The 155th Victim

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With a few
words, a Lebanese army officer destroyed, the day before yesterday,
the illusion that Israel had achieved anything in this war.

At a televised
Lebanese army parade that was also broadcast on Israeli TV, the
officer read a prepared text to his assembled troops, who were about
to be deployed along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

This is what
he said in Arabic: "Today, in the name of the comprehensive
will of the people, you are preparing to be deployed on the soil
of the wounded South, side by side with the forces of your Resistance
and your people, which have amazed the world with their steadfastness
and blown to pieces the reputation of the army about which it has
been said that it is invincible."

In simple language:
"the comprehensive will of the people" – the will of all
parts of the Lebanese public, including the Shiite community. "Side
by side with the Resistance": side by side with Hizbullah.
"Which have amazed the world with their steadfastness":
the heroism of the Hizbullah fighters. "Blown to pieces the
reputation of the army about which it has been said that it is invincible":
the Israeli army.

Thus spoke
a commander of the Lebanese army, the deployment of which along
the border is being celebrated by the Olmert-Peretz government as
a huge victory, because this army is supposed to confront Hizbullah
and disarm it. Israeli commentators have created the illusion that
this army would be at the disposal of the friends of the US and
Israel in Beirut, such as Fuad Siniora, Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt.

It is no accident
that this item was drowned in the deluge of TV blabber, like a stone
thrown into a well. After broadcasting the item itself, no meaningful
debate about it took place. It was erased from the public mind.

But not only
the balloon of the redeeming Lebanese army has been punctured. The
same has happened to the multi-colored second balloon that was to
serve as an Israeli achievement: the deployment of the international
force that would protect Israel from Hizbullah and prevent its re-armament.
As the days pass, it becomes increasingly clear that this force
will be, at best, a mishmash of small national units, without a
clear mandate and "robust" capabilities. The commando
raid carried out by our army today, in blatant violation of the
cease-fire, will certainly not attract more international volunteers
for the job.

So what remains
of all the "achievements" of this war? A good question.

After every
failed war, the cry for an official investigation goes up in Israel.
Now there is a "trauma," much bitterness, a feeling of
defeat and of a missed opportunity. Hence the demand for a strong
Commission of Inquiry that will cut off the heads of those responsible.

That’s what
happened after the first Lebanon war, which reached its climax in
the Sabra and Shatila massacre. The government refused any serious
inquiry. The masses that gathered in what is now called "Rabin
Square" (the mythical 400 thousand) demanded a judicial inquiry.
The public mood reached boiling point and in the end the Prime Minister,
Menachem Begin, gave in.

The Kahan Commission
that investigated the event condemned a number of politicians and
army officers for "indirect" responsibility for the massacre,
even though its own factual conclusions would have justified a much
stronger condemnation. But Ariel Sharon was, at least, removed from
the Defense Ministry.

Before that,
after the trauma of the Yom Kippur war, the government also refused
to appoint a Commission of Inquiry, but public pressure forced its
hand. The fate of the Agranat Committee, which included a former
Chief-of-Staff and two other senior officers, was rather odd: it
conducted a serious investigation, put all the blame on the military,
removed from office the Chief-of-Staff, "Dado" Elazar
– and acquitted the political leadership of any blame. This caused
a spontaneous public uproar. In its wake, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan
– predecessors of Olmert and Peretz as Prime Minister and Minister
of Defense – were forced to resign.

This time,
too, the political and military leadership is trying to block any
serious investigation. Amir Peretz even appointed a whitewash-committee,
packed with his cronies. But public pressure is building up, and
chances seem good that in the end there will be no way out but to
appoint a judicial inquiry committee.

Generally,
the one who appoints a commission of inquiry and sets its terms
of reference predetermines its conclusions. Under Israeli law, it
is the government which decides to appoint such a commission and
determines its terms of reference. (As a Member of the Knesset,
I voted against these paragraphs.) But the composition of the commission
is determined by the President of the Supreme Court. If a commission
is set up, I assume the present President of the Court, Aharon Barak,
a highly respected chief justice, will appoint himself for the job.

If indeed such
a commission is set up, what will it investigate?

The politicians
and generals will try to restrict the inquiry to the technical aspects
of the conduct of the war: – Why was the army not prepared for a
war against guerillas? – Why were the land forces not sent into
the field in the two first weeks? – Did the military command believe
that the war could be won by the Air Force alone? – What was the
quality of the intelligence? – Why was nothing done to protect the
rear, when the rocket threat was known? – Why were the poor in the
North left to their fate, after the well-to-do had left the area?
– Why were the reserve units not ready for the war? – Why were the
emergency arsenals empty? – Why did the supply system not function?
– Why did the Chief-of-Staff practically depose the Chief of the
Northern Command in the middle of the war? – Why was it decided
at the last moment to start a campaign that cost the lives of 33
Israeli soldiers?

The government
will probably attempt to widen the investigation and to put part
of the blame on its predecessors: – Why did the Ehud Barak and Ariel
Sharon governments just look on when Hizbullah was growing? – Why
was nothing done as Hizbullah built up its huge stockpile of rockets?

All these are
serious questions, and it is certainly necessary to clear them up.
But it is more important to investigate the roots of the war: –
What made the trio Olmert-Peretz-Halutz decide to start a war only
a few hours after the capture of the two soldiers? – Was it agreed
with the Americans in advance to go to war the moment a credible
pretext presented itself? – Did the Americans push Israel into the
war, and, later on, demand that it go on and on as far as possible?
– Was it Condoleezza Rice who decided in fact when to start and
when to stop? – Did the US want to get us entangled with Syria?
– Did the US use us for its campaign against Iran?

This, too,
is not enough. There are more profound and important questions.

This war has
no name. Even after 33 days of fighting and six days of cease-fire,
no natural name has been found. The media use a chronological name:
Lebanon War II.

This way, the
war in Lebanon is separated from the war in the Gaza Strip, which
has been conducted simultaneously, and which is going on unabated
after the cease-fire in the North. Do these two wars have a common
denominator? Are they, perhaps, one and the same war?

The answer
is: certainly, yes. And the proper name is: the War for the Settlements.

The war against
the Palestinian people is being waged in order to keep the "settlement
blocs" and annex large parts of the West Bank. The war in the
North was waged, in fact, to keep the settlements on the Golan Heights.

Hizbullah grew
up with the support of Syria, which controlled Lebanon at the time.
Hafez al-Assad saw the return of the Golan to Syria as the aim of
his life – after all, it was he who lost them in the June 1967
war, and who did not succeed in getting them back in the October
1973 war. He did not want to risk another war on the Israel-Syria
border, which is so close to Damascus. Therefore, he patronized
Hizbullah, so as to convince Israel that it would have no quiet
as long as it refused to give the Golan back. Assad jr. is continuing
with his father’s legacy.

Without the
cooperation of Syria, Iran has no direct way of supplying Hizbullah
with arms.

The solution
is on hand: we have to remove the settlers from there, whatever
the cost in wines and mineral water, and give the Golan back to
its rightful owners. Ehud Barak almost did so, but, as is his wont,
lost his nerve at the last moment.

It has to be
said aloud: every one of the 154 Israeli dead of Lebanon War II
(until the cease-fire) died for the settlers on the Golan Heights.

The 155th Israeli
victim of this war is the "Convergence Plan" – the
plan for a unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.

Ehud Olmert
was elected four months ago (hard to believe! only four months!)
on the platform of Convergence, much as Amir Peretz was elected
on the platform of reducing the army and carrying out far-reaching
social reforms.

In the course
of the war, Olmert still announced that he would implement the "Convergence."
But the day before yesterday he conceded that we could forget about
it.

The Convergence
was to remove 60 thousand settlers from where they are, but to leave
the almost 400 thousand settlers in the West Bank (including the
Jerusalem area). Now this plan has also been buried.

What remains?
No peace, no negotiations, no solution at all for the historic conflict.
Just a complete deadlock for years, at least until we get rid of
the duo Olmert & Peretz.

All over Israel,
they are already talking about the "Next Round," the war
that will at long last eliminate Hizbullah and punish it for besmirching
our honor. That has become, so it seems, a self-evident matter.
Even Haaretz treats it as such in its editorials.

In the South,
they don’t speak about the "Next Round" because the present
round is endless.

To have any
value whatsoever, the investigation must expose the real roots of
the war and present the public with the historic choice that has
become clear in this war, too: Either the settlements and an endless
war, or the return of the occupied territories and peace.

Otherwise,
the investigation will only provide more backing for the outlook
of the Right, to wit: we only have to expose the mistakes that have
been made and correct them, then we can start the next war and win.

August
27, 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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