New York – Veteran Israeli left-wing columnist, Ari Shavit, and other Israeli columnists have written devastating indictments of the handling of the Hizballah/Lebanon war by the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert. Excerpts from Shavits critical commentary in Haaretz, also known as the New York Times of Israel (August 11 & 12):
- You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory, produce humiliating defeat and remain in power. You cannot bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, keep a million Israelis in shelters for a month, wear down deterrent power, bring the next war very close, and then say – oops, I made a mistake. That was not the intention. Pass me a cigar, please.
- There is no mistake Ehud Olmert did not make this past month. He went to war hastily, without properly gauging the outcome. He blindly followed the military without asking the necessary questions. He mistakenly gambled on air operations, was strangely late with the ground operation, and failed to implement the armys original plan, much more daring and sophisticated than that which was implemented. And after arrogantly and hastily bursting into war, Olmert managed it hesitantly, unfocused and limp. He neglected the home front and abandoned the residents of the north. He also failed shamefully on the diplomatic front.
- Post-war battered and bleeding Israel needs a new start and a new leader. It needs a real prime minister. They surprised us with the low level of national leadership. They surprised us with scandalous strategic bumbling. They surprised us with the lack of vision, lack of creativity and lack of determination on the part of the senior military command. They surprised us with faulty intelligence and a delusionary logistical network and improper preparedness for war. They surprised us with the fact that the Israeli war machine is not what it once was. While we were celebrating it became rusty
- …at the end of the most embarrassing year of Israeli defense since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Israeli government is not drawing conclusions. It is not reorganizing the system, there is no evidence of a real learning curve and it is not radiating a new ethos. On the contrary: It is adding another layer of folly onto a previous one. Its slowness to react is dangerous. Its caution is a recipe for disaster. Its attempt to prevent bloodshed is costing a great deal of bloodshed.
Other critical commentary on the Olmert government:
Yoel Marcus, Haaretz columnist: The cease-fire has caught us in the worst possible position: We didnt win and we didnt lose. We simply blew it … The question is whether Olmert posed the right questions and the army gave him truthful answers. Did Olmert ask, for example, whether the army was capable of knocking Hezbollah out of commission, or at least disarming it? Did he ask about the risks to the home front and how well Israeli citizens could be expected to stand up under a barrage of missiles? Did he inquire whether it was truly possible to win the war on the strength of air power alone? Did he ask whether Hezbollah could really be neutralized without a massive land operation? … After 3,500 rocket strikes on half the country, a million citizens turned into refugees, the last-minute call-up of reserves soldiers without equipping them – handing them ancient guns and antediluvian flak jackets, and at a certain stage, not even supplying them with food – the war is ending with an agreement cobbled together by the United States to save Israel from a humiliating defeat. Not only is there no victory, but our power of deterrence has been hobbled (Haaretz, August 15).
- Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post Managing Editor and Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy, Washington, DC: Every aspect of the governments handling of the war has been a failure. Take relief efforts as an example. For five weeks the government ignored the humanitarian disaster in the North where over one million Israelis are under missile assault. The government developed no comprehensive plan for organizing relief efforts to feed citizens in bomb shelters or for evacuating them … It was the governments responsibility to critique and question the IDFs operational model of aerial warfare and to cut its losses when after two or three days it was clear that the model was wrong. At that point the government should have called up the reserves and launched a combined ground and air offensive. But the government didnt feel like it. It wanted to win the war on the cheap. And when the air campaign did not succeed, it abandoned its war goals, declared victory and sued for a cease-fire. When the public objected, after waiting two precious weeks, the government called up the reserves but then waited another unforgivable 10 days before committing them to battle … Diplomatically, in the space of five weeks the government managed to undermine Israels alliance with America; to hand Syria, Hizballah and Iran the greatest diplomatic achievements they have ever experienced; and to flush down the toilet the unprecedented international support that US President Bush handed to Israel on a silver platter at the G-8 summit. The UN cease-fire that Olmert, Livni and Peretz applaud undercuts Israels sovereignty; protects Hizballah; lets Iran and Syria off the hook; lends credibility to our enemies belief that Israel can be destroyed; emboldens the Palestinians to launch their next round of war; and leaves IDF hostages Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in captivity (Jerusalem Post, August 14).
- Yossi Klein Halevi, Israel Correspondent for the New Republic & Fellow at the Shalem Center, Jerusalem: However hard Ehud Olmert tries to spin it, the U.N. ceasefire that began yesterday is a disaster for Israel and for the war on terrorism generally. With an unprecedented green light from Washington to do whatever necessary to uproot the Iranian front line against Israel, and with a level of national unity and willingness to sacrifice unseen here since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, our leaders squandered weeks restraining the army and fighting a pretend war. Only in the two days before the ceasefire was the army finally given the go-ahead to fight a real war. But, by then, the U.N. resolution had codified the terms of Israels defeat (New Republic, August 15).