Only a prime minister with a 2% approval rating could call a war almost universally acknowledged in Israel as a disaster–a great success. Yesterday, which marked the first anniversary of the Lebanon war, found Olmert in the north trying desperately once more to rewrite history, memory and reality:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared Thursday during a tour of Israel’s northern border that the war he launched against Hezbollah guerrillas a year ago was a success that made Israel safer…
Flouting the widely accepted view that the 34-day conflict with Hezbollah was a failure, Olmert said Israel is better off today than it was at the outset of fighting on July 12, 2006…
“We had in this war great achievements,” Olmert said near a road that was hit by one of the nearly 4,000 rockets that Hezbollah fired into Israel last summer. “We also had not a few weaknesses and failures that we are trying to deal with … to fix, to deploy, to renovate and to strengthen.”
While I agree with Olmert that the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon has been a success and that the border is safer than it has been in the past, the question is did Israel need to lose 119 of its soldiers and 43 civilians to create such a climate? Could the UN peacekeeping force have been created with a little less carnage and a little more political leadership and foresightedness?? The answer of course is yes. There is no rule saying a nation must conduct a disastrous war before it can find a modus vivendi with its enemies.
That begs the question–is the northern border really safe? Now, it is. But will it always be so? How easy might it be for another kidnapping or similar provocative incident to thrust both Israel and Hezbollah right back where they were on July 12, 2006? We can say with certainty that the main reason there is quiet in the north is because it is in Hezbollah and Syria’s interest for there to be. The moment this is no longer the case is the moment all hell could break loose once again.
As for Olmert’s statement that Israel is better off today than when the war started–he’s got to be kidding. Hezbollah proved that a relatively small insurgent force could hold the vaunted IDF to a military stalemate. The IDF never freed its kidnapped soldiers and it never crushed Hezbollah–all of which were key national priorities of the war. Hezbollah has rebuilt its armaments and forces to prewar strength. Further, the IDF has never been able to stop Qassam attacks from Gaza. For all this Israel is better off??
If it wasn’t such a dark thought, I’d have to laugh at the “great achievements” Olmert touts. What were they? Perhaps the 1,000 Lebanese civilian dead or the Lebanese national infrastructure in ruins? Or the nation in political turmoil? Perhaps the great achievement was his current 2% approval rating? Or the Winograd Report which called him to task for “severe failures” of leadership during the war?
The only hopeful sign is that amongst all this delusional speechifying Olmert continued to make peaceful overtures to Assad of Syria. Why he doesn’t turn those overtures into concrete action and real negotiations I do not know. If he did so, then I would say all of Olmert’s devastating failures will have been offset by at least one positive achievement. But that’s a big “if” and I’ll have to wait to see if he realizes it.