Thoughts on Winograd

A decade of decline, false hope and politicization

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David Shalom

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The publication of the Winograd Committee’s report on the Second Lebanon War of the summer of 2006 is a good turning point to ask some basic questions about the war in general, as well as about the fundamental lack of understanding or intellectual depth possessed by the current Israeli leadership.

Firstly, why did war erupt and why was the Hizbullah so able to attack Israel’s north and force a million people to
Money wasted on building the Hamas state in Gaza could have fed all the troops eight times over and refurbished all the bomb shelters.
live in bomb shelters for a month? The answer to this lies not in Winograd, but rather in a decade of decline, false hopes and politicization of the military that allowed Hizbullah to build up and that allowed strategic threats to be ignored.

The government spent nine billion shekels planning and executing efficiently (albeit without a thought for the day after) the expulsion of the Jews from Gaza, but had no time or resources to consider the food supplies for the troops at the front and, indeed, many soldiers were left hungry for over three days. The homefront was neglected, with no evacuation plans or adequate infrastructure. Indeed, the money wasted on building the Hamas state in Gaza could have fed all the troops eight times over and refurbished all the bomb shelters in northern Israel.

The withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 was a strategic collapse and disaster, but the Labor party who remained (and still do) in every coalition government could not allow their only “success” to be added to their catalogue of failures since 1993, when they imported thousands of terrorists from Tunis and gave them a statelet in the heart of Israel. The media today is abuzz with talk on whether Ehud Barak will bring the government down by taking Labor out of the coalition, but no one mentions the fact that the systematic errors - allowing Hizbullah to arm, to position themselves across the south, the destruction of the South Lebanese Army, and the Christian and Sunni Muslim communities once friendly to Israel in south Lebanon - are a direct result of his policy decisions, especially the flight from the southern security zone in 2000 and the six years of appeasement that followed. Surely, Winograd is testament that Barak, as well as Ehud Olmert, is unfit for public office.

The method of fighting was totally flawed, as well - seeing the enemy as a group of criminals who had to be pursued from house to house individually and not viewing the conflict in terms of what it was; i.e., a real war. In war, one bombs the enemy’s cities. When rockets are sent from a certain village, one sends artillery to return fire, one does not sacrifice the lives of dozens of soldiers, as in the village of Bint Jbeil, to apprehend terrorists as if searching for petty thieves. One does not send, as the IDF did, a helicopter into the heart of enemy territory (the Bekaa Valley) and then send troops to kill individual terrorists in a particular floor of an apartment block. Indeed, if one knows where the terrorists are so precisely, then one should simply bomb the entire building and not risk the lives of any of your own soldiers to protect enemy civilians who live with them.

Israel fought Hizbullah as it fights in Judea and Samaria, sacrificing national goals, security and the lives of its own people to protect the lives of enemy civilians, including those harboring the enemy terrorists or even the terrorists themselves. Only by inflicting punishing losses will the enemy understand that it is not in his own interest to initiate aggression.

In war, basic goals must be set and met. No such goals were set, and even the rather half-hearted ambitions - to release the captive soldiers and reduce Hizbullah’s firepower - were not obtained. Indeed, in war one must conquer land and occupy it to win. Israel never even considered this a possibility and thus, victory could never be achieved. If Israel had decided to take a small part of the territory, part of southern Lebanon up to the Litani River (as her troops did actually reach there in the last 60 hours), then that could have been a victory. The 33 soldiers who gave their lives in the last hours after the government agreed to the ceasefire and the very negative 1701 resolution would not have died in vain. Hizbullah could not claim victory if they had lost their southern heartlands and if IDF soldiers were to remain there and pro-Israeli indigenous Lebanese elements allowed to take power in the area.
Israel fought Hizbullah as it fights in Judea and Samaria.

The UN Resolution and the diplomacy, or lack thereof, that allowed such a flawed resolution and imposition of ceasefire have not been touched much by Winograd, but surely are testament to the deep failings of Tzipora Livni as foreign minister. The government accepted a resolution that equated Israel with a terror organization, that allowed hostile UN forces to “protect” Israel’s border (they have facilitated Hizbullah’s rearmament to levels higher than before the 2006 War); and her failure, despite American support, to present Israel’s side in a wholly just war initiated by a cross-border raid is clear for all to see. Her own weakness - threatening to resign, then rescinding it when she saw that she would be left jobless and not Olmert, whose job she was deluded enough to believe she could take - show her to be the shallow, self-interested politician that her rather imbecilic statements at cabinet meetings (as quoted in the report) have revealed.

It’s not only time for Olmert to go, it’s time for fundamental rethinking of Israel’s policy goals, of the facts of war; the need to occupy territory, to use heavy artillery, to attack enemy infrastructure, to invest in decent PR (including simple mechanisms like bringing people who can actually speak English or Arabic into the Foreign Ministry), and for a fundamental reshaping of the electoral system to prevent corrupt amateurs like Olmert, Livni and the whole Kadima gang ever rising to power.


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