Caught with its pants down
The first thought that came to mind when I heard the Reshet Bet radio announcer say that the chief of staff had headed for his underground war room, a.k.a "the pit," after the kidnapping of two soldiers by Hezbollah, was that he had gone there to hide in shame.
The first thought that came to mind when I heard the Reshet Bet radio announcer say that the chief of staff had headed for his underground war room, a.k.a "the pit," after the kidnapping of two soldiers by Hezbollah, was that he had gone there to hide in shame. Two embarrassing military bungles in less than a month, dictating a prisoner-release deal from the outset, is simply intolerable.
Our illustrious army, one of the most advanced in the world, with its nuclear option, its fighter planes that can fly to Tehran and back, its unmanned aerial vehicles and drones and guided missiles, has been caught twice with its pants down, in scenarios that had been foreseen. Major General Giora Eiland offered a blow-by-blow description of how we fell into a Hamas trap at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Despite the lessons of the past, despite updated alerts, despite being "prepared" for tunnels being dug by terrorists and possible kidnappings, the alarm was not sounded in time.
Before we had even digested the first bungle, Hezbollah, employing a brilliant but known diversionary tactic, killed eight Israel Defense Forces soldiers and kidnapped two others. For their release, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah brags that Israel will have to free thousands of Palestinian prisoners. With three abducted soldiers in the hands of these two brother organizations, which operate under Iran's aegis, he has touched a raw nerve. For where in Israel will you find journalists or politicians who will dare to say that we must not give in to blackmail, because doing so will only lead to more kidnappings and more blackmail?
Moshe Arens used to say that you don't need military intelligence to find out things the enemy has let you know in advance. Nasrallah has said over and over again that Hezbollah was planning to seize hostages. Our generals knew that abductions posed the greatest threat to Israel, because of the myth, still clung to by the IDF, that casualties are never abandoned on the battlefield, not to mention the army's inability to stand up to parental pressure to free their dear ones, no matter what the cost.
Israel has always given more - far more - than it has received. Israel's top brass knew that kidnappings were a grave threat, but they were not on the ball when it came to averting the kidnappings in the north. Not long ago, Yedioth Ahronoth published a photo of a soldier sleeping peacefully beside his armored personnel carrier. The caption could have been: "Come get me."
Could the kidnapping have been prevented? Yes, says ex-general Yossi Peled. When Hezbollah is sitting three feet away from the fence, anything can happen. But it shouldn't have. Routine turned into nonchalance. Nasrallah prepared the infrastructure long ago, and now he can say he kept his promise.
The enemy of armies anywhere is routine. On the Lebanon border, as at Kerem Shalom, no procedures should have been allowed to become routine or part of the daily grind. It is unthinkable that an army as big and smart as the IDF should wake up one day and find that the terrorists have beaten it in the creativity department. God is in the details, not in bombastic statements. We cannot accept the mantra that it was impossible to prevent what happened.
Amnon Lipkin-Shahak talks about Iran's involvement in creating a Hamas-Hezbollah front. MKs Ruby Rivlin and Aryeh Eldad are not the only ones against convergence and dialogue. Fundamentalist Islam as a whole has been very clear and outspoken about not wanting Israel around. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly declared that Israel must be wiped off the map.
With eight soldiers dead, three hostages and an arrogant demand to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners, an attempt is being made to hurt Israel's ego and drag it into the trap of a ground attack on Lebanon. Despite the prime minister's militant yet carefully worded statements yesterday, Israel must act from both the brain and the gut.
From the gut, because Hezbollah's despicable ambush deserves a ruthless response - even taking out Nasrallah, a very charismatic man, but also a bastard, who is highly unlikely to have a clone waiting in the wings. And from the brain, to remind Lebanon that Israel pulled back to the very last inch of the internationally sanctioned border in coordination with the UN. The attacks on Lebanon's infrastructure are a way of forcing the government to mass its troops on that border. A country that can kick out Syria can also kick out Hezbollah.
As for the chief of staff, when he comes out of that war room, the first thing he should do is go to the synagogue and thank God that he doesn't have Winston Churchill the general-slayer for his prime minister.