I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Amir Peretz has just led one of the sorriest military campaigns in Israel’s history. Hardly anyone in his own party even wants to know him because of his embrace of the IDF’s failed campaign plan for Lebanon. He came into the coalition government like a dove, transformed himself during the war into a ravening wolf, and seems to want us to believe he can turn himself back into a dove suing for peace with Syria. It’s enough to make your head spin:
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that “every war creates opportunities for an extensive diplomatic process,” and that “we need to hold negotiations with Lebanon and lay the groundwork for negotiations with Syria.”
Peretz said: “I’m certain that our enemies understand they cannot defeat us. I plan to do whatever I can to restore the diplomatic support for Israel. We need to resume negotiations with the Palestinians.” Peretz added that the State of Israel never intended to get dragged into the “Lebanese mud,” and that it does not plan to do so now.
To which all I can say is: “Man, if you wanted all this why didn’t you do it before you started this blasted war which has likely ruined your own career and set back the chance for peace by years?” Besides, if he had started such an initiative after he became defense minister, he would’ve had the wind at his back and been bargaining from a position of strength. As it is, Syria will rightly see Israel in general and Peretz-Olmert in particular as damaged goods. The price for an agreement if Peretz is serious about this idea (which is debatable) will be much higher than it would’ve been had the IDF not performed so miserably in this war.
If one was cynical, one could look at Peretz’s statement as a desperate attempt to pull himself from the muck of military debacle to return to his roots as a peace activist. He knows that is what brought him into politics and part of what made his message resonate. He realizes that Lebanon has been a bad dream for his political career. He wishes he could turn back the clock. That he might not have accepted that Defense portfolio proffered by Olmert. But alas, what’s done cannot be undone.
I’m afraid this is all too little too late.
Consider the bellicose, triumphalist speech Bashir Assad made today about Hezbollah’s glorious victory. How likely is such a megalomaniac to embrace an opportunity for peace after his ally has essentially just whipped Israel’s ass (at least in his view)?
And as far as that megalomania goes, it’s almost like Olmert and Peretz drank the Cool Aid pured for them by Halutz and the IDF; and somehow it seeped into the Lebanese and Syrian water supply and infected Nasrallah and Assad. These two now believe, as Olmert and Peretz did before this war began, that they can impose their will on the Middle East, and in particular their enemies. How many dead will it take before all of them come to understand that no one can win through triumphalism or grandstanding?