Sunday, July 22, 2007

An Honorable General

According to the Sunday July 22,2007 Ha’aretz daily newspaper, UNIFIL has reported that it has dismantled most of what the IDF called Hezbollah’s “Nature Reserves,” or hideouts for weapons in S. Lebanon’s underground bunkers.

However, in a report issued by the IDF, the Military Intelligence branch believes that Hezbollah is transferring its rockets to built-up areas in Southern Lebanon’s Shiite villages.

Israel has warned the Lebanese government that it will first warn the villagers of an impending attack, and then attempt to destroy the missile locations from the air, even if the sites are within a residential environment.

In a related development Iran’s President Ahmadinejad was in Damascus Syria over the weekend in meetings with Syrian President Bashir Assad as well as Hezbollah leader Sheik Nasrallah and Hamas leader Khalid Mashal.

In the meeting Achmadinejad promised Syria $1 Billion in military aid in exchange for Syria not signing a peace accord with Israel. According to the Yideot Achranot daily newspaper Assad signed a strategic cooperation agreement which says that Syria will buy 400 new Iranian tanks, 18 MiG 23 jet fighters, long-range missiles, and that Iran will help Syria develop a nuclear arms capability.

Reportedly a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement would be along the lines of the Egyptian-Israeli accords. Israel would give up all of the Golan Heights in exchange for free unrestricted and unpolluted flow of water into the Sea of Galilee, and a Syrian promise not to support terrorism against Israel.

According to Yideot Achranot, Israelis would have trouble accepting these accords. In an editorial the paper said that the agreement would not advance Israel’s security, and that with normalization the minority non-religious Alawite clan which rules Syria would be driven from power in favor of the 80 percent Sunni population. The editorial writers thought the agreement would not contribute to Israel’s “international legitimacy” with her Arab neighbors, nor was it clear which of those neighbors would accept the deal. Lastly, it wasn’t clear to the editorial writers if the USA would finance the deal, as it had offered to do in 2000.

And while the Palestinians firmly believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heard of the problems of the world, or at least the Middle East, ex World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn thinks that the conflict is really like an off-off-off Broadway play.

In an in-depth interview in the Ha’aretz Weekend Magazine, Wolfensohn said that most of the 140 countries in the United Nations pay scant attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, focusing more on their own problems. Only in the US and parts of Europe is the issue a front of the paper topic.

Wolfensohn, son of an Australian Jewish banker, said his own peace initiative was rail-roaded by U.S. Sec of State Condoleeza Rice, and former U.S. Under-Secretary of State Elliot Abrams. According to Wolfensohn, Abrams, a “neo-conservative”, had different ideas about the middle east. Wolfensohn arranged for $9 Billion for the Palestinians in order to ease their economic burden. He said that Abrams managed to scotch that deal.

Wolfensohn had high regard for former PM Ariel Sharon, who he said was a man with a long-term vision. Sharon, according to Wolfensohn, initiated the disengagement of Israeli settlers and troops from Gaza because he realized it was not a viable situation.

Sharon was planning stage two of the withdrawal, creating an economic infrastructure in Gaza, because Sharon realized that only with a form of economic stability could Gaza come to any peace agreement with Israel. However, much to Wolfensohn’s dismay, Sharon had a stroke, was taken off the scene, and replaced by Olmert, whom Wolfensohn believes is incapable of carrying out Sharon’s vision.

What some analysts said was that Wolfensohn only had the equation partly correct. The issue wasn’t a realistic view of the minimal importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was that the conflict wasn’t Israeli-Palestinian at all, but rather Israeli-Arab with the Palestinians as the stand-ins for the rest of the Arab world. Should the Arab world decide to recognize Israel, make peace, and treat Israel like an equal, the Palestinian problem would evaporate in the desert heat like a puddle of water on the rare Gaza sidewalk.

In a surprise move , and in view of the Iranian threat right-wing Knesset member Avigdor Leiberman of the Israel Beitanu party has called on Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and opposition Likud Party chairman Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, to establish a national unity government. This according to the Israeli Makor Rishon-Hatzofeh newspaper which caters to religious readers.

Sunday’s headlines in the Israeli daily Yideot Achranot claimed that confidents of Israel’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Dorit Beinish’s said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is threatening the Supreme Court. According to the confidant, The Prime Minister wants to destroy the judicial system because ultimately the court will be asked to decide a criminal case against Olmert.

In a June 26, 2007 New Yorker article by investigative reporter Seymour M Hersh, Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba, who was assigned by the Pentagon to investigate allegations of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, was eventually told to resign after he submitted his report confirming abuse and torture. The report, which took two years to assemble, was, according to Gen. Taguba, disseminated among the upper echelons at the Pentagon. However when former Sec. Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was called to testify at a Senate committee investigating the charges, he and his subordinates all claimed not to know anything about the abuses. Taguba thought this an impossible scenario since Rumsfeld was known as a micro-manager.

Taguba granted Hersh an interview after leaving the Army. According to Taguba it was a case of “shoot the messenger.” Taguba claimed he was only doing what he was assigned to do, investigate the charges of abuse. He found evidence of extensive abuse, including photographs, Cds of photographs and even videotapes, that depicted everything from simple humiliation to torture and even sodomy.

He said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and high-ranking generals and admirals stood with Rumsfeld as he misrepresented what they knew about Abu Ghraib and that they had all failed the nation. “From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values… ...We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”

“Those responsible should be held accountable.”

It seems that it is not only in Israel these days that the leadership finds scapegoats to take the blame while continuing in power as if they’d never done anything wrong.

Given the facts that the Minister of Justice is rumored to support quashing investigations and indictments against PM Olmert in exchange for supporting reforms on the Supreme Court, the fact that the Israeli Military Establishment is still stubbornly resisting change even in view of the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas threat, that those who shared the blame for the revolting loss of life and prestige due to the last war still don’t take the blame for their failures, the case of General Taguba fits right into the Israeli paradigm.

Pundits ask, why should those who hold themselves above the law, above the courts, above the people, submit to admitting their failures? Sec of Defense Rumsfeld was forced to resign after the Abu Ghraib scandal. But the Israeli politicians have decided they are immune from reproach. If a court case can be fixed to allow the leaders to stay in power, let it be. If a Finance Minister can be replaced by a political crony who will obfuscate when necessary, let it be. If the Home Front command is incapable of meeting the challenges necessary to prepare for another hailstorm of rockets, let it be.

Let it be. Israelis in the street are worried that this attitude will backfire sooner than later, and perhaps take the country with it.