The prime minister's 'inconsistent' wartime policy
Let's for a moment discuss the subject of quotes, and whether anything lies behind them. Let’s start with part of a speech delivered by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Knesset on the 17th July, 2006: "Israel will not agree to live under the threat of missiles or rockets aimed at its citizens. Citizens of Israel, there are moments in a nation's life where it must face reality and say: Enough! And I am telling you all. It is enough!"
And here is another section taken from a discussion between the prime minister and the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem, a week later on the 25th of July. "Let it be clear, we will reach everyone, no matter where they are, and we shall not hesitate to take the most severe measures against those aiming thousands of rockets and missiles against innocent civilians, with a single purpose in mind – to kill them. This is something we shall not tolerate."
Now we'll skip ahead to the current week, to part of his speech delivered at the graduation ceremony at the National Security College in Glilot on Tuesday August 1st:
"This war cannot in any way be measured by the number of missiles or the range of missiles that are still being fired at us. Not for a moment, not from day one did the defense minister, myself or the Israeli government - and I must say in its support – the military leadership as well – did anyone promise the people of Israel that at the end of the this campaign there would be no missiles with a range capable of reaching the State of Israel. No one has the power to make such a promise."
Asi Shariv, the prime minister's media consultant, is there a contradiction between what Olmert said during the first two weeks of the war and his speech at the National Security College this week?
"Absolutely not. There is no contradiction. The aim is not to live under the threat of missiles. This doesn't mean there will be no more missiles. What we sought to clarify was that if anyone dares to fire missiles towards the citizens of Israel, they will suffer dearly, and will think twice before firing again. This was the intention. The prime minister has maintained a consistent policy from day one."
Peretz: From a dove to a hawk and back again
On Sunday evening this week, following the tragedy at Qana village in the south of Lebanon, Defense Minister Amir Perez found it difficult to fall asleep. He was feeling the overwhelming responsibility of someone whose pilots mistakenly caused the deaths of dozens of innocent people, whether it's 28 or 56 as initially reported. In one tragic moment, the pure white dove turned into a hawk while the olive branch in its mouth turned into a deadly bomb.
"It wasn't easy for me to sleep after the events at Qana," recalled Peretz that night before at a closed forum. "It was the last thing I thought of in the frightening scenarios of war. Coping with the emotional side of things is difficult for me." Those present witnessed his grave expression, the expression of one who was deeply hurt after his left wing colleagues in the Knesset had labeled him a murderer.
Amir Peretz thought he would be dealing with matters of peace from his position at the ministry of defense. In his worst nightmares he hadn't dreamed of becoming a war minister. But all of a sudden, three weeks after taking up his position in the spacious room overlooking Tel Aviv, it hit him.
He suddenly realized that the terror organizations from the south, east and west will not give him the quality time to enhance the lives of the Palestinian people at the Jebalia refugee camp. It began with the incident of the tunnel at Kerem Shalom with the killing of two soldiers and the abduction of Gilad Shalit, and gradually evolved into the second war in Lebanon.
Peretz was asked this week what was so surprising about the Qana village tragedy? At a cabinet meeting, just days before the tragedy, ministers Eli Yishai and Haim Ramon had spoken of pounding the villages and turning them into piles of rubble. "So they said," answered Peretz, rushing to protect the army. "No one gave the order to pound villages. There is no such order and there never will be. Moreover, nowadays we check again and again whether there are civilians in the buildings designated for bombing. That's a lesson I have learned."
Nonethless, Peretz is continuing to fire at the Hizbullah. And he has faith in this course of action. He is confident that there is no choice. He tells his associates: "We shall not halt the attacks on the Hizbullah, let the world come and stop us." Only this way, he believes, will the day come when he, a peace loving leftist, as he puts it, will be able to sit with the moderates on the other side and talk about a new Middle East.
Haste: Olmert decided to embark on the war against Hizbullah within two hours. The entire state of Israel is hopeful that it will take him longer to decide on a ceasefire agreement.
Fiasco in public information: the world is being shown more destruction in Lebanon than the destruction of the heavily rocketed Galil. It's not surprising, therefore, that it is calling for a ceasefire.
Words precede thinking: Had the prime minister refrained from tying the war in Lebanon to his realignment plan that morning, he would have avoided the humiliation of having to retract his words that evening. More importantly, he would not have been accused of the foolishness and arrogance that is splitting the people of Israel during wartime.