God, if this interview with Sheikh Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, doesn’t make you pissed then nothing will. I bet many of my fellow bloggers in Lebanon are enraged:
Hezbollah would not have abducted two Israel Defense Forces soldiers on July 12 had it known that the action would lead to war in Lebanon, the movement’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview on Lebanon’s NTV Sunday.
“We did not think that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not,” he said.
Nasrallah also said he did not believe there would be a second round of fighting with Israel, and stated that Hezbollah would adhere to the cease-fire…
Well, gee. Thanks for your candor and admitting that you goofed big time but…1,000 Lebanese dead, $1-billion damage, 1 million displaced and only now you say you miscalculated. Goddamn. The guy should be flogged within an inch of his life for the utter stupidity of his remarks and strategy. From Beirut to the Beltway has a much fuller and clearer portrayal of Nasrallah’s remarks.
Not that I’m letting the other side off the hook either. Far as I’m concerned, Olmert and his crowd are a perfect match in horrific miscalculation for Nasrallah. The latter didn’t expect Israel’s PM to turn into a virtual madman; and Olmert didn’t expect Hezbollah to fight. Oh how they both erred and both deserve each other! So far none of the leaders have paid for their cruel mistakes–only their people have paid with their lives, the homes, and their livelihoods. To quote a famous 19th century Hasidic rebbe: Leyt din v’leyt dayan (“There is no justice, there is no judge”).
Can Amir Peretz’s political career be over? If recent polls are any indication it might be:
As public criticism against the country’s leadership mounts in the wake of the war in Lebanon, senior sources at the Labor Party predicted Sunday that Defense Minister Amir Peretz might be forced to fight to keep his position as party chairman sooner than in the primaries scheduled for May 2007.
Peretz plummeted in polls held on the weekend, and Labor was shown to have lost half of its support.
According to the sources, “when Amir Peretz scores a single percent on the question whether he is suitable to be prime minister, his public career is over.”
“It is clear to all that a party that wants to survive cannot have as its leader a person who cannot be elected, and it seems that there is no choice but to replace Peretz,” the sources said.
“A single percent?” Wow, that’s amazing. And to think that only six months ago many observers like myself were so hopeful with his victory over Shimon Peres and ascendancy to leadership of the Labor Party. I recall writing here when Peretz accepted the defense portfolio that it was a big gamble which didn’t seem a sure enough bet to be worthy taking. Certainly, if Peretz had been a successful defense minister then his career would’ve been made and he would appear as a truly wise politician. But it seemed more likely that defense might be a trap. He could just as easily fail at a job he’d never had any real preparation for and then be made the scapegoat by his political opponents for his failure. This is precisely what has happened. To quote that old folk song: “I don’t know why he swallowed that fly? I think he’ll die” (politically, that is):
Many at the Labor link the party’s debilitated public standing with Peretz’ agreeing to assume the position of defense minister in the hope this would help build his image as a leader on a national scale.
…Minister Ophir Pines-Paz on Sunday blamed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for having appointed Peretz as defense minister.
Speaking on Army Radio Pines-Paz said he believes Olmert was wrong in declining Labor’s request to appoint Peretz as finance minister: “This is where the original sin began.”
Yes, indeed the original sin was Olmert’s. But Peretz had the power to say no and ultimately didn’t. It was his career to make or break. And he appears to have broken it.
I have been following the Lebanon war protests as they’ve evolved in Israel over the past week or so. And I must say I’m befuddled. In the U.S., we have an anti-war movement that reflects upon the failure of the Iraq war. But this movement doesn’t say the U.S.’ main mistake has been in not taking it to our enemy forcefully enough. That’s one of the main criticisms offered by the Israeli protesters. I just don’t get it.
You’ve just fought one of the most disastrous wars in the nation’s history. Hundreds killed and wounded. Cities and villages ravaged. The war’s goals unrealized. I’d have thought that the Israeli protesters would have focused on this and drawn the proper conclusion: that the goals and strategy of the war were flawed. But in a country dominated by a military culture and security obsession it is sometimes hard to see things like this clearly.
Gideon Levy has written an incisive critique of the protest movement for Haaretz:
The confused youth who sat crying with their guitars and candles in the city square in Tel Aviv after Rabin’s assassination are now sitting in the Rose Garden opposite the Prime Minister’s Office, no less confused, and seemingly protesting against the war – of course only after it ended.
Just as it was impossible to know what the candle kids wanted, it is difficult to understand what the reservists and the bereaved families want. Most of their complaints should be directed at themselves: Where were you until now? If it is only the demand that some officials go home, it’s a waste of their time and ours. Clones of those who are deposed will replace them very quickly and nothing will change. Olmert, Peretz and Halutz will go home, and Netanyahu, Mofaz and Barak will come to power.
For the first time after many terrible years in which we killed and were killed for no reason, there are question marks hanging over the public discourse. That change should be welcomed. But those who examine the content of the new protest should not hold out great hopes. The arguments of the protesters come down to two main issues, both of them as narrow as the world of the reservist: the IDF wasn’t prepared for the war, and the war was cut short.
On the first matter, many are responsible, and the second issue doesn’t warrant protest. Much weightier and deeper questions hover in the air about why we even went to this war, how it could have been avoided, why is war our only language, what are the limits of power that can be used and where are we going now. The new protest movement is not raising those questions.
…Above all, the petition signers and sit-in protesters in the Rose Garden should ask themselves where they were until now. Except for the “oranges” among them, most voted Kadima, maybe Likud or Labor, many of them served in reserves in the occupied territories, dealt with their personal affairs and kept quiet. For years they took direct or indirect part in worthless national projects, from building the wall to the settlement enterprise and deepening the occupation. With their own eyes they saw how the IDF was turned into an occupying police force, bullying the weak but untrained to deal with the strong.
They protected settlers, saw the suffering caused by the occupation, were witness to or participated in abuse of Palestinians. The responsibility for the IDF’s lack of preparation, therefore, is theirs, partly because of what they did and partly because of their silence. They cannot claim now that they were surprised by the IDF’s failure to execute: they were there when the army changed its face. They knew all these years that checking IDs at roadblocks, invading bedrooms, chasing children in alleys and demolishing thousands of houses is no preparation for war.
Levy raises an important objection to the protesters’ charge that the war was cut short. His sentiment is one I’ve voiced here in praise of Olmert’s decision to curtail the war:
The other matter, the halt in the fighting, certainly does not warrant protest, but actually a compliment. Instead of asking why the war broke out, the protesters are asking why it ended. If there is anything that the war’s command deserves credit for it is its hesitation in the final stages of the war. It is a shame they did not hesitate sooner. And if we had continued the war, where exactly would we have ended up? It was the resolve, hubris and haste of the war’s leadership in the first stages that were the original sin against which the protest should be directed.
Levy concludes with his most telling criticism of the new protest movement: it’s lack of moral focus.
Above all, it is depressing to find out that none of the protesters are raising moral questions. A protest movement that says nothing about the terrible destruction we wreaked in Lebanon, how we killed hundreds of innocent civilians and turned tens of thousands into impoverished refugees is by definition not a moral movement. Even after it has been proved that the excessive force was not effective, no protest has been directed at it. How long will we only focus on ourselves and our distress?
Is it too much to ask for the protesters, who are supposedly the cadres of the avant garde, to look for a moment at what we did to another nation? Why is it that after Sabra and Chatilla massacres, which were not even directly our handiwork, masses of people took to the streets and now nobody peeps about the destruction we sowed in Lebanon with our own hands, and for nothing?
This movement has no clear vision, no clear agenda, no clear purpose other than removing Olmert, Peretz and Halutz from office which, as Levy says is a terribly limited set of objectives. I don’t see how it can gain traction and resonate with the broader public in the long term. And if it does, then I fear the damage that will be done in terms of the quality of politicians who will be ascendant in the wake of Olmert’s demise: Netanyahu, Lieberman and the crazy-quilt of the Israeli far right. What a way to run a country! Put the militarists in charge after the utter failure of a militarist solution to the Lebanon conflict. Makes perfect sense to me.