Israel's Worst Blunders Since '67 - and the Arabs'

Given the cultural gulf between Israel and the English-speaking world, it could just be that the entire Hebrew language is, in fact, untranslatable.

Certain words, in any event, defy transmission into English. One of them is mech'dal, a blunder of colossal dimension, a historic mistake that is, no less, a betrayal, a breach of sacred trust.

All Israelis have their personal list of mech'dalim perpetuated by their government, their military, and others in positions of authority affected them and, frequently, embittering their very lives. Here is one:

October, 1973: Government fails to heed warnings of war.

Result: Israel unprepared for Yom Kippur War, in which more than 2,600 IDF soldiers were killed. The widespread feeling that the government had forsaken its duties spurred widespread alienation on the left, and fueled the messianism of the settlement movement.

Prime suspects: Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Prime Minister Golda Meir.

November, 1995: Yitzhak Rabin assassinated

Result: Peace process with Palestinians enters ultimately mortal downward spiral. Polarization between religious right and secular left builds dramatically.

Prime suspects in failure to anticipate and prevent assassination: Shin Bet security service, then headed by Carmi Gillon, and undercover agent Avishai Raviv of the Shin Bet department monitoring Jewish extremism.

June, 1982 and after: Conduct of the First Lebanon War

Result: Broad dissension on Israeli home front, exacerbated by continuing casualties during 18-year occupation. Sabra and Shatilla killings by Israel's allies caused worldwide condemnation of Israel.

Prime suspect: Ariel Sharon.

July, 2006: Conduct of the Second Lebanon War

Result: Loss of Israeli deterrent capability, possibly far-reaching implications for Western attempts to curb terrorism and armed Islamist groups. Loss of faith on the part of civilians under Hezbollah rocket attack, and on the part of soldiers sent to war without clear orders, or proper equipment, arms and food and water.

Prime suspects: Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz, Dan Halutz.

May, 2000 & August, 2005: Withdrawal without negotiations

Result: Loss of deterrent capability, boosting image of Hezbollah and Hamas as victors over Israel. Effectively, a slap to moderate Arab leaders who favor negotiations. In the case of Lebanon, pullout was slap to Israel's militia allies. In the case of Gaza, pullout caused sharp polarization within the IDF and the wider society. Subsequent attacks by armed Palestinians and Hezbollah ended efforts for further withdrawals.

Prime suspects: Ehud Barak, Sharon.

September, 2000: Allowing Sharon to visit the Temple Mount

Result: A Palestinian uprising which saw thousands of deaths, including that of the peace process.

Prime Suspect: Ehud Barak.

April-May, 1968: Gov't allows Jews to settle near Hebron

Result: Settler movement establishes principle that settlers, and not the government, will set the agenda for new settlement - regardless of the consequences of the choice of location - and that actions which may violate the law will be rewarded in the end with legalization and ex post facto authorization.

In the end, the settlement map was constructed, in part, to stymie efforts to cede land in peace agreements.

Prime Suspects: Labor governments of the late 1960s and early and mid-1970s, with Sharon later spearheading expansion.

1996 - present: Israeli leaders' displays of disrespect for Palestinian counterparts

Result: Often gratuitous mishandling of peace negotiations, encouraging mutual violations of signed agreements.

II. Sample of top blunders of the Palestinians:

1. They believed the world.

The world has always acted as though it supports the Palestinians, and wants to aid them to succeed.

In reality, the world has done precious little to aid them.

2. They believed the Muslim world

See 1 above.

3. They believed Arafat

He lied to them, allowing them to believe, among other peace process planks, that the right of return was attainable. He also led them to believe that they, and not his Fatah colleagues, would be the primary economic beneficiaries of peace.

4. They believed Nasrallah

He promised, shortly before the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa intifada, that Israel, when attacked, would collapse like a spider's web.

5. They believed that suicide bombings and Qassam attacks would aid the Palestinian cause.


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