Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Never Trust Israeli PMs Named "Ehud"

This is a bit late, due to more of the same sort of extenuating circumstances that I don't feel like detailing anymore, but over the weekend Israel's ruling Kaditha regime reversed course again:

The cabinet approved the UN cease-fire deal after a stormy debate Sunday, clearing a key hurdle to ending the monthlong Mideast war, the government said.

The 24-0 vote, with one abstention, came a day after the Lebanese government approved the agreement, and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave his grudging consent. The truce was to take effect on Monday morning, but the potential for new flareups remained high. ...

Addressing reporters after the vote, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the cease-fire deal approved would bring about a "change in the rules of the game" between Israel and Lebanon.

"The decision is good for Israel. I am not naive. I live in the Middle East and I know that not every decision in the Middle East is implemented and yet I still say it's good for Israel. It can lead to the real change in the Middle East that we have all been waiting for."

She noted that "The world now understands that Israel will not accept a terrorist organization on our border firing upon our citizens. We achieved most of our goals. If it's implemented, the change has been dramatic."

Ms. Livni is not naive, but follows that declaration with enough naivete to make Forrest Gump gag. I can't rightly call it wishful thinking because the term "thinking" doesn't belong within a country mile of this fantasizing. Israel has "achieved" nothing, because the entities on which it is now dependent for the goals it gave up the right to attain itself - the UN and the Lebanese government - have neither the power nor the inclination to deliver them.

Ms. Livni was right about one thing, though - the rules of the Middle East game have changed. Just in the diametric opposite direction from what she hopes. A fact brought home in quick succession by a number of adverse, but inevitable, developments, starting with "Sheik" Nasrallah showing just how "reluctant" his end of the "cease-fire" really is:

[Monday] was supposed to be the day when the much maligned army of Lebanon took control of its borders and policed the UN ceasefire.

Instead, its military commanders were left humiliated and its troops stranded as Hezbollah told them not to try to disarm its fighters.

The first infantry units were preparing to head south yesterday when Hezbollah demonstrated who exercised the real control by announcing that it had no intention of surrendering a single weapon. General Michel Sleiman, the commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Army, and his lieutenants had been invited to join in Cabinet meetings to finalise plans to deploy their 15,000-strong force in a buffer zone south of the Litani river. However, they ended up being lectured by Hezbollah’s two Cabinet ministers in the coalition Government on what the army could and could not do.

Today, that humiliation was formalized:

Hizbullah will not hand over its weapons to the Lebanese government but rather refrain from exhibiting them publicly, according to a new compromise that is reportedly brewing between Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Seniora and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Let's see; so far we've got Hezbollah not disarmed and the Lebanese army not deploying anywhere, much less south of the Litani River; and the "beefed-up" UNIFIL "peace-keeping" "force" is like a pro sports expansion team - unstaffed, unassembled, with no "team" more than lukewarm about contributing "players" to it. Just today UN Chief Thief Kofi Annan admitted that it could be "months" before the blue helmet brigade arrives in the Levant, which runs them the risk of missing so many additional wars that they might not know which "peace" they're supposed to keep. And that leaves aside the fact that the Keystone Cops would be a more fearsome fighting unit.

And those are the Israeli goals that the UN-imposed truce allegedly did grant. The agreement makes no mention of Iran and Syria, the senior and junior instigators of the Hezbo onslaught. As to the IDF soldiers that the Hezbos kidnapped a month ago - which, along with the Katyusha barrages, ignited this little war in the first place - they were left out of the deal, are still in captivity, and the Hezbo-dominated Lebanese government is, incredibly, indicating a "willingness to discuss" exchanging them for Lebanese (i.e. Hezbo) prisoners held by the Israelis - i.e. Hezbollah's original goal, which Israel went (sort of) to war rather than accept.

"Ah," you might be thinking (and therefore channeling Cap'n Ed), "but that just frees up the Israelis to resume the attack." But that, in turn, presumes that the Olmert regime would be eager and willing to do so; if that were so, his cabinet would never have agreed to the "cease-fire" in the first place. And now that that cease-fire is in place, any resumption of fighting will be blamed on Israel by definition:

"It will be a fragile truce," said a Western diplomat, referring to some early differing interpretations of the resolution by the two sides. *** Israeli officials said the Jewish state believed it would be entitled under the U.N. resolution to use force to prevent Hizbollah from rearming and to clear guerrilla positions out of southern Lebanon after the truce took effect.

Western diplomats and U.N. officials said they feared Israel's broad definition of "defensive" actions could lead to a resurgence in large-scale fighting and prevent the swift deployment of the U.N. troops, likely to be led by France. [emphasis added]

Far from being an "act of diplomatic jiu jitsu," Israel's calling off the dogs of war has put them in a box of their own making. By caring what the "international community" thinks, and deluding themselves into thinking that by so doing they could gain the world's favor, Ehud Olmert and his Kaditha-ites have effectively abdicated their national security decision-making authority to a world opinion that will always run heavily against the Jewish state. And by investing so much in this act of suicidally rank folly, the Israeli leadership will have an immense interest in spinning every Hezbo violation and every Turtle Bay reneging as being no big deal, not important, and nothing to be concerned about. Or as a "sacrifice for peace." Or, hell, even as another "victory."

Ironically, it will be the mirror reversal of Olmert's overselling of the meager results his underwhelming war leadership, which not even some members of the Knesset would swallow:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday he takes sole responsibility for the offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon. He said he would not apologize, and asserted that the month-long war undermined the guerrillas.

Several lawmakers were ejected from parliament for heckling Olmert during his address.
A pity for them that they missed this howler of a punchline:

"We will continue to pursue them everywhere and at all times," Olmert said of the guerrillas. "We have no intention of asking anyone's permission." [emphasis added]
Oh my dear Lord. Is it any wonder that Israelis on the Left and the Right alike are calling - loudly - for this man's ouster?

I don't think it at all unfair to say that as long as Ehud Olmert and his Clintonillian, Kerryesque "party" remain in office, Israel will remain in the state of prostration before its enemies into which he has forced them through his weakness, cowardice, and paralyzing indecision. And the past month has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's not capable of bluffing his way around it.

Ten years ago, after another such flailing failure against Hezbollah, another feckless appeaser-cum-faux warrior (Shimon Peres) was promptly ousted from the Israeli premiership by Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu. This part of recent history also needs desperately to repeat itself. Jed Babbin lays forth what must come next:

Israel's military is still capable of dealing with Hizballah itself. If Olmert were removed and competent leadership put in place, the first rocket attack from Lebanon would be answered with an air and ground campaign that would sweep through Lebanon north to the Syrian border in a manner that emulated Sherman's march through Georgia. Lebanon's civilian government would be freed - forcibly - from the grip of Syria and Hizballah. And Syrian forces, now reportedly gathering near the Golan Heights, would be destroyed without warning.

But what if Olmert remains, his government comprised of the weak Amir Peretz and the risible Livni, in control of Israel's future?

Then Israel will die. And the world will still not think better of her.

And we'll be next.