Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Weak leaders in dangerous areas, not a good combination

John Podhoretz discusses the Israeli government panel's investigation into the Lebanon War of 2006 and its evisceration of Ehud Olmert's leadership. If this is not the last and best reason to topple Olmert's pathetically weak-willed government, Israel's polity is hopeless, as J-Pod shows.

The report continues Israel's remarkable tradition of open inquiry following the nation's military disappointments. The 1983 investigation into the first Israeli war in Lebanon sidelined Ariel Sharon as a major political force for almost two decades. And the country's first major effort at self-examination, released in 1974 after Israel was caught by surprise when three of its neighbors launched the Yom Kippur War, ended up forcing the beloved Golda Meir to resign as prime minister - even though the report specifically exonerated her.

There's no exoneration to be found here for Israel's current prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Far from it.

The commissioners specifically say that they chose to release some of their findings early because they were being used by Olmert as a way of avoiding necessary changes in the wake of the war. "Initially," they write, "we hoped that the appointment of the Commission [would] serve as an incentive to accelerate [change] . . . In some ways an opposite, and worrying, process emerged - a process of 'waiting' for the Commission's Report."

Therefore, they conclude, "we decided to publish . . . in the hope that the relevant bodies will act urgently to change and correct all that it implies." The "relevant bodies" here are the Israeli parliament and the voting public. The report's authors have set their laser-guided sights at Olmert's reputation and political career.

* * *

These are all matters for domestic Israeli political consideration. But one aspect of the report has sobering implications far beyond Israel's borders -its description of an Israeli military in disrepair.

The military, the report says flatly, "was not ready for this war." Because Israel now has "enough military might and superiority to deter others from declaring war against her," Israeli leaders have conveniently come to believe that its advantages "would also be sufficient to send a painful reminder to anyone who seemed to be undeterred."

In other words, Israel believed it could talk tough with Hezbollah and get its way. This was a terrible miscalculation - and, as the report notes, it's not Olmert's miscalculation. It began with Israel's pullout from the Hezbollah stronghold in South Lebanon seven years ago - which is also three Israeli prime ministers ago.

When Israel decided it needed to wage actual war against Hezbollah, it was woefully unprepared both militarily and psychologically for what that might mean.

This is very dangerous for Israel - and, incidentally, for the world. The Jewish state may soon face the gravest threat to its existence since its creation 59 years ago. Iran, 975 miles to its east, is rushing to develop a nuclear bomb. This radical Islamist country has as its president a man who speaks openly and without apology of "wiping Israel off the map."

Worse yet, the report indicates that Israel lacks both the political and military fortitude to repeat its Osirak strike from 1981 that neutralized Iraq's nascent nuclear bomb program. Not good for Israel, especially because its survival may require yet another raid on the sun.

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