There are fissures growing both within the IDF and within the Israeli cabinet over the leadership of the war in Lebanon. First, the commander of northern forces, Gen. Udi Adam, was replaced by the deputy chief of staff of the IDF in a decided vote of no confidence in the former’s military leadership. Now, Ehud Olmert, in a fit of pique, has ‘fired’ Tsipi Livni from an upcoming trip to the UN to discuss the latest ceasefire resolution approved by the Security Council. This will of course look quite odd when all the other foreign ministers join the debate on behalf of their nations.
Why the brouhaha? Apparently, Livni has been AWOL when it comes to talking up the war:
The cabinet began Thursday its marketing plan to the Security Council to secure the end of the war and play up Israel’s successes. Then the obligatory crisis erupted: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert barred Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni from attending the United Nations Security Council sessions.
Livni has been planning the trip for several days. She planned to address the council,speak to colleagues and meet the Jewish community. But Olmert said “No.” His reasons were that Livni asked for his approval too late, that there was no point going after the resolution was drafted, and that Foreign Ministry professionals objected. But that was just the cover. Olmert brought his lingering animosity to Livni out into the open.
A short time after the fighting erupted, Olmert pushed Livni out of his close circle.
When he read she was displaying “independence,” he sent Shimon Peres for diplomatic talks overseas. Thursday, one of his aides said: “Livni has been telling journalists for three days that she’s going to the UN, but remembered to get Olmert’s approval an hour and a half before taking off.”
Livni objected to continuing with the military operation, which, she believes, had consummated itself in the first two days. She voted against bombarding Hezbollah headquarters in the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut for fear of escalation. Since then, she has supported the decisions, but kept a low profile. She did not run from one television studio to another to justify the war and muster support for ground operations. She sought a diplomatic solution.
She suggested starting a political process at the same time as the military one, and sending an international force to South Lebanon. Olmert was not keen at first, but ultimately clutched at her suggestions like a life belt to get out of the military entanglement.
At the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Livni made it clear to the IDF chiefs, who proposed an operation that would take a month or two, that if a political way out was found in a day or two, they would have to stop in their tracks.
“Have you completed the operation we approved the last time already?” she asked them.
“Not yet,” they answered.
What is fascinating about the passage that follows is that, if true, it appears that Olmert himself no longer has faith in the IDF and that he was desperate to find a way to save himself from the all-out offensive the IDF had been promising:
On Monday night, after visiting the Northern Command, Olmert was convinced that the war must be stopped. He did not like the operational plans he was shown, and was not thrilled with the army’s performance.
For three weeks, he has been hearing daily that tomorrow the IDF will gain control of Bint Jbail and the town is still swarming with lethal Hezbollah fighters. He did not trust the army to stop the rocket fire even in a prolonged operation.
Since then, Olmert has mobilized a coalition to release him from the grand military operation, which, according to IDF estimates, would involve hundreds of fatalities.
When one considers the recently approved UN resolution, one has to ask who won and who lost. In truth, neither side won or lost. But as many commentators have said, when neither side wins it is really Hezbollah that wins and Israel that loses. The resolution makes no provision for returning Israel’s kidnapped soldiers. It calls for the disarming of Hezbollah but provides no mechanism to do so. Instead of the carte blanche Israel expected to retain its forces in southern Lebanon, the resolution specifies a phased withdrawal of its forces.
The only points that Israel ‘won’ (if you call this winning) is that there is no mention of an Israeli return of Shebaa Farms and Israel is specifically allowed to continue “defensive” operations (how you distinguish “defensive” from “offensive” operations is the $64,000 question) while Hezbollah is called upon to completely cease its attacks on Israel.
But basically the ceasefire resolution marks an admission by Israel that war has not gained its objectives. In fact, the price the war demanded in IDF and civilian deaths was too high for Israel to pay. It is a good thing that Olmert has seen the light. A loss in Lebanon will not destroy Israel. It will tarnish its reputation for military prowess. But perhaps it will make Olmert (or whoever the next prime minister is who follows him since Israeli journalists are already calling for his resignation) realize that a negotiated political solution is the only one that will work. It’s unlikely that the pols will get this message–but one can always hope.