Israel’s Real Danger
The Israeli general who conducted the Lebanon war most directly, the OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen Udi Adam, was the first official Israel to stop passing the buck for the costly mismanagement of the Lebanon War. His resignation announced Wednesday, Sept. 13, was accepted by the chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz. The media learned of this step before the government, a symptom of the poor relations between the high command and Ehud Olmert’s cabinet.
The prime minister stands by his refusal to establish an independent commission with the judicial authority to fix responsibility for an admitted Israeli defeat on both the military and the home fronts. Maybe he is right; the politicians and military leaders still hope to get away with the blunders of the Lebanon war, although their responsibility is in plain sight and the subject of discourse in every part of the country, except where it counts. Rather than owning up to gross misgovernment and negligence, those same political and military leaders are playing the blame game, while at the same time laying down a smokescreen to protect themselves from public rancor.
For instance, the defense minister keeps on protesting that he has started putting things right in the armed forces. It is generally acknowledged – even by his government colleagues – that this claim is claptrap because neither he nor Gen. Halutz is qualified for the highly professional task of overhauling the army.
Similarly, the true post-war situation in South Lebanon is kept dark so as not to slow down the IDF’s final pullout next week.
Another unmentionable is the major breach over the war between the Olmert government and the Bush administration which is camouflaged by the need for “diplomatic progress on the Palestinian track.”
The 2007 state budget, approved by a cabinet majority Tuesday night, Sept. 12, after a contentious marathon, left unfulfilled all the election promises of the four government factions, Kadimah, Labor, Shas and the Pensioners, to alleviate the deepening poverty of the constantly expanding deprived classes (1 out of 5 Israelis are poverty-stricken), the tens of thousands of hungry children, the elderly and the handicapped and put on its feet the failed education system. The pretext which satisfied the ministers, but no one else, was the need to earmark budgets to cover war costs.
In the same breath, the true situation inside the armed forces was covered up by braggadocio: Defense minister Peretz declared in ringing tones to the ministers debating the budget: “Let our enemies make no mistake: The IDF is fully prepared for all eventualities and every threat!”
A few hours later, he was caught napping by the resignation of the commander of the most dangerous front, the North.
The most obvious next step for any responsible prime minister, defense minister or chief of staff would be to announce General Adam’s replacement so as not to leave this front unprotected for a moment against “our enemies.”
Except that the members of this trio are not on speaking terms and therefore not up to agreeing on the right officer for the job.
They are therefore hardly up to the overriding task facing the Israeli government most urgently, which is to rush the country and the army into preparedness for a war against Iran. The Islamic Republic may well decide that the Jewish state’s extreme political and military weakness is a good moment to strike.
The Hizballah threat will then look like child’s play.
Deputy prime minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that, in the next war, central Israel, the heartland where most of the population is densely concentrated, would be in danger of Iranian ballistic missile attack, which Israel would be unable to withstand. So what are Ehud Olmert, his ministers and army chiefs doing about correcting this vulnerability? Or, for that matter, bolstering northern Israel against a fresh Hizballah rocket offensive and correcting the government’s extreme negligence of this distressed population?
On Sept. 11, two al Qaeda leaders used a highly significant date in the annals of Islamist terror to state clearly that Israel is marked out for attack and “very soon there would be good news with regard to the Jews.” Is Tel Aviv or any other Israeli city ready for a 9/11- scale attack? Who will care for the survivors and their recovery? Another toothless inquiry panel?
The Adam resignation occurred two months too late. It should have happened in mid-July when the Northern Command and senior division commanders were clearly seen to have misread the Lebanon war map and misapplied the troops under their command for the mission of vanquishing the enemy.
Early on, debkafile‘s military experts noted the lapses on the Lebanese battlefield and on July 26 called on the chief of staff to learn from other war chiefs in similar circumstances and post experienced officers as advisers inside Northern Command. We also reported that the name mentioned for this position at a General Staff meeting that night was Res. Maj-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi. As head of Northern Command for many years, he was familiar with the Hizballah and had firsthand knowledge of its tactics.
Adam’s belated resignation exposes his superiors in the chain of command – the chief of staff, the defense minister and ultimately, the prime minister – to intensified pressure to step down and assume responsibility for the mismanagement of the Lebanon War. The manner of their going and who should be blamed for what are less urgent for Israel now than the fact that its enemies, Iran and al Qaeda, are no doubt keeping a close watch on the infighting among these decision-makers in order to fix on the right moment for their move.