When we were teenagers one of the most severe insults you could hurl at someone went something like this: “You’re so dumb you don’t deserve to live.” Sometimes when I read about some absolutely lame-assed, dumb IDF military actions I harken back to those teenage days. On days like this, Ehud Olmert and his government don’t deserve to live (politically of course).
Somehow Ehud, that ‘sharp as a tack’ political operative, managed to approve an IDF anti-terror operation which killed four Ramallah civilians while not netting the alleged militant it was designed to capture. What’s worse, the IDF commandos became trapped in Ramallah and had to be extracted after a two hour firefight by relief units. But this wasn’t the half of it. The botched operation happened right before Olmert was supposed to have a “peace negotiation” with Hosni Mubarak. And I have to tell you how well it went over with Hosni.
Here’s how Haaretz described the raid:
Four Palestinian civilians were killed and 20 wounded on Thursday when IDF undercover troops entered the West Bank town of Ramallah on an arrest raid, setting off protests and gunbattles in the center of town…
The soldiers, who were dressed in civilian garb in an effort to blend in with the locals, entered an office building near Manara Square with the specific objective of locating and detaining Rabia Hamad, a militant belonging to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.
Hamad, who the soldiers said was armed with a pistol, identified the men as IDF soldiers and tried to escape.
The IDF exchanged fire with Hamad, injuring him, yet he managed to elude IDF forces…
The exchange of fire brought dozens of young men out of the buildings, and they began throwing stones and firebombs at the soldiers; a larger IDF force and Border Police moved in to support the commandos.
In the incident that lasted nearly two hours, heavy exchanges of gunfire
between the Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen ensued. The commandos and the rest of the IDF force was finally extracted with the help of a bulldozer and armor plated jeeps, as well as helicopter gunships that fired against open areas to cover the retreating force…
The incursion, with IDF armoured vehicles and bulldozers slamming aside parked cars near Ramallah’s main Manara Square, was the biggest such operation in the city since May, when four Palestinians were killed in a raid.
Here is all Ehud could muster in explanation of the IDF’s incompetence:
Olmert attempted to explain the Ramallah operation, reiterating Israel’s honoring of the cease-fire and its restraint in responding to the Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at the Negev.
“Things developed in a way that could not have been predicted in advance. If innocent people were hurt, this was not our intention,” he said in reference to the West Bank raid.
To which the Times adds:
Mr. Olmert said Israeli troops returned fire, but did not initiate it.
Excuse me. You mount such an operation in the heart of downtown Ramallah and you “could not predict in advance” that civilians would be in the line of fire?? And you go in to capture someone you claim is one of your top wanted Palestinian fugitives and you tell us you only “returned fire?” What did you expect, that Hamad would have run into your boys’ arms and kissed them on both cheeks without a shot being fired?? Of course, you were prepared to initiate fire. You wanted him, didn’t you? How else were you going to capture him?
You can’t piss on our backs, Ehud, and make us believe it’s rain (to quote Hester Street).
You wonder what Mubarak must’ve been thinking. Here, Olmert’s meeting with the Egyptian leader to try to unravel one of the thorniest issues in Israeli-Palestinian relations, winning the release of Gilad Shalit. And what does Olmert do? He appears to place the capture of Hamad far ahead of Mubarak. You’ve got to wonder whether Olmert has his priorities straight. Do you want Shalit back or do you want Hamad? Or are you so foolish that you think you can catch Hamad and get Mubarak to turn a blind eye to what you had to do to get him? Somehow Olmert thinks he can have his cake and eat it by grabbing the Palestinian militant AND winning Shalit’s release. Fat chance.
Instead, now Olmert has to pay the piper. He’s got a bunch of dead and wounded Palestinian civilians, Abbas demanding $5 reparations for the devastation caused to downtown Ramallah and Mubarak saying he’d like to sweep the floor with him:
The meeting apparently did not advance the two main topics on the agenda, the prisoner exchange deal involving kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, and furthering negotiations with the Palestinians.
Nice going, Ehud. Peace should break out any minute now.
Israelis are also none too pleased with their PM:
The latest opinion polls, taken for the anniversary of the Sharon stroke, show that nearly 70 percent of Israelis disapprove of Mr. Olmert’s performance as prime minister.
That would put him somewhere in range of Bush’s approval ratings which hover in the 30%+ range as well. Birds of a feather.
After writing this, I read a probing discussion of this subject by Yossi Sarid (hat tip to Sol Salbe). Sarid proffers an entirely different analysis saying that Olmert is essentially not running defense policy. Hence, he may not have even known about the incident before it happened. [UPDATE: Jerusalem Post reports that IDF West Bank commander did not inform Amir Peretz, the defense minister, about the raid. So it’s entirely credible that Olmert didn’t know either. How is this possible in an alleged democracy in which the military is supposedly subject to civilian control??] The former Meretz leader bemoans the fact that there is essentially no political leadership. The entire country is under military rule. And the army, though defeated in Lebanon and ineffectual in stopping Qassams, has other ideas than those of the political echelon. Olmert may want peace, but that’s not what the IDF wants. And the latter is in no way above sabotaging the former. This is what happened to Olmert in Sharm. He was run over by a Mack truck bearing IDF markings.
Thanks to Ann at Reclaiming Space for linking to this informative first-hand account of the fighting from Sami Bahour, who had the misfortune to be taking his family out to eat in downtown Ramallah just as the raid was unfolding.