Opposition Debate: Is Now the Time to Criticize Gov't?

Netanyahu and Eitam tone down criticism, while Eldad and others come out swinging.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 15:26

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu of the Likud spoke in the Knesset on Monday, largely praising the courage and standing power of the army and populace. He added a few sentences of measured criticism of the government's handling of the war, saying, "Without doubt, we shall need, later on, to learn the lessons and fix the mistakes."

pictured: MKs Aryeh Eldad, left, and Effie Eitam, after being injured at Amona earlier this year

MK Effie Eitam of the National Union/National Religious Party agrees with this approach. Speaking to the fledgling daily Yisraeli newspaper today, Eitam agreed that the job of the Opposition is to criticize, "but the question is how and when... If the intention is, during wartime, to rock the country's governmental stability, I think this is a big mistake... If we enter a mood in which we nullify all the achievements that were made, by politicians who wish to create headlines, among others, then we give the public a feeling that we have been defeated."

Foresees Danger on Several Fronts
Eitam said the timing is not yet right for criticizing the government too strongly:
"If the war was over, I would join those who criticize the political echelons - and I certainly have some significant criticism. But in my opinion, we are only in a recess before an even more difficult military campaign. Iran is on its way to nuclear weapons, Hamas is carefully studying the lessons of this war, Hizbullah is still in southern Lebanon, and the Syrians are making eve-of-war noises. In such a situation, wars between Jews in the Knesset and the shaking of governmental stability are a national danger."

Eitam said that establishing a national commission of inquiry into the mistakes of the war would be a mistake at this time, "when the soldiers and homefront still must be strengthened." He said it would "paralyze the Chief of Staff and Defense Minister, giving the Hizbullah its biggest victory at a critical time when we have to rebuild ourselves."

His party colleague, MK Aryeh Eldad, does not agree at all. "As long as the government was truly fighting," he said, "my criticism was limited to the level of question marks. But the moment they accepted the ceasefire, I feel totally free to criticize the government for not fulfilling the goals it set for itself."

"To say that we may not criticize while soldiers are still in Lebanon is terrible and totally unfounded," Eldad added. "If criticism of Chamberlain had been spared during World War II, nothing would have brought Churchill to power."

"This is a criminal government," Eldad railed, "which did not do what it was supposed to do at first, and when it finally did something, it did it stutteringly, stopping the decisive battle against Hizbullah in the middle. Specifically now is when we must tell the People of Israel: This government led you to failure in the war and must be toppled. An opposition that does not do this, at a time when everyone agrees a new and worse war is liable to start, is not doing its job, and is instead allowing the government to continue lying to the nation. The Prime Minister and his people will repeat 1,000 times that we won, and if the opposition does not express the other view, they might yet even believe him."

Eldad also expressed opposition to a national unity government at this time. "Before or during the war it would have been justified," he said, "but now it is merely an attempt by Olmert to escape responsibility and public judgment." MK Eitam, on the other hand, said he would consider joining a national unity government for a limited time, on condition that it suspend all plans for a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.