The 155th Victim
WITH A few words, a Lebanese army officer destroyed, the day before
yesterday, the illusion that Israel had achieved anything in this war.
At a televised Lebanese army parade that was also broadcast on Israeli
TV , the officer read a prepared text to his assembled troops, who were
about to be deployed along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
This is what he said in Arabic: "Today, in the name of the comprehensive
will of the people, you are preparing to be deployed on the soil of the
wounded South, side by side with the forces of your Resistance and your
people, which have amazed the world with their steadfastness and blown
to pieces the reputation of the army about which it has been said that
it is invincible."
In simple language: "the comprehensive will of the people" - the will of
all parts of the Lebanese public, including the Shiite community. "Side
by side with the Resistance": side by side with Hizbullah. "Which have
amazed the world with their steadfastness": the heroism of the Hizbullah
fighters. "Blown to pieces the reputation of the army about which it has
been said that it is invincible": the Israeli army.
Thus spoke a commander of the Lebanese army, the deployment of which
along the border is being celebrated by the Olmert-Peretz government as
a huge victory, because this army is supposed to confront Hizbullah and
disarm it. Israeli commentators have created the illusion that this army
would be at the disposal of the friends of the US and Israel in Beirut,
such as Fuad Siniora, Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt.
It is no accident that this item was drowned in the deluge of TV
blabber, like a stone thrown into a well. After broadcasting the item
itself, no meaningful debate about it took place. It was erased from the
But not only the balloon of the redeeming Lebanese army has been
punctured. The same has happened to the multi-colored second balloon
that was to serve as an Israeli achievement: the deployment of the
international force that would protect Israel from Hizbullah and prevent
its re-armament. As the days pass, it becomes increasingly clear that
this force will be, at best, a mishmash of small national units, without
a clear mandate and "robust" capabilities. The commando raid carried out
by our army today, in blatant violation of the cease-fire, will
certainly not attract more international volunteers for the job.
So what remains of all the "achievements" of this war? A good question.
AFTER EVERY failed war, the cry for an official investigation goes up in
Israel. Now there is a "trauma", much bitterness, a feeling of defeat
and of a missed opportunity. Hence the demand for a strong Commission of
Inquiry that will cut off the heads of those responsible.
That's what happened after the first Lebanon war, which reached its
climax in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. The government refused any
serious inquiry. The masses that gathered in what is now called "Rabin
Square" (the mythical 400 thousand) demanded a judicial inquiry. The
public mood reached boiling point and in the end the Prime Minister,
Menachem Begin, gave in.
The Kahan Commission that investigated the event condemned a number of
politicians and army officers for "indirect" responsibility for the
massacre, even though its own factual conclusions would have justified a
much stronger condemnation. But Ariel Sharon was, at least, removed from
the Defense Ministry.
Before that, after the trauma of the Yom Kippur war, the government also
refused to appoint a Commission of Inquiry, but public pressure forced
its hand. The fate of the Agranat Committee, which included a former
Chief-of-Staff and two other senior officers, was rather odd: it
conducted a serious investigation, put all the blame on the military,
removed from office the Chief-of-Staff, "Dado" Elazar - and acquitted
the political leadership of any blame. This caused a spontaneous public
uproar. In its wake, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan - predecessors of Olmert
and Peretz as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense - were forced to
This time, too, the political and military leadership is trying to block
any serious investigation. Amir Peretz even appointed a
whitewash-committee, packed with his cronies. But public pressure is
building up, and chances seem good that in the end there will be no way
out but to appoint a judicial inquiry committee.
Generally, the one who appoints a commission of inquiry and sets its
terms of reference predetermines its conclusions. Under Israeli law, it
is the government which decides to appoint such a commission and
determines its terms of reference. (As a Member of the Knesset, I voted
against these paragraphs.) But the composition of the commission is
determined by the President of the Supreme Court. If a commission is set
up, I assume the present President of the Court, Aharon Barak, a highly
respected chief justice, will appoint himself for the job.
IF INDEED such a commission is set up, what will it investigate?
The politicians and generals will try to restrict the inquiry to the
technical aspects of the conduct of the war:
- Why was the army not prepared for a war against guerillas?
- Why were the land forces not sent into the field in the two first weeks?
- Did the military command believe that the war could be won by the Air
- What was the quality of the intelligence?
- Why was nothing done to protect the rear, when the rocket threat
- Why were the poor in the North left to their fate, after the
well-to-do had left the area?
- Why were the reserve units not ready for the war?
- Why were the emergency arsenals empty?
- Why did the supply system not function?
- Why did the Chief-of-Staff practically depose the Chief of the
Northern Command in the middle of the war?
- Why was it decided at the last moment to start a campaign that cost
the lives of 33 Israeli soldiers?
The government will probably attempt to widen the investigation and to
put part of the blame on its predecessors:
- Why did the Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon governments just look on when
Hizbullah was growing?
- Why was nothing done as Hizbullah built up its huge stockpile of rockets?
All these are serious questions, and it is certainly necessary to clear
them up. But it is more important to investigate the roots of the war:
- What made the trio Olmert-Peretz-Halutz decide to start a war only a
few hours after the capture of the two soldiers?
- Was it agreed with the Americans in advance to go to war the moment a
credible pretext presented itself?
- Did the Americans push Israel into the war, and, later on, demand
that it go on and on as far as possible?
- Was it Condoleezza Rice who decided in fact when to start and when to
- Did the US want to get us entangled with Syria?
- Did the US use us for its campaign against Iran?
This, too, is not enough. There are more profound and important questions.
THIS WAR has no name. Even after 33 days of fighting and six days of
cease-fire, no natural name has been found. The media use a
chronological name: Lebanon War II.
This way, the war in Lebanon is separated from the war in the Gaza
Strip, which has been conducted simultaneously, and which is going on
unabated after the cease-fire in the North. Do these two wars have a
common denominator? Are they, perhaps, one and the same war?
The answer is: certainly, yes. And the proper name is: the War for the
The war against the Palestinian people is being waged in order to keep
the "settlement blocs" and annex large parts of the West Bank. The war
in the North was waged, in fact, to keep the settlements on the Golan
Hizbullah grew up with the support of Syria, which controlled Lebanon at
the time. Hafez al-Assad saw the return of the Golan to Syria as the aim
of his life - after all, it was he who lost them in the June 1967 war,
and who did not succeed in getting them back in the October 1973 war. He
did not want to risk another war on the Israel-Syria border, which is so
close to Damascus. Therefore, he patronized Hizbullah, so as to convince
Israel that it would have no quiet as long as it refused to give the
Golan back. Assad jr. is continuing with his fathers legacy.
Without the cooperation of Syria, Iran has no direct way of supplying
Hizbullah with arms.
The solution is on hand: we have to remove the settlers from there,
whatever the cost in wines and mineral water, and give the Golan back to
its rightful owners. Ehud Barak almost did so, but, as is his wont, lost
his nerve at the last moment.
It has to be said aloud: every one of the 154 Israeli dead of Lebanon
War II (until the cease-fire) died for the settlers on the Golan Heights.
THE 155TH Israeli victim of this war is the "Covergence Plan" - the plan
for a unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.
Ehud Olmert was elected four months ago (hard to believe! only four
months!) on the platform of Convergence, much as Amir Peretz was elected
on the platform of reducing the army and carrying out far-reaching
In the course of the war, Olmert still announced that he would implement
the "Convergence". But the day before yesterday he conceded that we
could forget about it.
The Convergence was to remove 60 thousand settlers from where they are,
but to leave the almost 400 thousand settlers in the West Bank
(including the Jerusalem area). Now this plan has also been buried.
What remains? No peace, no negotiations, no solution at all for the
historic conflict. Just a complete deadlock for years, at least until we
get rid of the duo Olmert & Peretz.
All over Israel, they are already talking about the "Next Round", the
war that will at long last eliminate Hizbullah and punish it for
besmirching our honor. That has become, so it seems, a self-evident
matter. Even Haaretz treats it as such in its editorials.
In the South, they don't speak about the "Next Round" because the
present round is endless.
To have any value whatsoever, the investigation must expose the real
roots of the war and present the public with the historic choice that
has become clear in this war, too: Either the settlements and an endless
war, or the return of the occupied territories and peace.
Otherwise, the investigation will only provide more backing for the
outlook of the Right, to wit: we only have to expose the mistakes that
have been made and correct them, then we can start the next war and win.