Anti Olmert rally at Rabin Square
Photo: Niv Kalderon

It's not all about Olmert

Artificial spirit of anti-Olmert national unity threat to democracy

Last week's demonstration in Rabin Square supposedly showed how politicians on the Right and the Left can join together when faced with a common goal of such magnitude that it dwarfs the ideological differences between them. And what is this lofty aim that managed to bridge the chasm that separates the two sides? Bringing Ehud Olmert down!


To this end, they agreed to behave like gentlemen, to remain civil and avoid mention of the issues that separate them. As if the reasons why they want a change of government are less important than the change of government itself. As if it's all about the person and not the direction. As if it doesn't matter whether Olmert is followed by someone intent on winning the next war, or on preventing it.


The airwaves are full of warnings that Olmert's failure to step down is - in the fashionable language of the day - a "threat to democracy." The real threat, however, lies in the artificial spirit of national unity that is obfuscating the principles that lie at the heart of the division between Right and Left.


The tenacity with which Olmert is clinging to his post is not a national tragedy that justifies newfound friendships among diametrically opposed political camps. One successful no-confidence motion will unseat him, and bipartisan alliances around such a move would certainly be legitimate. They must not, however, rest on a conspiracy of silence.


Yes, Olmert should resign, but less because the Winograd Committee found that he mismanaged the conduct of the war than because it found that he went to war without considering "the whole range of options," including moves on the diplomatic front. Even had the war achieved its aims, the prime minister would not be absolved of responsibility for the lives lost in securing militarily what might have been secured without firing a shot.


This is the committee's most far-reaching finding. The indictment of the government will certainly get worse as the committee looks at the later stages of the war, particularly the shameful decision to launch an offensive as the cease-fire resolution was rolling off the presses, but the biggest mistake was at the beginning - the very decision to go to war.


This, in fact, was the message of those who marched against the war last summer. With its findings, the Winograd Committee has sanctioned the position they took: Yes, Israel has every right to defend itself, but military action is not necessarily the best and certainly should not be the first line of defense.


Lesson for the public

It is true that the committee noted that Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon allowed Hizbullah to strengthen its positions along the border, but this is an indictment not of withdrawal but of unilateralism. That is not to say that Israel would have been better off had it left the IDF on Lebanese territory. It is no small wonder, however, that after turning his back on peace with Syria in January 2000, Ehud Barak was left with no choice but to withdraw from Lebanon five months later in a vacuum, with no diplomatic framework to ensure the stability of the area.


The same can be said of our southern border, where the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was conducted in total disregard of the Palestinian side. Here, too, the absence of diplomacy failed to bring about quiet, and here, too, military force is failing as a response to the Qassam rockets that are plaguing our southern cities.


The prime minister has admitted that there are lessons to be learned, and the likelihood is that he will end up doing his homework from his home and not from the Prime Minister's Office. There is no question that the man who was chastised for "a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility, and prudence" cannot be trusted to implement the committee's recommendations. But there is a lesson here for the public as well.


The committee pointed out that the decisions made by the government last summer enjoyed broad support among the public. Rather than question the wisdom of the prime minister's declaration that Hizbullah's aggressive action constituted an act of war, the majority blindly accepted the idea that only a military blow would restore Israel's deterrent capability and secure the release of the captive soldiers. The country painted itself in blue and white, and the few who dared to protest were branded traitors.


Today, following the release of the scathing interim report, the public understands that it was misled. By flocking to Rabin Square, the public demonstrated that it also understood the Winograd Committee's call to take action. What remains is for the public to sober up to the fact that it is being misled with regard to the entire regional picture.


One need look no further than the overtures coming from Syria and the Arab League Initiative to understand that the conventional wisdom that there is no one to talk to is nothing but a myth.


The most important lesson to be learned from the Winograd findings is not that Israel must prepare itself better for war but that it must adapt its strategic thinking to prepare for peace.


Susie Becher is a member of the National Executive of Meretz-Yachad


פרסום ראשון: 05.07.07, 08:55
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