August 15, 2006 Cease-Fire Day 2
According to Israel Television’s Channel 1 diplomatic reporter the French statesman in charge of the UNIFIL force set to take up positions in South Lebanon said today that it would take about a year to prepare for the move. Meanwhile not one nation, according to the reporter, has agreed to commit even one soldier to the force. The UN said it would sit again in a couple of days to discuss how and when to deploy the force. From this report it seems that the promises of a force taking over from Israeli troops within ten-days is far from the reality on the ground. Some Israeli troops are withdrawing, but others will be stuck there for the foreseeable future.
Israel’s commander of the northern front Gen. Udi Adam has said that Israel should expect more violence from Hezbollah in Lebanon. It could be in a month. It could be in a year. Meanwhile the Iranians are celebrating, claiming that Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy, defeated Israel and thus the USA.
A few Hezbollah fighters were killed today in S. Lebanon, but that did not break the cease-fire Discussions rage on the radio and TV over the way Israel handled the war. Somehow the press got the information that Israel’s Chief of Staff Dan Halutz dumped his stock portfolio three hours before the war began. He is being criticized for having his priorities askew. Pundits say he should have been worrying about winning the war not trying to save money. But others asked who leaked this privileged information to the press, and why?
The “war of the Generals” isn’t limited to Israel. Recently in the USA a group of retired generals were extremely vocal in the way Sec of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ran the war in Iraq. It was said he relied too heavily on an air campaign, then sent in too few troops to do the job of winning the war. Israel has it’s own generals criticizing each other. The two groups sound alike, even though an ocean separates them.
Most say that PM Olmert was too late entering the war with significant troops. Others say that the point of the war was to confront Hezbollah before Iran reached their nuclear capability, defusing a possible conflict with Hezbollah that could result in Iran playing their nuclear card, and ultimately drawing the USA into the mix.
Others say that the reason Olmert was so late in sending in his troops was to save Israeli lives, and only show the power of Israel’s might at the end of the war as a reminder to Syria what could happen to them if they decide to enter into a conflict with Israel. Still others say that all of the above mentioned reasons are just smoke and mirrors to cover up for what some critics call an abysmal failure in managing the war. As always, it’s easier to criticize than to make those critical decisions.
Israel’s PM Olmert declared a victory. That can be taken with a grain of salt, although it is true that Hezbollah was hurt and hurt bad. It’s not clear exactly how many fighters were killed because Hezbollah keeps that secret, but the numbers run up to an estimated 800. Much of their infrastructure is in tatters. Once the Lebanese population gets the dust out of their clothes, they may well ask if having Hezbollah around is worth the destruction of their country. That is the result Israel is reportedly counting on. Mess with us, the military says, and we’ll destroy your country, even if we have to absorb missiles in the process. Could be just loudmouths talking.
In this battle both sides came out claiming victory. Perhaps that’s a good thing. No one won. It was a draw. Pundits believe even a draw emboldens the Arabs in the region to begin planning strikes on Israel who was considered invincible. But no war Israel has fought since the lightening fast ’67 Six-Day war ended in a conclusive victory. And that victory left Israel holding onto the West Bank and Gaza, controlling millions of Arabs, and falling deeper and deeper into an the pit.
Most agree that the home front was heroic in absorbing the nearly 4,000 rockets fired into Israel over a period of 32 days. The bomb shelters were ill prepared to house the residents of the north. The government’s plans to deal with civilians in this situation were sorely criticized. A committee will investigate this failure, come up with plans how to evacuate citizens to the south of the country if the rockets start again. Appoint block captains to check bomb shelters, report back to neighborhood commanders, who would report to the local city hall on the needs of the civilians in the shelters. The government discovered that a lack of basic necessities was available to these beleaguered people.
Also two Generals said that the reserve troops were out of shape, and under supplied. The generals blamed government budget cuts to the army over the last six years, during the halcyon days when Israel dreamed that all conflicts with her neighbors were over, except for the nuisance of the Palestinian problem. The generals also criticized the use of tanks since tens of tanks were hit by anti-tank rockets and dozens of soldiers were killed.
Moshe Shlonsky, an ex-TV reporter, former head of Army radio, criticized the reserve soldiers for not making certain their units were prepared for a war. Lots of guys found excuses why they didn't want to leave their high paying jobs in Tel Aviv to do their reserve duty. The whole country was lulled into a false sense of security
But anyone who works with big bureaucracies can understand what happens when the bureaucrats are responsible for life and death issues. Every army is like that. In Israel there was a considerable amount of slacking off in the army. Hordes of men bought into the hi-tech boom, ignored existential threats, thought the PA was the biggest enemy on the horizon. Some considered even fighting Hamas as dangerous. Compared to Hezbollah that was simple. Iran is a serious opponent.. Israel has to grow up, again. Face the fact that life isn't easy here. Irrational people hate Jews just because they're Jews. Hate Israelis just because they're on Holy Ground. This didn't go away. Former PM Sharon thought it did. Former PM Barak thought it did. Former Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff Mofaz thought it did. Former Finance Minister and Prime Minister Netanyahu says he didn't, but that's pre-election BS.
In any case, the reality has changed. Lebanon has changed. The Middle East may have changed. Certainly Israel is now on notice. Question is, who will run Israel now?
Will the inevitable committees find fault?
A few raised the issue of Seymour Hirsch’s article in the recent New Yorker Magazine, claiming that Israeli representatives flew into the USA to meet with White House and Defense Department officials who helped plan the war. Some of the Israeli analysts said that indeed the Israeli battle plan, of a strong fierce air attack, followed by a lithe but lethal ground attack, closely resembled the American plans for Afghanistan and Iraq. Israeli officials have denied any coordination claiming that on occasion Israel and the US might agree on plans but in general each did what was best for themselves.
But the Israeli pundits agreed that the present administration wasn’t entirely to blame for those problems. Olmert and his government have only been in power a few months. The real guilt falls on those who preceded them: former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, unconscious, on his death-bed, forgotten but not gone, was in charge of the government for years. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was Sharon’s Finance Minister and was harshly criticized for the across the board budget cuts he implemented in his attempts to balance Israel’s budget. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak is criticized for pulling out of Lebanon, allowing Hezbollah to flow up to the border fence with Israel, taunting Israelis with insults, stones, and spit, waving the yellow Hezbollah flag whenever they could. But the real threat was the build-up of ammunition literally under the noses of the Israelis. A build up ignored by the last three governments.
What will be? Either Israel gets back in shape, or gets knocked again. Each time more bullies will show up, sensing how easy it is. Is Israel's defense capability like the Wizard of Oz: really is just a huckster hiding behind a curtain? If so Israel is in trouble. But one analyst likened it to the movie hero Shane, played by Alan Ladd. The old Western movie formula, the good guy hangs up his guns, hoping he can lead a peaceful life, only to find that the bad guys lead by Jack Palance came to town. Now the good guy has to strap on his gun and fight or watch his friends get killed.
Israel did what Israel did in this war. It won't be the last the last war. It never is. Many facts in this war are buried stuff, things the public doesn’t know, and probably doesn’t want to know. Fact is Hezbollah was hurt badly. What's certain is today we are living in a different Middle East than two days ago.