Israel accepted the dramatic resolution calling for ceasefire in a very unusual way: with a lot of fire. We have to admit, that even in an anomalous place, it is rather confusing to hear that Israel agreed to the UN Security Council’s decision to end the war, while at the same time it ordered the IDF to embark on an expanded ground assault, which it so unwillingly approved just two days earlier.
How does it tie in that in the late hours of the night between Friday and Saturday, when a unanimous vote in the UN called for a ceasefire, the IDF ordered it forces to move forward? This is just one of the questions being asked, and not necessarily the most potent one regarding the management of this war.
Confusion, embarrassment and chaos
Confusion, embarrassment and chaos – any and all variations of these words would aptly describe the feelings prevalent among the public on the eve prior to the cabinet’s vote on the ceasefire.
Here too, feelings are mixed: on the one hand, there’s a primal, irrational inclination to give the IDF another chance to strike at the bastards, and to emerge from this war with an impressive victory photo. On the other hand, we ask what type of conscience do these people have? People who dispatch soldiers to battle - some of whom will never return - while knowing full well that that the ceasefire agreement will go into effect in less than 24 hours.
What can we achieve in 24 hours of bloody battle when an agreement has already been reached? A moral victory? A corrective experience for the military echelons? Or perhaps for the political echelons?
The debate over the ceasefire will also continue in the coming days. Is the United Nations resolution a great achievement – a clear victory achieved by Israel, as Olmert will most likely present it today before his cabinet, and in his speech at the Knesset. Or is it a document outlining a defeat at the conclusion of a failed war, conducted with criminal amateurism, as it will be presented by the opposition that came to life Saturday.
Clear departure from Israeli demands
According to Olmert’s office, what led to the final text of the document was President Bush’s personal involvement, when after Friday morning it became apparent that there had been a clear departure from Israeli demands.
In response, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and diplomatic advisor Yoram Turbovitch updated US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley with the order given by Olmert calling on the army to begin the expanded ground assault in Lebanon. Three hours later another document was issued.
This will not help Olmert in the coming months when this disputed war is over, a war that will take a long time to be fully comprehended by the public. Tough times are in store for Olmert. Months in which he will have to stand up against the opposition - from the right and the left wing camps; from the State Comptroller, the media and perhaps even a taxing committee of enquiry.
The army will argue that Olmert didn’t let it win. He will have to stand up against the defense minister, with whom differences of opinion and mutual slander already began flying back and forth over the weekend. It is also likely that opponents from within his own Kadima ranks will sound their voices, people such as Livni, Mofaz and Dichter who are just waiting for the halt of fire.While standing up against this opposition, Olmert will try to protect Kadima, to stabilize the coalition and perhaps even bring Lieberman and United Torah Judaism on board.
Olmert’s biggest problem: The public mood
Olmert’s biggest problem, however, will not come from within the political system, nor from the military. The problem is the public mood, which tends to affect the political system more than anything else. It is difficult to estimate to what extent the public’s disappointment over the war and its consequences will affect Olmert and his cabinet’s standing.
However, it is clear that if in a month or two from now, if it becomes evident that this war was a total failure – the public will start searching for an alternative.
Such an alternative is not available at the moment, but Olmert knows all too well that one can be found overnight, out of nowhere.