Sunday, August 20, 2006

Thank you, Hezbollah!

Why for haven's sake would we have to thank Hezbollah? For almost 200 Israelis killed? For 23 billion NIS damages to the Israeli economy? Well, obviously that is not what I had in mind... We have to thank Hezbollah for a wake-up call, which may have been delivered at the very last moment.

I really don't want to join here the tired old criticism of every decision any government has ever taken. Israelis love to criticize, and they always know everything best. Every cab driver had a better plan for this war, every journalist knew from day one that we are not going to win, bla, bla, bla. Sickening.

Side track: All this bitching in the media reminds me of a totally unrelated story. A few years ago, at the height of the second Intifada, the quality control people of the public water company "Mekorot" discovered a milky pollution in water pipeline connecting the center of Israel with the Sea of Galilee, Israel's only fresh water reservoir. Not being able to identify the chemical fast enough, and not knowing exactly how far the stuff had traveled in the system already, they decided to close the valves near the end of the pipeline and flush the whole line with clean water. This meant thousands and thousands of cubic meters of scarce water literally went down the tube. Shortly afterwards it was discovered that the chemical was a relatively harmless fertilizer, which was sucked into the water system by a defect reflow protection valve on somebody's agricultural watering system. The Mekorot managers were almost lynched for wasting so much water and creating a public panic. Of course, at that time more than ever, there were very good reasons to assume that terrorist could poison the water. Therefore, in the absence of any solid data on the pollutant, the Mekorot managers took the gutsy decision to dump all that water and alert the public. Had it been a terrorist act, they'd come out the saviors of maybe thousands of people. Since it was not, everybody and their grandmother knew better and criticized them for their decision. This is Israel, you can never do anything without somebody claiming in public he or she could have done better. I have to admit, it is tiring at times.

Back to the Hezbollah. Having talked to reserve soldiers returning from Lebanon, I come to the following picture. No, we did not loose this war, Hezbollah has been hit hard and it will take them some time to lick their wounds and recover from the blow. Iran will have to spend a lot of money to replenish Hezbollah's stock piles, money they would need to buy equipment for their dangerous nuclear program, maybe. Na, I guess they'd rather save a little on education....

But we also didn't win this war. Although the threat was known and the IDF trained ever since we left Lebanon for this possibility, when the war broke out nothing worked as planned. Olmert, Halutz and Peretz ignored all the existing planning and reinvented the war as it unfolded. Instead of an immediate massive call-up of well trained and prepared reserves, and an overwhelming blow with boots on the ground and vastly superior fire power all over the South within a couple of days, Halutz went about it with the motto "let the airforce win this war", while Olmert, Peretz and Livni were worried more about European public opinion than our soldiers lifes. We were able to watch on TV bloody battles being fought about a single house in some Lebanese village, when a single artillery shell could have finished the job in a second and with zero casualties on our side. There were quite a few attempts to win a war like this with surgical strikes delivered from the air in the last 20 years or so, and none of them have been engraved as great success stories in military history - it just doesn't work. Only when this approach failed also here in front of a horrified Israeli public, did the leadership finally allow the "green" generals to operate according to established principles of ground war. They got two days to make up for the blunders of one wasted month. And so Hezbollah got away, limping and bleeding, but alive and encouraged, Israel can be beaten! being their message to all our enemies.

A gigantic opportunity to deliver a devastating blow to Hezbollah and friends has been missed. With a rare consensus among the Israelis regarding the justification for this war and it's goals, with extremely high motivation all through the IDF, only a mediocre result has been achieved. No, it is not a devastating loss, there are gains on the ground as well as in the political arena, but altogether everybody understands that one day we will have to go back and do it all over again. Already now the UN resolution regarding the demilitarization south of the Litani as well as the weapons embargo are being broken every single day, with nobody in the UN giving a damn, as usual. So at some point the whole mess will flare up again, no doubt about it.

Nevertheless, imagine the extend of the disaster if all of this had happened a few years later, with Hezbollah having added hundreds of Iranian long range missiles to its arsenal, further improved the fortified infrastructure in the South and maybe even added non-conventional war heads to their missiles. Not only would we have seen many more Israeli casualties, also the chance of this leading to a direct war with Syria and maybe even Iran would have been much higher.

Now, that we narrowly avoided a bigger disaster, we will surely be prepared much better next time, right? Well, maybe. If the self cleaning mechanism of the Israeli democracy finally starts to kick in, if incompetent military and political leaders are finally forced ONCE to take responsibility for their failures and if a minimum level of ethics and professionalism is restored to the ranks of Israeli leadership, in that case we will be prepared.

Israelis, wake up! Incompetence, corruption and other unethical conduct of our leadership must not be tolerated any longer. Has there ever been a country where the prime minister, the president and several ministers are under police investigation for misconduct at the same time? Ever? One?

Hezbollah is our crystal ball to see the future. If things don't change around here, the next time around we won't get away with just a bloody nose.

So, thank you Hezbollah!

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