Monday, July 21, 2008

A Country Of One

Morris ‘Moshe’ Talansky, is still undergoing cross examination in the deposition of witnesses in possible bribery charges against `PM Ehud Olmert.

The 71-year old American businessman, reportedly a committed Zionist fundraiser, displayed a flawed memory Sunday. Under cross-examination he said he couldn’t recall exact sums of money he gave to then Trade and Commerce Minister Olmert, nor exact dates. The substance of his testimony, however, was the same. Talansky maintains he turned over large sums of cash money to Olmert over a period of more than a decade.

Police have also questioned Joe Elmaleh, another former Israel,i now American businessman, over a loan he gave to Olmert almost fifteen years ago that has not yet been repaid.

Olmert says he has until Jan 1 2009 to repay the loan. Police suspect the $75,000 was for some type of bribe to Olmert in exchange for favorable terms on government contracts and land deals. Elmaleh was once head of the Yoel oil exploration company, and Olmert was a board member. The company never found oil in Israel and Elmaleh eventually moved to the US.

And a replacement for Olmert may not be so fast in coming. His Kadima party may not hold primary elections after all. According to press reports PM Olmert has been maneuvering behind the scenes to scotch the idea, and is now only eight votes away from winning a vote postponing the primaries indefinitely. Should PM Olmert succeed in postponing the primaries, he will be able to finish out his term in office without turning over the Prime Minister’s job to another Kadima member.

Added to this drama is the fact that the USA and Iran are showing cracks in their toe-to-toe confrontation over Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The USA has agreed to continue diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to halt research into nuclear arms production. Reportedly the USA has agreed to open an office in Tehran, probably situated within the office of the Swiss embassy. This will be the first time the USA has had a diplomatic presence in Iran since 1979 when the Iranians broke into the US Embassy and held Americans hostage.

Israel, however, is still considering a military strike against Iranian plants developing nuclear weapons. Other disturbing reports in the Israeli media indicate that Israel’s military planners might have more ambition than skill.

Haggai Alon, Political Adviser to then Defense Minister Amir Peretz during the War in Lebanon II, gave a lengthy interview to Akiva Eldar, the Haaretz newspaper’s leading political correspondent, detailing misinformation that various military factions provided the Defense Minister leading up to and during the War in Lebanon II. According to Alon much of the information Peretz received had a hidden agenda with one department of the military, or military industry, at odd with another, using Peretz as the scapegoat.

Political analysts say Alon’s sudden revelation of these facts may coincide with Amir Peretz’s attempts to rehabilitate his political career. Following his resignation after the failures of the War in Lebanon II, Peretz has, until recently, withdrawn from public life.

According to Haggai Alon, Israel’s military industries had the most influence in the decisions to attack Lebanon. Alon said Israel only used the kidnapping of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser as an excuse to bomb Hezbollah headquarters in Beirut, never expecting Hezbollah to counter-attack.

Alon said Israel’s defense establishment believed Hezbollah was unprepared for war, and knew Israel was as well. A limited aerial campaign was chosen to weaken Hezbollah’s infrastructure in Beirut. It was clear after the first few hours that neither Goldwasser nor Regev could be rescued. Other reports

Another report in the weekend newspapers spoke about poor planning, and poor execution by the Army. The report stated that bits and pieces of intelligence that were gathered by some well-placed sources was not turned over to the proper army units until after the kidnapping. Col. Gal Hirsch, who resigned from the army after the war, put his troops on high alert along the border based only on his own suspicion that Hezbollah was planning something. He had to cancel the alert status after three weeks because he had no real proof of a planned attack.

According to the report Hezbollah was indeed planning an attack, and was in position, only waiting until the high alert status was lowered before springing their trap. Had the intelligence information reached Hirsh during the high alert the kidnappings might have been prevented.

Other analysts say that if the trap hadn’t been sprung that day, it would have been another, since Hezollah had a plan to kidnap Israelis soldiers. In the Regev-Goldwasser case, Hezbollah had over twenty men in place with a carefully scripted scenario that they followed with iron discipline. First they sucked in a patrol, attacked that patrol, then attacked a patrol that came in to rescue the first, snatching the two soldiers during the second attack.

Even though Israel was ill prepared to go to war over the two men, PM Olmert believed it was necessary to show Hezbollah the rules of the game had changed, and okayed the Army’s plan for the bombardment of Beirut. This attacked unleashed another trap laid by Hezbollah, a storm of rockets that fell unabated for nearly a month. Finally, according to this report, Israel realized they had to go to war, but it took three weeks for Israel to actually make that decision.

Haggai Alon, the former aide, told Haaretz that the Defense Minister was presented with plans by the army that military experts on the Ministry of Defense staff said stood no chance of success, like inserting a small group of commandos in Lebanon with only rifles and handguns. This would put the soldiers at high-risk of death or capture, and was ruled out as unreasonable.

According to Alon, the army then lost no time leaking to the press that Defense Minister Peretz was turning down viable options to free Goldwasser and Regev. Alon said various factions within the military even kept information secret from each other, information that could have allowed a different more positive result to the conflict.

It was a damning interview which some observers said indicated that there was a separate war going on fought and managed not by the government but by various factions within the military, often at odds with each other. Trying to prove, as one pundit said, who was stronger and sneaker than the other.

The army, said Alon, consistently misrepresented their strength and capabilities while providing little or nothing in the way of intelligence that would help in the management of the war.

Given this assessment, some analysts worried that the same military-industrial complex would be responsible for managing the attack on Iranian nuclear weapons. As one pundit put it, “If I were the Iranians, knowing what I know about Israel’s capabilities and execution of plans during the War in Lebanon II, I don’t think I’d be too worried about the fate of my nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, the head of Israel’s military intelligence issued a warning that Hezbollah was planning a major terrorist action, either a kidnapping or something else, in retribution for the assassination of Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyah in Damascus a few months ago.

Given the severe crises facing he country, one wonders who would be best at the helm, the current Prime Minister, or one of his competitors? So far, none of them seem to be interested in the good of anything other than their own ambitions.