Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Ha'aretz legal affairs analyst Ze'ev Segal:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has pulled out of his hat committees without any real foundation, lacking in public trust, just like hot balloons. Even were these to do their job properly, they would not win the confidence of the public, no matter what their findings might be.
The prime minister, who has a legal background, is well aware of the differences between the various types of investigations. He balked at a government decision on establishing a state commission of inquiry, largely because its members would be appointed by the president of the Supreme Court and it would be headed by a retired senior justice. The public would have attached great significance to its conclusions.
He also balked at an investigation committee established by the government according to law, which would have been headed by a retired senior judge and which would have had concrete investigative authority like a state commission of inquiry.
The Olmert lab instead created all kinds of "home-made" committees of an internal nature, with members who come even from outside the system. Even if such committees were granted some type of investigative powers, the government's control of the appointment of their members and of the publication of their reports makes the probe a national farce.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Defense minister refers to criticism against himself, defense establishment, says 'we must see cup as half full in terms of war in Lebanon. There were battles which soldiers emerged from as heroes and there will be many awards'
In 1973, the IDF emerged from the war with chief of staff David Elazar and Major Generals Yitzhak Hofi, Yisrael Tal and Arik Sharon threatening both Cairo and Damascus. In the end of the summer of 2006, the IDF is emerging from the fighting with the head of Northern Command Udi Adam, Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz not even posing a threat to the Al-Khiam ridge.
In the fall of 1973, the Israeli leadership consisted of Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Abba Eban, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. At the end of the summer of 2006, in Israel's leadership are Tal Zilberstein and Shula Zaken. In the fall of 1973, Israel was a powerful state that erred, was battered and got back on its feet. At the end of the summer of 2006, Israel is a country whose vital organs are rotting, afflicted by a corrupting virus.
This is the reason for which one must rush, at this very moment, over to the protesters at the Rose Garden in Jerusalem. Not because Ehud Olmert must go. He will go in any case. And not because Halutz must take responsibility. He will take responsibility, whether he likes it or not. We must rush to the protest at the Rose Garden because that is where Israel is beginning to deal with itself. That is where truthful people are beginning to tell the truth to a nation that forgot what the taste of truth is all about.
Today's agenda must concern one thing: Israel's power. There will be no peace and there will be no end to the occupation without restoring Israel's power. There will be no enlightenment and no free society without renewing Israel's power. Without renewing Israel's power there will be no start-ups here and no clubs. There won't even be a bubble.
However, renewal of Israel's power cannot take place without ethics and without truth. Without modesty and without substance. Without restoring faith and a sense of responsibility. Therefore, the Prime Minister and Chief of Staff of Arrogance must both go. Not only because they have been wrong all the way. Not only because they have been wrong, have been deceptive and have cooked up a disaster. But because getting rid of both will distance us from the distorted values that both of them represent. Separation from both of them will detach us from the evil spirit that tricked us for years.
It is really fascinating how no matter the corruption, no matter the incompetence, ideology trumps all. For all the cries of ethics in government, the left (and not just the left, but they are in the forefront now) are not willing to rid the country of corruption and incompetence if it brings a "right wing" government in its place. Their motto should be, "my ideology, crooked or not".
The McCarthyism that has been used on the right in recent years is clear for all readers of the Israeli press to see, but it has reached absurd proportions in the protest movement(s) forming against the government. According to this Ha'aretz news report, some protesters feel that the most serious problem the reservists face "is the attempt to drag them to the right. If the right wing is able to use the protest to bring down the government, it will set back settlement evacuation for years. The reservists understand the danger of a rightist bear-hug and are trying to keep their distance."
Even the Movement for Quality Government who is a leading player in the protest movement is not interested in the resignation of the government but only in a commission of inquiry.
Even in these times, the irrational obsession with "settlement evacuation" seems to trump all else.
There were times when people (Rabin, for example) resigned for lesser things than screwing up the military, diplomatic and civil aspects of a war – but now, even the "clean politics" protesters don't seem to care.
Palestinian security sources close to the negotiators told TIME that the two Fox Newsmen — reporter Steve Centanni, 60, from Washington, D.C., and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36 — were kidnapped from Gaza to embarrass Haniyeh's government. The militants, who earlier identified themselves as members of the previously unknown Holy Jihad Brigades, were enraged with fellow Hamas militants because they too had joined in the daring capture on June 25th of Corp. Shalit, in which Palestinian gunmen tunneled under a wall and attacked an Israeli army post. But according to these security sources, the militant groups fell out after Hamas' military wing took control of Shalit and elbowed the other co-conspirators aside.
In revenge, these militants, who belong to a splinter group of the late Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, struck back by seizing the two journalists, these sources said.Haniyeh was able to secure the journalists' freedom, but at a high price: he has agreed to give these armed extremists a role in deciding the fate of the Israeli soldier, these sources said.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
His poll results are abysmal, protestors are practically beating down the door to his office but, despite all that, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke proudly in a Sunday morning cabinet meeting of the accomplishments of the
war. According to him, prior to the war, its outcomes would have been considered a "fantasy". Lebanon
"If someone would have told me a month and a half ago that there would be a multinational force and Lebanese army presence in the south, that UN Security Council resolution 1559 would begin to be implemented, that the UN Secretary-General would says that the multinational force could disarm Hezbollah that there would be an arms embargo in Lebanon, observation of crossings, and all this while the IDF sat in Lebanon without being dragged into combat, despite a continued aerial and naval blockade - I would have said he was dreaming and that he shouldn't try to set unrealistic objectives."
Corruption as the essence of what has gone wrong is now too obvious for even Ha'aretz columnists to ignore in support of ideological purity. They tolerated the corruption of Sharon and then Olmert, thinking that they could get them to do the dirty work with the "settlers" - but they got more than they bargained for.
Of course, they were just following the right who also tolerated Sharon's corruption hoping that he could take care of business. But they just got laughed at for it.
Gidon Samet in Ha'aretz:
In one of his memorable statements - one that today, he would bomb from the air - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert praised the war for allowing us to see what enemy we are facing. Now, it is possible to say something different: Thank you, war, for creating the protest movement. This is one of the few good things that have happened here in many years. The ferment, which is still hesitant, is like the fertilizer that is sometimes produced from rot. This is not because it will correct the Israel Defense Forces' errors in preparation for another war, whose embers the frustrated defense minister and General Staff are already fanning. The protest is very much needed because it has come, though quite belatedly, to a country that is going off the rails.
Its political system is screwed up, with a ruling party that is not a party, a Labor Party that is busy with a putsch against its leader, and no opposition. And with humiliating investigations from the president on down, some of which are en route to the courts. New corruption is gnawing at the local authorities. Olmert's promise that "it will be fun here" has become a bad joke in a country of proliferating poverty, arrogant millionaires, insensitive bank executives with fat salaries, third-world infrastructure, crumbling city centers, a miserable Knesset and broken promises. Only a war could have brought the revulsion to the surface.
Friday, August 25, 2006
said Friday that he does not believe the expanded U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon needs 15,000 troops, and he called that figure "excessive."
A U.N. resolution calls for the force in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, to expand from 2,000 troops to 15,000.
Chirac, who has pledged a total of 2,000 French troops, said the territory in question was too small to require that many peacekeepers.
"My feeling is that the figure that was put forward at the beginning of discussions — 15,000 for a reinforced UNIFIL — was a figure that was quite excessive," he said.
Yes, on resignation:
Olmert – 63%
Peretz – 74%
Halutz – 54%
Who ought to be Defense Minister:
Peretz - 3%
Mofaz – 25%
Ami Ayalon – 20%
Moshe (Bogie) Ayalon – 18%
If elections were held today, the number of mandates for the following party (current number in parentheses):
Kadima - 17 (29)
Labor - 11 (19)
Likud - 20 (12)
Yisraeli Beteinu - 17 (11)
Head to Head race between Olmert and Netanyahu for PM:
Olmert – 24%
Netanyahu – 45%
Thursday, August 24, 2006
If things start to heat up again in Lebanon with Syria being tempted to get directly involved the main question here in Israel is will Olmert have the guts to fire Amir Peretz as Defense Minister and form a national unity government and will the new Defense Minister have the power to replace Dan Halutz as Chief of Staff? That Olmert himself needs to be replaced goes without saying but that would require a vote of no confidence which will not occur if a restart of the war is immanent.
Realistically speaking it is difficult to see the IDF operating efficiently with the current government and leadership in hand. As our crisis of leadership continues and the current government acts as if all is well and their own political lives are the only things that count, the Syrians and Iranians along with the newly formed Iranistan to the north of Israel might be too tempted to wait until Hezbollah re-arms completely and Iran tests a nuclear device.
This is not a war that can end in a tie or even, in the words of Halutz, a "victory on points". A war with
Leadership is the key here – not only for fighting the next war, but maybe also for avoiding it. With Peretz still at Defense, the Iranians and Syrians will be tempted to go for broke while a move to strengthen our defense and foreign policy team through a national unity government might deter it.
Ideally, elections should be held in 30 days. Realistically, replacing Peretz and even Livni would be an acceptable place to start. Netnayahu at the Foreign Ministry and either Moshe Ayalon, Don Shomron or Avigdor Leiberman at Defense would strengthen and unify the country without having to fire a shot. Dumping Amir Peretz and forcing the Labor party to choose a real leader would not be a bad thing, either.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
They could do worse than reading this in the Lebanon Daily Star:
The rise of President Bashar Assad to power in Syria in 2000, which coincided with the collapse of the peace process and the rise of Ariel Sharon as Israeli prime minister, signaled a gradual return to Syrian policies of confrontation with the international community and Israel.
The reasons for this are numerous and are not all related to the internal makeup of the Syrian regime. Nevertheless, that issue does figure highly and should not be dismissed, lest this impede judgment regarding the current Syrian role in the region. Indeed, the minority character of the Syrian regime and its consolidation around the private interests of two particular families, the Assad-Makhlouf clan, have served from the very beginning to undercut the potential for serious reform in the country.
The insistence on keeping things in the family and transferring power from father to son, all consideration of republican norms notwithstanding, has served to establish severe limits on the ability of Bashar Assad. But then, ever since his election, or selection, Assad has not missed an opportunity to show that he is a true believer in the system and in the mandate and mission assigned to him.
While current developments seem more than what Syria, Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas bargained for, they are also heaven-sent, hence the parties' increased vociferousness, belligerence and confidence.
Indeed, as the recent declaration made by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem during his brief visit to Lebanon indicated, the prospect of a wider regional war is something these regimes actually welcome. For the strong showing that Hizbullah has made, the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure notwithstanding, is encouragement enough for these regimes, with their minds and hearts still stuck in the 1980s, to revive the old dream of defeating Israel militarily through involvement in a war of attrition and thus achieving military glory that will boost their credentials both at home and abroad. With the US caught in the Iraqi quagmire and its power seemingly neutralized as a result, this prospect might appear more and more tempting with each passing day.
In fact, the Assads seem to be preparing for this eventuality. They have already called up large reserve cohorts that are busy digging trenches all around the country, and they are currently preparing public opinion for this possibility and cultivating their support thereof. Thus, calls to reopen the Golan front are routinely reiterated during the Friday sermons, and communist and nationalist groups have recently joined the chorus.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
The end of the current phase of the
Iranistan will help
It is clear mutual defense treaty between
Iranistan is the new confrontation "country" in
Each successful small step increases the power of the ruling cliques in the two countries and increases their reputations in the Arab and Islamic world as powers who will finally rid the "stain" that is
There has been a push for a diplomatic solution to the problem of Iranistan by separating
This cannot be allowed to happen in the next, bloodier phase of the war.
Friday, August 18, 2006
From the (Lebanon) Daily Star:
The monthly peace index published by Tel Aviv University's Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research found on July 31-August 1 that 68 percent of Arab citizens of Israel defined Israel's war in Lebanon as unjustified; 79 percent claimed that Israel's air attacks on Lebanon were unjustified; 56 percent judged Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's declarations to be credible while 53 percent found that Israeli military reports were not credible.
The readiness of a sizable majority of Arab-Israelis, who are predominantly Sunni Muslims, to identify with a Lebanese Shiite movement that rejects Israel's right to exist and indiscriminately bombarded the Israeli north, which is about 50 percent Arab, must give us pause. Ostensibly, these findings contradict those of more routine polls taken in recent years indicating a growing readiness among the Arab citizens of Israel to come to terms, in one manner or another, with Israel and its Jewish nature. Obviously, they contradict the 80-90 percent support evinced for the Lebanon war by the Israeli population overall.
It seems that participation in a democracy does not innoculate one against nihilism. Ominous signs for the European Union.
One of the major problems with the Israeli political system is that it is built on a parliamentary system but operates as a local political machine. A serious scandal aside, no one expects a
Congress may not always be able to withstand pressure from the Executive, but no president wants his party to lose (too much) in midterm elections.
In the parliamentary system, ministers and even Prime Ministers are expected to take responsibility for failings and resign, if necessary. Although political survival is the first commandment of all politicians worldwide, in the parliamentary system a certain "personal honor" or even self-respect is expected to be part of that personal interest.
That is why we don't often see resignations (although apparently the soon to be indicted Haim Ramon is expected to resign) and we almost never see Israeli politicians leaving politics altogether. In a more normal situation, not only would Amir Peretz not have taken the job as Defense Minister to begin with, he would not now be looking anywhere for the 'guilty' in order to save his own skin. But he is a politician who knows nothing else. His life was running the Histadrut labor union and being a Knesset member. That is all he can do.
The same is true for Ehud Olmert, the consummate Tammany Hall politician who knows how to dispense patronage and collect for it, but not quite how to manage anything. As mayor of
But, now that he is worthless to the left and irrelevant to the right – and his days in power are numbered.
With Hezbollah celebrating in Teheran and in the Arab world and with the Lebanese Army declaring openly that they won't fight their "brothers": With France sending a measly 400 troops to the UNIFIL force and Indonesia 1,000 (yes the same Indonesia that refused to play the Israeli women's volleyball team): With Amir Peretz talking about appeasing Syria now that appeasing their client hasen't worked ….
Are we now witnessing the rise of Iranistan on
Also see Amos Harel in Ha'aretz:
Meanwhile, the deployment of the multinational force is being delayed, and France is in no rush to send many soldiers. UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed a week ago, is already on the path to becoming meaningless. While the Americans are declaring that the new forces in southern Lebanon will not allow Hezbollah to resume their positions along the border, Nasrallah is proving them wrong. His forces are patroling without hindrance in the villages of southern Lebanon (some of them not having left during the fighting); they are recording the Israel Defense Forces activities, and are giving interviews, while armed, to Arab television stations.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I have translated the introduction - if you read Hebrew, read the whole thing here:
This was supposed to be one of the largest IDF operations against Hezbollah in Lebanese soil. Ron ben Shai, who accompanies the paratroopers for 48 hours into
, tells how the operation started and what were its goals – and why it was suddenly stopped after the helicopter was shot down and because of a direct order by the Prime Minister. Was the hesitation, panic and lack of previous thought by senior commanders cause a loss of momentum? Could it have been done differently? This is how it was in the field, with the soldiers. Lebanon
Here is the news: Aliza and Ehud Olmert will be summoned to an investigation in the State Comptroller's office within a few days.
The prime minister and his wife will be presented with these findings: The price they paid for their new house on 8 Cremieux Street in Jerusalem is lower than its market price by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The difference between the sum they paid - some $1.2 million - and the house's value - $1.6-1.8 million - is hard to explain. It raises suspicion that the prime minister and his wife illicitly received about half a million dollars.
There is another suspicion: The house the Olmerts bought had been earmarked for preservation. Converting a house marked for preservation into a house that can be torn down, rebuilt or expanded requires special and irregular permits from the Jerusalem municipality. There is evidence to support the suspicion that Olmert's confidants helped the contractor who sold Olmert the house obtain those irregular permits. If this is the case, the real estate deal was probably a bribery deal. The prime minister and his wife will be questioned about that.
One may hazard a guess that by the Knesset's winter session, Olmert will no longer be prime minister. But leaving him in power until then could cause incalculable damage. How could the vital task of shaking up the national institutions be undertaken when a man suspected of criminal behavior stands at their head? It will not be possible to prepare for the danger of an approaching war when the head of the state is a man whose honesty, integrity and personality are cast in doubt.
The president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, announced on Wednesday that his country would transfer its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
"It is time to amend an historic mistake which harms our country in the international arena and prevents us from maintaining friendly ties with the Arab world and the culture of Islam," Arias, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, said.
Arias said that Vice Premier Shimon Peres phoned him on Tuesday and tried to persuade him to change his decision, Israel Radio reported.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Also, Lipkin-Shahak was the person who advised Peretz on tactical and strategic matters during the war, meaning that the person who advised him to make the decisions would investigate those decisions and its execution!
See the YNET report (in Hebrew).
Syrian President Bashar Assad congratulated Hezbollah yesterday for what he described as their success in "defeating Israel." Assad said that the members of the resistance used their "will, determination and faith" to counter Israeli arms, enabling them to defeat Israel.
"The resistance is necessary as much as it is natural and legitimate," he said. Assad said this war revealed the limitations of Israel's military power.
The Syrian leader also railed against the United States and moderates in Lebanon, declaring that the way to victory is via resistance to occupation, and "support for the resistance creates deterrence against aggression."
And Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz:
Speaking at a bar mitzva party, Peretz said that he believes every war generates the possibility to further the greater diplomatic process, and that in this case that could mean conducting negotiations with Lebanon and creating the conditions for negotiations with Syria.
Peretz ignores reality at our own risk.
There has been much talk over the amount of combat deaths coming from the religious Zionist community and the kibbutzim. There have also been a very large amount of deaths from the Russian/Ukrainian communities. A few nights ago this was discussed in a round-about way on Israel TV Channel when the head of the Takam Kibbutz movement and R.
In any event, the unstated fact remained that no one raised in places like Tel-Aviv and Ramat Hasharon, representative of the "white elite" for lack of a better term, had been killed in the war.
This item was apparently more than hinted at from the head of the IDF's Manpower division, Gen. Elazar Stern, in an interview he had with IDF Radio and reported at in YNET (Hebrew).
There has always (rightly) been resentment against the ultra-Orthodox and their lack of a contribution to the defense of their country, but lately that resentment has also been quietly growing towards the "tzfonim" (literally –'northerners' – but the word refers to the left-wing, wealthy, secular, white-Ashkenazi residents of north Tel-Aviv and its northern suburbs). This war was the first time it started to be vocalized in the media and in the IDF.
The political ramifications of this new "resentment" will be interesting to observe.
Tzipi Livni is a young inexperienced Foreign Minister who has made monumental mistakes during the past five or six weeks, but you can see she is a political old-timer. Raised in a politicians house you see that she knows how to take a disaster and try to turn it into political capital. We wrote about this yesterday with her promise to bring the POW's home with a "diplomatic effort" but now she has topped even that.
Knowing that the cease fire agreement is a piece of garbage she now has switched gears towards working that it is "implemented" well.
Of course, nearly all of the items she is going to bring up with Kofi Anan and other diplomats during her 24 hour trip to NY was actually in the operational parts of the agreement, but pointing that out would be to point our her own failings.
This from the JPost: " ;The resolution is clear that Hizbullah needs to be removed from the border area, embargoed and dismantled,' the official said. 'If the resolution is not implemented, we will have to take action to prevent the rearming of Hizbullah. I don't think backtracking will serve any useful purpose. There has to be pressure on Hizbullah to disarm or there will have to be another round.' Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to raise the issue when she meets in
I hate to say this, but if you actually read the agreement that Livni stated is great for
The Halutz stock trading affair in which the Chief of Staff sold off his portfolio just as the war was starting is taking on some interesting twists. The ex-generals in the government and the indicted head of the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee (Tzachi Hanegbi) are defending the rights of a "private citizen" to manage his family's financial affairs. While that in itself is true, my hope is that this does not become a legal issue. This is an issue of leadership and nothing more than that.
From an ethical point of view, as a former trader I can tell you that had I interrupted the execution of client sell orders during a financial or political crisis in the which the market was dropping rapibly, to sell my own personal stocks I would have been liable to ethical and maybe legal sactions. Had the president of a bank stopped in the middle of a crisis that threatened his or her bank in order to tend to personal financial matters, no doubt the board would demand an immediate resignation.
These should not be looked upon as legal matters but as leadership matters. This goes to the heart of what it means to be a leader in general and a military leader in particular. Solutions might be 'blind trusts' an the like and no one is denying Halutz's right to worry about his family's finances, but the real issue here is if there was a failure of leadership at a critical time and if he still holds the respect of his underlings.
What is disturbing is that at a time when the country was entering a crisis, when I and parents like myself who have soldiers in the military were getting very nervous about the upcoming crisis and the fate or our children. We put on the news, stopped concentrating on work, called friends and neighbors, worried about relatives, wondered what we could do to help.
What is disturbing is the ultimate failure of leadership amongst those who have a fiduciary responsibility (to use a legal/financial term) towards others – and those others are the citizens of the country and the soldiers under their command.
A person with self-respect would resign over this. But if people had self respect then Olmert, Livni and Peretz would also have resigned over this instead of cynically covering their own bottoms.
Below is some of what was written about the Halutz affair in today's press:
One thing ought to be clear: Without an excellent army that is ready at any moment to meet the enemy,
has no chance of surviving in this neighborhood over the long term. This deep understanding is shared both by those who think that we must withdraw from all the territory occupied in 1967, and those who think that we must not give up an inch. Israel's democracy rests on a strong Israel Defense Forces, whose commanders maintain its capabilities in training, equipment and fighting spirit as if war were about to break out at any moment. Israel
Therefore, without claiming that the blame or responsibility rests solely with Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, based on the criteria of conduct, preparedness and results, Halutz must resign immediately. This resignation should occur even before investigations and inquiries begin, and not only in order to underscore the gravity of the situation and the facts that no failure can occur without someone taking responsibility, and no failure can be disguised as a victory with empty words.
The fact that the chief of staff found time to sell his stock portfolio at on July 12, three hours after two soldiers were kidnapped, is intolerable from every conceivable angle. When the person in question is a senior public figure who bears responsibility for the fate of all the state's citizens, including the kidnapped soldiers and those who were killed trying to rescue them, this cannot be considered an invasion of privacy. The chief of staff's conduct of his private life is indicative of his ability of function in his public life. If Halutz can find time to deal with matters of this nature at such a critical practical and psychological moment, that alone is enough to demonstrate that he should cease serving as chief of staff. The cumulative feeling created by the fact that the chief of staff took time off on that bitter day to hastily sell his stocks, while the justice minister found time on that day to be photographed with, and take down the telephone number of, a passing clerk who later accused him of sexual harassment, is one of despair, as if the public has no one on whom to rely.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has a rich record as a courageous pilot and leading air force officer. But once the story in Maariv broke out Tuesday that he had sold his investment portfolio the day the war broke out, it was hard to find anyone among the IDF officers who would stand in his corner. Opinion in the IDF is near unanimous: Halutz must go home the minute the last soldier leaves
When radio stations began dealing with the news in earnest, a shock wave blasted through IDF headquarters all the way to various units in the front. Officers found it difficult to believe. Could it be that between an emergency meeting of IDF leadership, in which Halutz promised to "take Lebanon back 20 years," to a consultation with the defense minister in which he recommended war, the chief of staff found the time to call his investment adviser and order him to sell stock worth NIS 120,000? Indeed, according to the response of the IDF Spokesman and Halutz himself.
Despite severe criticism of the management of the second
war, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz had been expected to survive with his career intact. Some generals were expected to pay with their heads for a campaign that ended with 118 soldiers dead and failed to achieve any of its original goals, but not Halutz. He was an inseparable part of the trio - together with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz - that directed the war, and was effectively untouchable. All three knew that their political survival was linked, and therefore they resolutely backed each other when things weren't going according to plan.But now that Halutz's priorities have been revealed for all the nation to see by the report in Maariv on the liquidation of his stock portfolio hours after the war erupted, there is nothing Olmert and Peretz can do to save him. Lebanon
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
While the results of the mismanaged and mishandled war are becoming clearer and clearer, while Syria is responding not with an invitation of calm but with further threats, Amir Peretz, still our Defense Minister, responds with a demand that we prepare, not for the next conflict, but for relinquishing the Golan to Syria. This absurd suggestion to "negotiate" (and negotiate is not really the word since his opening position is Bashar Assad bathing in the Sea of Galilee) is only understandable as the opportunistic attempt to shore up his base (the radical left) in order to grasp at whatever strings of power he has left.
How this disaster has the hutzpa to make strategic suggestions is beyond belief. It is no different than Olmert and his unilateral withdrawal from
It is becoming clearer and clearer that the "cease fire" was nothing other than a desperate attempt to get Israeli troops out of
Then of course there is the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni. She does realize that the agreement was complete garbage and that the fact that the POW's were not included was a disaster, but as a good politician she is turning that disaster into opportunistic political capital. Now, you see, she is going to work full time to find a diplomatic way to get the POW's back.
I don't see the people getting fooled again.
Olmert has had his corrupt activities whitewashed in the past as the press and judiciary hoped that he would be able to unilaterally withdraw from most of
Witness today's Ha'aretz editorial, responding to his speech in front of the Knesset yesterday. They stated that if "the prime minister's speech signals the start of an era of demagogy instead of self-examination, then the conclusion must be that he is not endowed with the necessary humility and courage to lead the essential shake-up of the system".
See too, Nehamia Strassler's devastating critique of the "its all the budget's fault" school now forming at Olmert's office:
"Throughout its history, the army has refused to differentiate between the front and rear. All agree that the fighting force in the army - 20 percent of its overall work force - is entitled to excellent conditions and benefits. But why is an economist at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv entitled to the same extraordinary privileges? And why are the salaries at the Defense Ministry much higher than wages in the other ministries? And why are ministry employees entitled to an expensive annual leave that has no parallel in any other ministry? Why are IDF personnel in the rear entitled to lower health tax and social security charges? And why does the IDF subsidize the construction of housing complexes for non-frontline career staff, at our expense? Why is a soldier at headquarters in Tel Aviv who is injured in a traffic accident entitled to the same disabled veteran benefits as a soldier injured in fighting?
"In other words, there is money, lots of it. The only question is: where is it being directed? Therefore, if the reservists were short on binoculars and modern helmets, this is not a budgetary problem but a matter of priorities. And if the army could not provide food and water to the soldiers in
"But Netanyahu and the budget are a good excuse for a war that ended in embarrassing defeat, where the gap between the aims and gains is huge."
This, from a speech by Ehud Olmert in front of the Israel Policy Forum on June 9, 2005:
"We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies ..."
In this amazing story, Halutz, the soldier most responsible for defending his country, found the time to call his broker at Bank Leumi and order his portfolio liquidated while his country was under attack.
We wrote some days ago about a crisis in leadership in the country where moral and legal corruption were part and parcel of the process by which leaders are chosen. We will see more of these stories as the soldiers leave Lebanon.
Just ask Bashir Assad:
"Syrian President Bashar Assad said his country is prepared for any war that may break out with Israel , adding that he is convinced that the chances for peace have decreased and that 'the Golan Heights will be liberated by Syria'.”
From the AP:
"Highlighting the fragility of the peace, Hezbollah guerrillas fired at least 10 Katyusha rockets that landed in southern Lebanon early Tuesday, the Israeli army said, adding that nobody was injured. The army said that none of the rockets, which were fired over a two-hour period, had crossed the border and so it had not responded".
Monday, August 14, 2006
According to a Globes-Smith poll as reported in YNET (Hebrew):
Is the UN cease fire good for
Yes – 6%
On the Handling of the War:
Poor rating for:
Olmert – 62%
Peretz – 65%
Halutz – 44%
Yes – 3%
No – 58%
This is reminiscent of the reservist started protest against the 1982 invasion of
After another fire and brimstone Olmert speech (speak loudly and carry a small twig) it will be interesting to see where this goes.
The Lebanon Daily Star, that country's English language daily has had some interesting articles during the course of the war. It stands for
They have an interesting editorial in today's paper in which they analyze the situation from the point of view of Lebanese internal politics. They feel that Nabih Beri, the Shiite speaker of the parliament and Prime Minister Siniora have become "two pillars of the Lebanese political system have come out of the war stronger, more responsible and more capable of starting the construction of the third Lebanese republic".
Yet, as can be expected, even the most anti-Hezbollah group in
So, as they conclude the editorial they call on some of
It is true that Hezbollah has been hit hard during this war, but even those Lebanese who have the most to lose from their strength – meaning supporters of a true civil society - understand that because of the indecisiveness of
"Ever since war broke out last month on the Israeli-Lebanese frontier, the Bush administration has said it wouldn't tolerate a return to the "status quo ante," in which Hezbollah behaved as a power unto itself within the Lebanese state. Yet after reading the text of the U.N. Security Council's cease-fire resolution adopted unanimously on Friday, we'd say the "status quo ante" is nearly what we've got.
And perhaps worse than that, because Hezbollah has now shown it can battle Israel to a military draw. The new resolution does call for disarming Hezbollah, just as resolution 1559 previously did, but without saying who will do it. Presumably that task is intended for the Lebanese Army, which is supposed to occupy the parts of southern Lebanon from which Hezbollah launched its attacks on Israel. But Lebanon's army is a weak force, consciously undermined over the years of Syrian occupation, and is largely Shiite. There's reason to doubt it will be able to disarm Hezbollah's still-powerful Shiite military."
And in conclusion:
"After his Cabinet agreed to the cease-fire, Mr. Olmert said yesterday that 'Hezbollah won't continue to exist as a state' and that 'the Lebanese government is our address for every problem or violation of the agreement.' For him to say anything else would be an admission of defeat after a bloody month. But even many Israelis in his own party are saying that, after firing more than 3,000 rockets into Israel, nearly 800 into residential areas, Hezbollah is emerging from this conflict stronger than either Sadat or Nasser after their wars with Israel.
Perhaps, for a time, this cease-fire resolution will 'stop the violence,' as Kofi Annan likes to exhort. But the price for letting a transnational terrorist group like Hezbollah claim victory is likely to be far more bloodshed in the future."
"At least 50 newborn babies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been named after Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah over the past month, sources in the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
The move is an indication of his growing popularity of Nasrallah among Palestinians and Arabs in general, many of whom hail him for merely daring to stand up to Israel. As the war nears its end, some moderate Arabs expressed fear that the widely-perceived conviction on the Arab street that Hizbullah had won would enhance the position of those who argue that Israel can be defeated or destroyed."
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Not from an incompetent rookie, you couldn't.
When is the last cease fire agreement a country signed that does not deal with Prisoners of War?
If one were to look at Israeli politics and policy over the past few years, one would be excused to asking the question: Are the personal interests of the Prime Minister the same as the Israeli national interest?
With the apparent acceptance of the French UN cease fire resolution Ehud Olmert proves what many of us suspected from the start of the war – that he never intended to win it and was defeatist from the start. Amnon Abromovitch, TV analyst and no friend of the right stated on Thursday that his sources told him that Olmert will accept any cease fire that is offered "even the most minimalist one". I don't think even Abromivitch thought that he would accept a UNIFIL force.
In retrospect this was clear from the start of the war. After the cry in the media and amongst the populace that we are at war and we need a national unity government to help get us through it, Olmert all but ignored it. He never agreed to call this a war and mention of a national unity government was never brought up again – since it was clear that Olmert would have none of it. Even after Olmert's Knesset speech and the response by the opposition leader Netanyahu supporting all of the goals the government stated, there was no move to a national unity government.
That he was waiting not for a US governmental green light to fight the fight but all but begged the French to get involved – even stating at the start that he welcomes French troops to protect Israeli citizens (one wonders which French army – the one that slaughtered its own soldiers in WW1, the one that lost WWII or the one that lost in Algeria?) was the key to his air war. He was hoping against hope that enough rubble in
So, why did he commit limited ground troops and not just either continue the air war or call to negotiate with terrorists from the beginning? The politician in Olmert apparently took over, making his own personal survival paramount. He knew that the people would not stand for no ground action while their were prisoners in the hands of Hezbollah and one third of the country was under missile and rocket attack. He ordered the most limited ground offensive possible, the insertion of small special forces units to battle some Hezbollah fighters bunker by bunker. When that didn't work he ordered regular forces to surround towns and villages and fight building by building without the proper air or artillery support and without shoot to kill orders that warfare demands.
He delayed the call up of reserves to as not to allow the IDF the possibility of fighting the war it has been training the fight in the amount of time it needed to accomplish its mission.
While soldiers were slaughtered for the sake of Olmert's political future the cease fire was not even close. Olmert could not tell the
So, why then did Olmert order the major military operation just when he was about to agree to yet another surrender agreement? Again for Olmert's political gain. By giving the Army an impossible task- to accomplish a two week mission in less than 60 hours - he was setting the Army up for failure so that afterwards he could say – "I told you so, the Army was not capable of performing, that is why we had to sign this".
Corruption is the key here. It is at the core of the formation of Kadima and is the essence of Olmert's entire political career. Peretz is just a fool and Livni an inexperienced rookie – Olmert though is corrupt through and through.
This is the Israeli people's last chance to stand up and say no to corruption and cynicism in the running of its country. It is its last chance to demand that the Israeli National Interest be taken care of before the interests of its politicians. This attitude has infected the government, the Knesset the civil service and apparently the upper echelons of the IDF. The troika of Olmert-Peretz-Livni must go. And if necessary Halutz and most of the General Staff must go, too.
If not, then soon enough we will all need to go.
Why is the trioka not following through on this? Are they so desperate for a cease fire that they are again willing to ignore what the other party to the agreement really says?
Ought we to replace our Israeli flags that adorn our porches with white flags so as to back up and identify with our government?
There are two IDF lawyers in the headquarters of the Northern Command approving (or not) each order sent out by the Commander of the Northern Front to the officers in the field. Becoming a Western army, indeed.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
11 soldiers were killed today in defense of the coward that runs the government and the fools that are supporting him.
The government and the Knesset and the people now have an opportunity throw the bums out and start to rebuild our shattered deterence.
Friday, August 11, 2006
There is an illness that seems to overtake foreign ministers once they take office. They understand their jobs as to prevent the use of force, at all costs rather than to represent and to defend their country's interests, at all costs. You see it most clearly in
This comment – either by Livni or her aides (the Ma'ariv report in Hebrew is not clear) – is a reaction to PM Olmert's veto of her proposed trip to NY to be involved in the UN negotiations. Olmert surely wanted to prevent her from going for personal reasons – to put her in her place, so to speak, but her comments and those of her aides are disturbing and present another reason why Olmert nixed the trip.
There seems to be an obsession in Foreign Ministries that is transferred to the Foreign Minister when he or she takes command and that obsession is to avoid armed conflict – regardless of the cost to their own country's national interests.
By working to "make sure a cease fire is reached" instead of working to "make sure her country wins" she betrays her country interests and the citizens who she represents.
"Ehud Olmert may decide to accept the French proposal for a cease-fire and unconditional surrender to Hezbollah. That is his privilege. Olmert is a prime minister whom journalists invented, journalists protected, and whose rule journalists preserved. Now the journalists are saying run away. That's legitimate. Unwise, but legitimate.
However, one thing should be clear: If Olmert runs away now from the war he initiated, he will not be able to remain prime minister for even one more day. Chutzpah has its limits. You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory, produce humiliating defeat and remain in power. You cannot bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, keep a million Israelis in shelters for a month, wear down deterrent power, bring the next war very close, and then say - oops, I made a mistake. That was not the intention. Pass me a cigar, please. "
The current Israeli troika has failed us utterly - will a leader please stand up?
Thursday, August 10, 2006
According to their report Olmert and Livni are willing to accept any cease fire offered, even a "minimalist" one.
The entire country understands and wants to fight so that we can attain a victory over Hezbollah and our leaders are begging for a surrender.
Did anyone say General Patain?
Kfar Saba buried its second son in three days, 27 year old Noam Goldman … The Meretz Party and Peace Now have both decided after 30 days of contemplation to be 'against the war' … For the second time in 60 years the Arab residents of Haifa have been encouraged to leave their city by an Arab leader … 750,000 trees have been burnt down in Israel due to rocket fire since the start of the war … The security cabinet of the Government of Israel unanimously (with 3 abstentions) approved the military plan to move to and beyond the Litani River … The troika of Olmert-Peretz-Livni decided to halt the approved military plan in order to give the diplomats another 48 hours to talk … Tough battles are being fought in the Lebanese towns of Marj-Ayoun, Markava and Alhayam … Five terrorist leaders were taken prisoner by IDF forces in Ramallah … In an 'unrelated' event, 9 terrorists were arrested in the UK for plotting to down 9 planes over the Atlantic Ocean … Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said the government's decision to expand the war comes "late, very late, but not too late" … CBS's Mike Wallace interviewed Iranian President Ahmadinejad and was impressed that he was still a college professor who taught a graduate level course … After 31 days of sitting in shelters no minister has been given responsibility for the social and economic conditions of the residents of the north … A woman and her child were killed in a rocket attack in the north.
Tension at weddings is not abnormal, yet the tension at the wedding I was at last night was of a different kind.
Lt. H, son of good friends of ours, George and J got married last night. He is an officer in the Paratrooper's Brigade of the IDF and finished a stint as Deputy Company Commander about to start a Company Commander's course when the war broke out up north. He was sent into
While H was standing under the huppah, the bridal canopy, with his bride, his Sergeant was being buried not far away. He was killed two days ago in a fierce battle and H was hoping to attend his soldier's funeral on the day of his wedding. Good officers want to take care of their troops and H wanted at least, to be able to pay his last respects, on his wedding day, to his friend, to his comrade in arms.
As we drove up to the wedding hall in a small kibbutz in the center of the country we felt as if it was our national obligation to dance in front of the bride and groom. We walked in and saw the glowing and stunning bride, the proud and confused mother of the groom and all the guests – well, not all the guests. H's Company of paratroopers could not be there, they were fighting and defending his right to marry and raise children in
Each guest we met asked us how our (soldier) son was and where he was (in special forces unit for the Central Command trying to prevent the opening of a third front) and we did the same to those whose boys and girls were serving or were possible reservists. A friend who's son just had a baby and returned that day from abroad was called to go up on Sunday. Another friend was waiting – his son hadn't been called up, yet. The brother of the groom returned from the north where he serves as a logistics officer for a tank battalion (what did Patton say? The guys that supply the gas are the key to the war… or something like that) and will return today or tomorrow. The groom's sister was told to report back to her unit today to help the home-front command provide temporary housing for those up north.
George, the groom's father could not stop dancing for the entire wedding. He even managed to get a "friend of the bride" t-shirt, odd thing for the new father-in-law (but I didn't see his wife J with one). H also couldn't stop moving although his dance steps did not compare to those of his new wife, the dance teacher. Her students also showed up and put on a nice little performance but the energy by the guests and friends helped to alleviate the pain felt by the absence of those who were to be the guests of honor. There is nothing like a wedding in which the boy's army buddies jump and romp and pretend to know how to dance and slap each other on the back as if they will be friends and buddies for ever and ever. Basic training, infantry training, special forces training, courses, 90 kilometer hikes with full packs, running with stretchers loaded with soldiers or rocks, endless pushups and sit-ups, short trips to the beach, dirty food, combat rations, war paint and finally, actual combat, shooting, noise, confusion: And all too often, blood and death.
During the ceremony the rabbi mentioned the sergeant and the other soldiers who couldn't be there and read a blessing for the soldiers of the IDF. We all stood and listened and said 'amen' afterwards. He had to say it for the tension was there anyway. While there is a Jewish custom not to mix two separate happy occasions, unfortunately we have a long tradition of remembering our tragedies during our moments of joy. The groom breaks the glass to remember
The food was great, the music lively and dancing sweaty and the guests happy. For awhile we forgot the "situation" drank some scotch and wine ate meats and salads and lots of chocolate for dessert. And then more dancing while the friends of the parents headed home and the 'kids' kept the night going for I don't know how much longer.
Saying goodbye and thank you to the bride and groom was emotional and tense. They were not headed to a honeymoon and wouldn't be having one any time soon. They were not sure they would be able to celebrate more than one or two of the traditional seven nights of feasting that Jewish brides and grooms have been celebrating for two-thousand years or more. He was not sure if he was to join his soldiers and his fellow officers in a few days or spend a few more nights with his bride.
Yet, we left with a certain confidence. Confidence that the two of them will have a long life together because that is the way it should be. Confidence that H and his bride will have the honor of building a house and raising a family in
We were a little bit numb when we said good-bye and thank you to George and J. Parents of combat soldiers have a certain connection. We worry about each other's children and say things we don't say to others. We told them it was a privilege to be at the wedding and smiled, knowing that we would share only happy occasions ("s'machot") for many years to come.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
2. If the US did not go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein would he now be lofting his own missiles into Israel, forcing the center of the country into shelters? (courtesy of the OOS daughter).
3. On the back of question 2, would Iraq and Iran have used this war to unify in common cause their desire to eliminate Israel and create an unbroken land mass including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Southern Lebanon dedicated to destroying Israel?
4. Following on question 3, would this new alliance be so bold as to finally use WMD against Israel?
This crisis is not because the Hezbollah have defeated us militarily or, as opposed to after the Yom Kippur War because we started to doubt the correctness of our path. What has been defeated is our political system in general and the way we develop and pick our leaders in particular.
Political leaders in
People in leadership positions in Israeli politics got where they are because they had one skill – survival. They always know how to survive and that is, in the end, their only goal. The Israeli crisis is a crisis of corruption and Hezbollah has laid bare the results of this corruption. The press and the criminal justice system were quiet and allowed
The same Israeli press and justice system allowed a completely unqualified man, Amir Peretz to assume the position of Defense Minister at a time of war. No one got up and said "this is not