Former Israeli cabinet minister Ophir Pines-Paz testified to the Winograd Commission investigating Israel’s failure in the Lebanon war, about the leadership’s attitudes and expectations going into the war. If one didn’t know what actually happened during this war, one would react in reading Pines-Paz’s testimony with utter disbelief. Is it possible that an entire cabinet can approve a war without believing they are doing so? Is it possible a cabinet can initiate hostilities without taking any responsibility for doing so or for ending them? Is it possible a nation can initiate a war and expect the rest of the world will force it to end–and then to decide it must force the world to force it to end the war by using tactics so outrageous that the world would react in horror? All this and more is possible according to Pines-Paz:
Former Minister of Science, Culture and Sports MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) told the Winograd Committee the cabinet did not discuss a diplomatic end-point for the Second Lebanon War, as it expected international pressure to force Israel to finish it within a few days, the Committee reported Monday.
“The leading diplomatic sources… gave us a working premise that we didn’t have much time to work with, and that we needed to act until we would be stopped – but then no one stopped us. This is what happened. Not only did no one stop us, they encouraged us, and we let this go to our heads,” the former minister said.
Pines emphasized that Israel was dragged into a war without actually deciding to enter one.
“I learnt of the Israel Defense Forces plans for the war from the media,” he also testified.
At a certain point the cabinet came to the view that they would have to “force the world to force us [to stop the fighting],” so Israel needed to hit hard in order to bring international pressure upon itself, Pines said…
The ministers were asked to approve a “meaningful, but limited [operation]. But absolutely not a war, and in no way a comprehensive, large-scale campaign,” Pines said.
One thing this proves is that certainly all the Labor ministers and perhaps the Kadima ministers as well were “had” by Olmert and Halutz. The cabinet played no oversight role whatsoever in any significant military decision. I find it incredible that a minister would leave a meeting not understanding he’d just approved a war.
Given this treatment, how Labor can continue to play footsy with Kadima by participating in the governing coalition is beyond belief. Certainly Labor is too weak to win an election and Barak’s refusal to bolt is based on a survival instinct. But at what cost in moral probity? Well, talking about morality is useless since Labor has long lost sight of such matters.
Can you imagine a government so paralyzed that once it starts a war it cannot stop it on its own initiative? If Pines-Paz is to be believed, Israel determined that the only way it could stop the war was by getting its allies to force it to end. Is it possible that an entire nation can be like a deer caught in the headlights, immobile and incapable of taking action on its own behalf? Of course, in Iraq we see an example of a president and Administration betraying such inertness. But at least there is a Congress willing to step in and replace Bush’s faulty judgment with its own, thus eventually bringing that war to a close. But Israel, to its detriment, has no such checks and balances. And in Lebanon it, and the Lebanese themselves, paid a terrible price for this.
What is, of course, deeply ironic about this is that Pines-Paz is one of the good guys. He resigned his portfolio rather than continue sitting in such a bankrupt government. He’s willing to tell Israelis, even if it makes him look bad, that Emperor Olmert has no clothes. But will any good come of it? Will anyone learn any lesson from it? Sorry to say, but that is doubtful.
John Yorke says
‘Israel Expected World Community to Force War’s End’
Not a bad idea from Israel’s point of view. If only it had worked out that way. It seems not everyone was handed the correct song-sheet. Maybe it was still at the printers when the war got going.
Wouldn’t it be nice if next time – and, of course, there will be a next time – some care is taken by all concerned to learn the words and music to this type of rather intricate ballet.
Again, not a bad idea but really only viable if all the players have had time to practise their lines and thus are able to deliver them with some confidence, some authority. That would seem to indicate a screenplay and a score written well in advance of such an eventuality.
Wars are big productions these days. If you want to make them dance to your tune, it does help if that tune has the size and quality to match the more strident blasts of war. You’ve got to think big. Bigger and better.
Are there any tunes like that, waiting in the wings? Maybe. The World has been in need of a new song to sing for quite some time. In fact, it probably needs a whole new songbook.
One song, no royalties, no copyright at http://yorketowers.blogspot.com
samuel burke says
if the nuremberg trials were held against these folks…and the crimes they were commiting were against jews, who would you exonorate?
more than 90% of those killed in the lebanon war were civilians. surely nuremberg trials must be in order.
John Yorke says
The Nuremberg trials were set up and overseen by the victors of WW2 and, as such, were perhaps only possible in that singular context. Quite who will be victorious in this particular conflict remains very much in doubt. I really believe there will no victors at its conclusion, only victims.
That is unless the Nuremberg trials could be brought up-to-date and have their modern-day counterparts pronounce some final judgement on equivalent crimes of this era.
Curiously enough, I came across the basis for just such an undertaking many years ago.
In Nuremberg of all places.
Although Samuel Burke, does not seem, I like your kind of humor, John, Also I like that you always carefully avoid the traps of bias, turning things positively.
Isn’t there a bit of a double standard involved, when such a plan meets deep disgust, but not the fact that the world community did not stop Israel? Of course everybody watches Washington nowadays, before they dare to open their mouth. Maybe that’s the flaw in the plan and to give Washington the ballet instructions would have been enough.
But then, what if they did?
John Yorke says
How are things in Cologne? Don’t worry about Samuel; I’m sure his sense of humour is out there somewhere – Irish ancestry and all that.
Lately I’ve been locked into locating a poem/ballad for James on the TOY blog – acronym courtesy of JW. What do you think? An improvement on the ‘Towers of Yorke?’ Anyway, I thought everything could be found on the net and then twice over but I’ve had very limited success so far. Rather foolishly, I gave James the impression I knew this ballad backwards but, when I did try to recall it, my memory seems to have retained only a few stanzas. Couldn’t even remember the author. Must be a sign of the years ganging up on me.
My son, Thomas, phoned me from India today, Sunday. He also phoned yesterday. Twice in two days! Something of a record for him, I think.
You’re correct about some aspects of communication. It is interesting. Tom can reach me half way round the world across two, maybe three continents by conventional telephone and tell me all about the Temple of Amritsar and where he plans to go next. Calcutta and the Himalayas are definitely on his list. Whereas two of the most powerful nations on earth, in their respective spheres, can’t seem to communicate worth a damn – not even with the most technologically advanced channels available to them. Maybe they’re both relying on mental telepathy. That wouldn’t be MY first choice but then I could be wrong there.
Too many variables, too much second-guessing, too many assumptions; these are among the reasons why wars start up in the first place. Where are the certainties, the absolute limits that any rational nation or government should have in place before embarking on such adventures?
That could be the problem. There simply may not be any such limits; just too many people ready to go ahead on the basis of some sketchy gameplan and the perception that no other alternative exists.
At times like these, I wish the TOY blog scenario could actually impose itself on those making these decisions. It might make them a little more cautious, more reluctant to unleash ‘the dogs of war.’
Must go now; have to be in Birmingham tomorrow morning – correction this morning!.