
But the real problem in this war was that the political elite decided to prevent the armed forces from really fighting. As a result, Israel failed to achieve any of the declared goals it had set for itself. It failed altogether to stop the Katyusha blitz on northern Israel. The day before the “cease-fire” went into effect, 250 rockets hit Israel, the largest number of any day in the war, demonstrating that Israel had not even put a crimp into the terror machine of the Hizbullah savages.
Despite early talk of disarming Hizbullah as part of the cease-fire, within days it was revealed that Hizbullah would in fact keep all its arms but would not parade about too openly with them.
The military tactics imposed on the Israel Defense Forces by the politicians were guaranteed to create failure. At times it seemed that the strategy of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz consisted of hoping that if Israel waited long enough, Hizbullah would just run out of rockets.
For the first 32 days of the fighting – five times the period of time it took Israel to defeat the combined Arab military machine in 1967 – Israeli ground troops and armor were still huddled en masse inside the Israel-Lebanon border or camped just a short distance across it.
For the first 32 days of the war Israel tried to defeat Hizbullah by bombing empty buildings, empty bunkers and “infrastructure” across Lebanon. It may well be that the air attacks on Hizbullah’s buildings failed to kill even a single terrorist.
It was only after those 32 days, and with a UN cease-fire stopwatch already ticking, that a half-hearted “ground offensive” was launched. With the government announcing that Israel was driving for the Litani river in the final days, the ground troops made it less than a third of the way there. Bravado by the generals in announcing a massive paratroop landing at the Litani itself, or commando raids behind the enemy lines in the Baalbek Valley, proved to be nothing more than empty grandstanding. They achieved nothing. Olmert was trying to knock out rockets with a 40-mile range by taking one or two kilometers of Lebanese territory.
The air campaign was a waste of time and resources. The film clips of empty buildings being blown to smithereens were designed to give the Israeli public little morale boosters, but not to defeat Hizbullah.
The Olmert government, which had gone to war to win the release of the kidnapped soldiers being held hostage by the terrorists, signed a cease-fire agreement in which it gave up the demand for the soldiers’ immediate and unconditional release.
The cease-fire was a complete capitulation by Israel, which got a promise of a few more UN troops to sunbathe in Lebanon. But UN troops have been “patrolling” the south of Lebanon since 1978 and have yet to stop a single Katyusha or mortar attack, or even a single stone from being thrown over the border fence. As Haaretz’s Avi Shavit asked sarcastically, “Did we go to war so that French soldiers will protect us from Hizbullah?”
Throughout the war, the near-total failure of Israeli intelligence in Lebanon was obvious. But this was the direct consequence of Israel’s 2000 unilateral capitulation, in which Ehud Barak ordered all Israeli troops out of south Lebanon in what amounted to a Monty Python version of Dunkirk. As part of that capitulation, Israel abandoned its networks of informants and allies there, many of whom were murdered by Hizbullah.
At the time of the Lebanese retreat, it was argued that the move would at least unite Israelis behind any future military retaliation should Hizbullah misbehave. But Hizbullah had been misbehaving ever since, such as when it kidnapped and murdered three Israeli soldiers soon after the withdrawal.
Up to a point, a closing of ranks in Israel did indeed take place, with polls showing near unanimity among the general Jewish public in backing massive military retaliation. But as the days dragged by with no serious progress, the Peace through Surrender forces came back into public view. Small demonstrations led by communists were reinforced when Peace Now and Meretz joined in demanding an instant Israeli withdrawal.
The Israeli Literary Left and much of the chattering classes had backed the war at first, but toward its end they reverted to their gut instincts, with many denouncing Israel for “war crimes” and calling for “talks” with Hizbullah. (Olmert’s own daughter was among those denouncing Israel’s actions as criminal.)
The real problem is that Israel has been captive to the Peace through Surrender mindset for so long that it is now second nature. The open terrorist aggressions by Hizbullah, combined with the near unanimous public support for serious military action, were insufficient to put fire into the bellies of the politicians. They meowed their rage at the terror.
The day the cease-fire went into effect, Hamas fired rockets, including a Katyusha, into Ashkelon from Gaza. So we now know where the next front will be. In the middle of the fighting Olmert announced that the war was designed to create conditions under which he could go ahead with his “contraction” plan, which in effect would turn the West Bank into a new Katyusha base for bombarding Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Who says the Wise Men of Chelm is just a fable?
Unless Israel’s pusillanimous leadership is replaced with people possessing vision, willingness to fight, and determination to deal effectively with the genocidal Islamofascist terrorists, Iran’s president may yet get his wish.