From Mania to Depression

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Thirty three
days of war. The longest of our wars since 1949.

On the Israeli
side: 154 dead – 117 of them soldiers. 3970 rockets launched
against us, 37 civilians dead, more than 422 civilians wounded.

On the Lebanese
side: about a thousand dead civilians, thousands wounded. An unknown
number of Hizbullah fighters dead and wounded.

More than a
million refugees on both sides.

So what has
been achieved for this terrible price?

"Gloomy,
humble, despondent," was how the journalist Yossef Werter described
Ehud Olmert, a few hours after the cease-fire had come into effect.

Olmert? Humble?
Is this the same Olmert we know? The same Olmert who thumped the
table and shouted: "No more!" Who said: "After the
war, the situation will be completely different than before!"
Who promised a "New Middle East" as a result of the war?

The results
of the war are obvious:

  • The prisoners,
    who served as casus belli (or pretext) for the war, have not been
    released. They will come back only as a result of an exchange
    of prisoners, exactly as Hassan Nasrallah proposed before the
    war.
  • Hizbullah
    has remained as it was. It has not been destroyed, nor disarmed,
    nor even removed from where it was. Its fighters have proved themselves
    in battle and have even garnered compliments from Israeli soldiers.
    Its command and communication structure has continued to function
    to the end. Its TV station is still broadcasting.
  • Hassan
    Nasrallah is alive and kicking. Persistent attempts to kill him
    failed. His prestige is sky-high. Everywhere in the Arab world,
    from Morocco to Iraq, songs are being composed in his honor and
    his picture adorns the walls.
  • The Lebanese
    army will be deployed along the border, side by side with a large
    international force. That is the only material change that has
    been achieved.

This will not
replace Hizbullah. Hizbullah will remain in the area, in every village
and town. The Israeli army has not succeeded in removing it from
one single village. That was simply impossible without permanently
removing the population to which it belongs.

The Lebanese
army and the international force cannot and will not confront Hizbullah.
Their very presence there depends on Hizbullah’s consent. In practice,
a kind of co-existence of the three forces will come into being,
each one knowing that it has to come to terms with the other two.

Perhaps the
international force will be able to prevent incursions by Hizbullah,
such as the one that preceded this war. But it will also have to
prevent Israeli actions, such as the reconnaissance flights of our
Air Force over Lebanon. That’s why the Israeli army objected, at
the beginning, so strenuously to the introduction of this force.

IN ISRAEL,
there is now a general atmosphere of disappointment and despondency.
From mania to depression. It’s not only that the politicians and
the generals are firing accusations at each other, as we foresaw,
but the general public is also voicing criticism from every possible
angle. The soldiers criticize the conduct of the war, the reserve
soldiers gripe about the chaos and the failure of supplies.

In all parties,
there are new opposition groupings and threats of splits. In Kadima.
In Labor. It seems that in Meretz, too, there is a lot of ferment,
because most of its leaders supported the war dragon almost until
the last moment, when they caught its tail and pierced it with their
little lance.

At the head
of the critics are marching – surprise, surprise – the
media. The entire horde of interviewers and commentators, correspondents
and presstitutes, who (with very few exceptions) enthused about
the war, who deceived, misled, falsified, ignored, duped and lied
for the fatherland, who stifled all criticism and branded as traitors
all who opposed the war – they are now running ahead of the
lynch mob. How predictable, how ugly. Suddenly they remember what
we have been saying right from the beginning of the war.

This phase
is symbolized by Dan Halutz, the Chief-of-Staff. Only yesterday
he was the hero of the masses, it was forbidden to utter a word
against him. Now he is being described as a war profiteer. A moment
before sending his soldiers into battle, he found the time to sell
his shares, in expectation of a decline of the stock market. (Let
us hope that a moment before the end he found the time to buy them
back again.)

Victory, as
is well known, has many fathers, and failure in war is an orphan.

From the deluge
of accusations and gripes, one slogan stands out, a slogan that
must send a cold shiver down the spine of anyone with a good memory:
"the politicians did not let the army win."

Exactly as
I wrote two weeks ago, we see before our very eyes the resurrection
of the old cry "they stabbed the army in the back!"

This is how
it goes: At long last, two days before the end, the land offensive
started to roll. Thanks to our heroic soldiers, the men of the reserves,
it was a dazzling success. And then, when we were on the verge of
a great victory, the cease-fire came into effect.

There is not
a single word of truth in this. This operation, which was planned
and which the army spent years training for, was not carried out
earlier, because it was clear that it would not bring any meaningful
gains but would be costly in lives. The army would, indeed, have
occupied wide areas, but without being able to dislodge the Hizbullah
fighters from them.

The town of
Bint Jbeil, for example, right next to the border, was taken by
the army three times, and the Hizbullah fighters remained there
to the end. If we had occupied 20 towns and villages like this one,
the soldiers and the tanks would have been exposed in twenty places
to the mortal attacks of the guerillas with their highly effective
anti-tank weapons.

If so, why
was it decided, at the last moment, to carry out this operation
after all – well after the UN had already called for an end
to hostilities? The horrific answer: it was a cynical – not
to say vile – exercise of the failed trio. Olmert, Peretz and
Halutz wanted to create "a picture of victory," as was
openly stated in the media. On this altar the lives of 33 soldiers
(including a young woman) were sacrificed.

The aim was
to photograph the victorious soldiers on the bank of the Litani.
The operation could only last 48 hours, when the cease-fire would
come into force. In spite of the fact that the army used helicopters
to land the troops, the aim was not attained. At no point did the
army reach the Litani.

For comparison:
in the first Lebanon war, that of Sharon in 1982, the army crossed
the Litani in the first few hours. (The Litani, by the way, is not
a real river anymore, but just a shallow creek. Most of its waters
are drawn off far from there, in the north. Its last stretch is
about 25 km distant from the border, near Metulla the distance is
only 4 km.)

This time,
when the cease-fire took effect, all the units taking part had reached
villages on the way to the river. There they became sitting ducks,
surrounded by Hizbullah fighters, without secure supply lines. From
that moment on, the army had only one aim: to get them out of there
as quickly as possible, regardless of who might take their place.

If a commission
of inquiry is set up – as it must be – and investigates
all the moves of this war, starting from the way the decision to
start it was made, it will also have to investigate the decision
to start this last operation. The death of 33 soldiers (including
the son of the writer David Grossman, who had supported the war)
and the pain this caused their families demand that!

But these facts
are not yet clear to the general public. The brain-washing by the
military commentators and the ex-generals, who dominated the media
at the time, has turned the foolish – I would almost say "criminal"
– operation into a rousing victory parade. The decision of
the political leadership to stop it is now being seen by many as
an act of defeatist, spineless, corrupt and even treasonous politicians.

And that is
exactly the new slogan of the fascist Right that is now raising
its ugly head.

After World
War I, in similar circumstances, the legend of the "knife in
the back of the victorious army" grew up. Adolf Hitler used
it to carry him to power – and on to World War II.

Now, even before
the last fallen soldier has been buried, the incompetent generals
are starting to talk shamelessly about "another round,"
the next war that will surely come "in a month or in a year,"
God willing. After all, we cannot end the matter like this, in failure.
Where is our pride?

The Israeli
public is now in a state of shock and disorientation. Accusations
– justified and unjustified – are flung around in all
directions, and it cannot be foreseen how things will develop.

Perhaps, in
the end, it is logic that will win. Logic says: what has thoroughly
been demonstrated is that there is no military solution. That is
true in the North. That is also true in the South, where we are
confronting a whole people that has nothing to lose anymore. The
success of the Lebanese guerilla will encourage the Palestinian
guerilla.

For logic to
win, we must be honest with ourselves: pinpoint the failures, investigate
their deeper causes, draw the proper conclusions.

Some people
want to prevent that at any price. President Bush declares vociferously
that we have won the war. A glorious victory over the Evil Ones.
Like his own victory in Iraq.

When a football
team is able to choose the referee, it is no surprise if it is declared
the winner.

August
19, 2006

Uri
Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 he has advocated
the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974,
Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership.
In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after
crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in
the Israeli Parliament (Knesset), and is the founder of Gush Shalom
(Peace Bloc). Visit his
Website
.

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