A generation of proponents of Israeli concessions assured the Israeli public that, if things didn't pan out, then the IDF could always cover the mistake in judgment at a relatively low cost.



Israel's perceived weakness in the last war fundamentally changes all that.



I say "perceived weakness" because the outcome of the war reflected mostly the incompetence of the civilian decision-makers, rather than any crippling faults in the military. Yes, there were problems in the Israel Defense Forces, but for the most part the IDF soldiers and field commanders, through a combination of initiative and bravery, were able to perform well - despite the failings of the IDF technocrats and planners. The problem wasn't with the IDF "machine," but with the machine's indecisive civilian operators, who, as Maj. Gen. Benjamin Gantz, commander of the IDF Army Headquarters put it, took a promising "bullet train" battle plan and turned it into "an urban bus with several stops."



Thanks to the perceived weakness, Israel can no longer be expected to take reckless so-called "risks for peace". Israel can no longer be expected to risk handing over the control of territory to terror groups promising to be on good behavior. Israel can no longer be expected to risk ignoring the build-up of illegal weapons within its security envelope; an envelope that still includes the Gaza Strip, as well as the West Bank.



Israel can no longer be expected to risk relying on inevitably ineffective third parties to supervise border points on its security envelope. By the same token, Israel can no longer be expected to take the huge risk of withdrawing from the Golan Heights in a "land for piece of paper" swap.



Israel's perceived weakness can also be used to justify changes in its policy towards Arab human shields, what with the potentially devastating consequences if Israel, in the course of respecting human shields, were to be perceived again as weak.



Israel's perceived weakness can also be tapped to justify a freeze on action against the outposts. The post-war IDF arguably simply cannot afford to divert or compromise the vital resources it needs to defend the state just to rip Jews out of their homes.



Yes, it is hardly pleasant to hear out enemies call us weak, but that doesn't mean we cannot exploit it to our advantage.



The Jewish State will be more able to rapidly restore its perceived image in the neighborhood, though, the more it is possible to personalize Israel's failures in the recent Lebanon war. That's because if the bulk of Israel's failure can be attributed to failed leaders (along with logistics, training and other IDF issues that can be remedied within a tight schedule), rather than to matters that can require even years to resolve, then dumping those leaders may be viewed as going a long way towards solving the problems.



Thanks to Israel's system of parliamentary democracy, failed leaders can be replaced without time-consuming elections if 61 members of Knesset are willing to support the move.



And there isn't time. No time for elections. No time for investigatory commissions. No time to lose. Regional developments before the Lebanon war were already heating up the neighborhood, and the post-war situation only brings us that much closer to a dangerous boiling point.



Take a look at the composition of the Knesset and the numbers speak for themselves. Unless Kadima splinters, it would be literally impossible to come up with the 61 votes required for a regime change.



It could be worse. If Kadima were a real party, composed of MKs sharing a common view and fettered by long ties to a Kadima "movement," then splintering the party might be a Herculean task. But the Kadima party is, instead, for all intents and purposes, a "flag of convenience" for a group of politicians who joined together, with the help of media advisors, in order to promote their individual careers.



Put bluntly: one may be disgusted that there are politicians who vie for the title of "world's oldest profession" - but at this critical time, it is fortunate that a price tag might be put on their loyalty.



Kadima MK Ruhama Avraham may have resigned herself to being "only" chairperson of the Knesset House Committee, but does anyone doubt what she would be willing to do in order to become a deputy minister again? Yes, there would be a cost to pay in order to provide sufficient "incentive" for at least a third of Kadima to split off to join in a new ruling coalition, but it would be dwarfed by the potential damage of continuing under the current regime.



Critics would certainly jeer at Binyamin Netanyahu for the "pay-offs", but the Israeli public is mature enough to understand that, under the circumstances, it was the only viable option. And if it is any consolation, the greater the "pay-off" required by the Kadima splinter to do the right thing, the more the split-off faction will be detested come election day.



A coalition just scraping by with 61 votes? No. The seven MKs in the Pensioners party, despite their personal orientations, are fully aware that their survival beyond their fluke election victory depends on their being in the ruling coalition - regardless of who heads it.



But can parties with social welfare agendas stomach being with Netanyahu, given his recent history of slashing the social-welfare budget? Paradoxically, Binyamin Netanyahu has the best shot at minimizing the war's damage to the social welfare budget today. Netanyahu's hard-won credibility in world financial markets would make it possible for him to take steps that the Olmert team could not get away with.



Yes, a "quick and dirty" regime change would be dirty. But when the stopwatch is ticking, there simply isn't time for elegant five-year plans. Israel's need for a quick regime change simply outweighs the costs.