The following is an abridged version of a submission by Ami Isseroff, editor/director of “Mideast Web – Middle East News and Commentary” and a founder of “Zio-Nation – Progressive Zionism and Israel Web Log.” As with all postings, this does not necessarily reflect the views of Meretz USA.
The failure of the Lebanon war must not be regarded as an ideological issue, nor is the failure confined to the problem of beating Hezbollah. Most failures are orphans, but this failure has many proud fathers from all parts of the political spectrum, who cannot disavow their paternity. Ehud Barak left Lebanon without proper international guarantees. Bibi Netanyahu prepared penny-pinching budgets that scrimped on defense. Now he is offered, ironically, as a “savior.” Amir Peretz made vainglorious boasts with no backing. We “won’t forget the name of Amir Peretz,” [as he boasted Nasrallah wouldn’t] but we won’t forget Bibi Netanyahu either.
The Likud ignored the threat of the Hezbollah rockets for six years, and the unity government made a corrupt and shameful deal with Nasrallah in 2004, the last time the Hezbollah kidnapped soldiers. This signaled to them that their method worked and could be repeated. Abraham “Bogey” Ya’alon, the former chief of staff, must be held responsible in part for the state of preparedness of IDF units and the state of IDF logistics. These problems did not develop over night, yet he is offered as another “savior.”
The difference between the Israeli right and the left was never about defense preparedness or support for the army. Every Zionist understands that without the IDF, Israel would not exist. In this failure, the problem is not “right versus left” but “stupid versus smart” and “good judgement versus bad judgement.”
Hassan Nasrallah is not a great resistance hero. He is a medieval religious fanatic who heads a reactionary genocidal organization that is a threat to both Israel and Lebanon. If this war had succeeded in ridding the Middle East of Nasrallah, then nobody would say that Israel places too much reliance on force. There would be celebrations in Tel Aviv, in Beirut and, perhaps more discretely, in the government buildings in Riyadh, Cairo and Amman. That would have been true even if the price in lives had been much higher. The Six Day War cost many more lives than this abortive unnamed Lebanese war. The problem was not that we went to war, but that at the end of a month of fighting, we gained nothing. This was exacerbated by the juvenile boasting of Peretz, Olmert and various self-important military honchos.
Very likely the war could have been won, if the IDF did what it has always done. Instead, every rule in every military doctrine book went out the window from day one, and especially all the IDF rules. Every rule in the diplomatic book was thrown out too. The first Lebanon war was run badly and was unnecessary, but next to this war, it looked like it was run by geniuses.
The sensible and obvious thing to do in such a situation, when you have been attacked but there is no immediate threat, is to issue an ultimatum and explain your terms. Use the time to gather world sympathy and to very visibly mobilize the reserves. The threat alone might have produced results, especially before massive bombings hardened hearts.
Then, if war became necessary, carry the war to the enemy immediately and make sure the goals can be achieved in a brief time. Don’t count on the US to prevent an early cease-fire. Israeli troops should have entered Lebanon with a massive armor and artillery push and raced to the Litani, and then used the captured territory as a lever for bargaining.
The safe return of the soldiers and disarmament of the Hezbollah should have been unbreakable conditions for a cease-fire. If we could not make these conditions and hold to them, we should not have gone to war. For what was “achieved” in this war, it was not worth sacrificing a hair on the head of a goat, let along 150 Israelis and about a thousand Lebanese.
Believe it or not, that is not the really bad news. The real threat is not Nasrallah, a minor gangster after all. The big problem is that Nasrallah’s puppet-master in Teheran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is preparing atomic weapons, and there is every indication that he will have them in a few years, notwithstanding American protests and French hand-wringing to the contrary. Countries that are not willing to send a few hundred soldiers each to disarm some gangsters in Lebanon, won’t stop a country of 80 million from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The misjudgements of this Israeli government show that the government and the military brass are dangerously incompetent. That reserves were not trained, and went to war without proper supplies, shows that the previous government and military brass were also incompetent.
These failings must be corrected quickly. It is obvious to me that they cannot be corrected by the people in charge, who showed themselves totally incompetent in every field. Asking for their removal from office is not a political act and should not be based on political motives, nor is it a punishment. Nobody has the “right” to be prime minister or defense minister of the State of Israel, nor is it a “reward” to be given out as political patronage. – Ami Isseroff