The following is excerpted from Robert Rosenberg’s “Today’s Situation” column, “Just a lull in the fighting,” Friday, August 18, 2006, posted from Tel Aviv at http://www.ariga.com.
There is almost nobody… who objects to the view that the last month of fighting against Hezbollah was interrupted and that sooner or later, whether next month or next year, another round will erupt…. [A]nd very few are suggesting any steps to take to prevent that war from breaking out by trying diplomacy with the Lebanese leadership or even engaging the Syrians.
The entire focus is on how the Lebanese Army, deploying some 15,000 troops in south Lebanon for the first time since the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the ‘new UNIFIL’ – which suddenly is going to have only 200 new French troops, and not the 2,000 that had been touted by a variety of sources, including the French, for the past month – will not dare confront Hezbollah; how Hezbollah will keep its arms and probably acquire more through Syria; and how Hezbollah is preparing for the next round.
…. The latest political map shows Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert against IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, Halutz against everyone and Peretz and Olmert either standing together or hanging together. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who wanted a cease-fire the third day of the fighting is against Olmert, who was against her for wanting the cease-fire; and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz… [who] was chief of staff and then defense minister and though he was against the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, did nothing during the last six years to stop the Hezbollah buildup….
One national level politician – Peretz – this week proposed trying to engage Syria in some form of way to pry it out of the grip of its Iranian masters. But he was immediately put down — including by party colleagues — with critics saying his call was just more proof of his incompetence as defense minister. True, former ambassador to Washington, Itamar Rabinovich, and former Military Intelligence chief Uri Saguy, who under Ehud Barak conducted the ultimately failed negotiations with Bashar Assad’s father, Hafez, both say that Israel should be trying secret — or not so secret — diplomacy with the Syrians….
Olmert has meanwhile finally admitted that his unilateral convergence/realignment plan for the West Bank has been shelved…. nobody nowadays in Israel is buying the idea of another unilateral withdrawal.
Although the media keeps saying the public has turned sharply Rightward, polls so far do not show any dramatic rise for the parties to the Right of the Likud, like Yisrael Beitenu or the National Union-National Religious Party…. The occupation remains unpopular, but Palestinian issues are barely mentioned in the press, and when mentioned, it is mostly to emphasize the failures of PA President Mahmoud Abbas – like today, after Abbas announced a new tahadiye [lull or truce] had been reached among all the Palestinian factions, and within hours, Islamic Jihad and Hamas’ military wing denied it. Ismail Haniye and his Hamas government remain beyond the pale – but there is a consistent thump of reports about negotiations underway for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, in exchange for a few hundred Palestinian prisoners. But those reports are almost exclusively in the Arab press, and when noted by the Israelis, official reactions here are to deny it. After all, both the military operations in Gaza that began with Shalit’s kidnapping and which so far have killed more than 200 people, and the Lebanon war, which began with the capture of soldiers Goldwasser and Regev, were touted by Israel’s establishment as a way to get back the soldiers without any preconditions, and without any negotiations.
And late this afternoon, Justice Minister Haim Ramon announced he would resign on Sunday to face charges of sexual harassment in a criminal proceeding. Ramon’s latest defense (starting from it never happened) is that a ‘2-3 second’ kiss cannot be considered sexual harassment. President Moshe Katsav is also deep in a sexual scandal, with at least one woman detailing her complaint against Katsav to the police…. And other women are being questioned….
And there is still the state comptroller’s investigation into the purchase of the Olmert family home, bought for a reported half million dollars under the market value from a contractor Olmert is alleged to have helped out when he was the mayor of Jerusalem.