Amnon Levy
Photo: Eldad Refaeli
War failure our fault
Israeli public, which overwhelmingly backed Lebanon war, to blame for failure
A moment before the commission of inquiry speaks out, I want to say something too: It’s not “them,” the government. It’s us. It’s not just “them,” the media. It’s most of the public in this country. The government is clearly at fault. We don’t need Winograd to know that. It’s clear that the media screwed up. Yet the unbearable truth is that most of this nation wanted this war.


Therefore, the entire public must assume responsibility for the war. It must learn the lesson. And this is not a problem of failed management. A thousand experienced managers would not have managed this catastrophe any better. The problem was and still is the conception; the main idea behind the war. Something very similar is happening to us in Gaza now. In two years, when a commission of inquiry is set up to look into our acts there, don’t say that you didn’t know it was coming.


On July 12th a year and a half ago, Israel faced a genuine problem. Hizbullah provoked us, killed our soldiers, and abducted two of them. Just like a conditioned reflex, following a brief meeting, the government rushed to respond with a military operation. What for? As is traditionally the case, the leaders resorted to doublespeak: Officially they declared that it was meant to bring the abducted soldiers back home. Unofficially they said that this operation was meant to eliminate Hizbullah once and for all.


Here is the map of Lebanon on the wall behind you; thousands of square kilometers, mountains and valleys, villages and towns, where the two Israeli abductees are hidden, along with hundreds of Hizbullah fighters. The IDF’s mission was to find them. If it wasn’t so tragic, it could have been a great comedy skit.


What logic is there in embarking on such operation? Without intelligence information, how could we find the abducted soldiers in that cursed country? Without knowing the exact location, how could we hurt Hizbullah fighters who know the terrain better than us?


Yet what could we do – a whole country was swept into a baseless fantasy and demanded to see some blood. And when the people want blood, the government gives it what it wants.


Collective suicide operation

And that’s what happened. Massive bombings of civilian populations. Attacks on infrastructure. The killing of innocents who were not even related to the abductions or to Hizbullah. We all saw what we were doing, to them and to ourselves, yet we still demanded more. And more. The typical discourse in those days was belligerent and merciless: How we were going to blow the hell out of them. How we were going to hit them hard. How we were going to sever Nasrallah’s head. This is how many people spoke back then. Maybe even you, the ones reading these lines, spoke like that.


And when one embarks on a pathetic mission, the result is disastrous. We don’t need Winograd to know that.


So why did we embark on that war? Because in Israel force is still the default choice in any security crisis. Even the serial refutation of the force thesis in Sderot, Gaza, the territories and Lebanon failed to break this Pavlovian conditioning of ours. It is true that we had some sobering moments in these past few years, yet the force and the complete confidence that we are completely right still blinds us.


On July 12th a year and a half ago, we faced a problem. To tell you the truth, even today I do not have a certain answer about how we could have solved it. The question is how to act when we don’t have the answer to a painful problem. Do we need to do something, just in order to do something? Does the fact we have no answer require us to act at any price, even at the price of suicide?


The Second Lebanon War was a collective suicide operation. The government led it, the media offered massive support, yet the overwhelming majority of the public demanded this blood. We did not even try a diplomatic move. We did not even wait a week to weigh, examine, consult, exert international pressure, see if we can utilize secret diplomatic channels, drum up global support. All of this was not right for us. We took the gun, and fired. We shot ourselves too.


A moment before the Winograd Commission speaks out about the leadership, I wish to remind everyone who reads these lines that they likely also have a part in this blindness. I certainly hope that the commission will throw the leaders who led this move to history’s graveyard. Yet what about us? What will we learn from this war? And when will we learn it?


פרסום ראשון: 01.29.08, 19:00
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