Monday, November 13, 2006

Borat the Scapegoat

The dismissal of Brig.-Gen Gal Hirsch, who headed the Galilee Brigade, was recommended on Sunday by a panel empowered to investigate the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah terrorists, an event which kicked off the War in Lebanon II.

According to the report, the kidnapping of the two soldiers could have been prevented. Gen. Hirsch resigned before the report was made public. Associates of Hirsch claim that he was a scapegoat for failings of his superiors.

The report was made public on Sunday. The report said that Hirsch, in charge of the units patrolling the Lebanese border, was lax in his duties. According to Maj.-Gen (res.) Doron Almog, who read the results of the investigation, Hirsch had not provided the proper training, equipment, or guidelines to the troops on the Lebanese border, this in spite of the fact that the Army’s intelligence corps was forewarned that Hezbollah was planning a kidnapping attempt.

The report was also harshly critical of the IDF Intelligence branch, the Northern Command, and even the General Staff. According to the Jerusalem Post, “During the war, Almog was critical of what he saw as costly indecision that delayed an expanded ground operation in southern Lebanon.”

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz reportedly angrily argued with Almog, and demanded the panel reinvestigate several points in their conclusions. Halutz also implored Hirsch to retract his resignation, which Hirsch declined to do. Hirsch’s immediate supervisor Gen. Udi Adam resigned shortly after the end of the war.

The Yideot Achranot newspaper’s morning headlines called on Chief of Staff Halutz to also resign. Another retired General Alon Ben-Gal called on the entire General Staff to resign. Others have said that the present command should not be allowed to lead the Army should another war break out.

Israel’s military analysts have predicted that another war with Hezbollah will break out next year, perhaps as early as the spring of 2007.

Defenders of Gen. Hirsch claim that he is a serious and hard-working soldier who was blamed for shortcomings that were outside his responsibility or authority.

The rhetoric over Israel’s animosity towards Iran heated up over the weekend as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert criticized Iran for threatening to “wipe Israel off the Map.”

Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense, Ephraim Sneh, said earlier that Israel may have to take pre-emptive action against Iran. Sneh later backtracked on his tough talk.

Today Olmert said he was not interested in a war with Iran. However, in an interview on Israel Radio Olmert said that when a country like Iran pledges to annihilate Israel, that threat has to be taken seriously.

Olmert is visiting Israel as part of the Los Angeles meeting of the General Assembly of the UJC (United Jewish Communities), known as the GA. Olmert met with President George Bush during his visit to the USA.

Both men were circumspect in their public statements. Neither man is currently popular at home.

Olmert said today that he wouldn’t be opposed to President Bush negotiating directly with Iran. “Any compromise reached solving the Iranian threat is acceptable to us,” Olmert said shortly before his meeting with US President Bush.

A press report today said that the investigation into illegal activities by Prime Minister Olmert in the sale of Bank Leumi has been dropped, and that the allegations were groundless.

Concern over the future of the region is still high. According to military analysts Hezbollah has said they have as many as 20,000 Katyusha rockets ready to deploy against Israel. Al Qaida sources are reportedly planning to seize power in Lebanon from the moderate Siniora government.

The British comedian Baron Shasha Cohen’s latest work “Borat” is an international box office smash, even though the Anti-Defamation League has objected to some of the anti-Jewish humor. Previously Cohen made headlines playing the rapper Ali G on British television.

Jerusalem-Magazine has learned that Shasha Cohen grew up in a committed Jewish family. His mother is an Israeli and his father was in the Jewish Haboniem movement. According to one Israeli film critic much of the gibberish uttered by the Borat character during the film is in fact Hebrew.

One wonders what Baron Shasha Cohen would do playing one of Israel’s current leaders, like Olmert or Halutz, or Defense Minister Peretz. Maybe he’d come up with the character “Balagan” (screw-up). Or maybe it’d be “Scapegoat.” The only problem is, with the situation the way it is in the middle east today, none of what’s going on is funny, no matter who the comedian is.