1,216 dead - who bears the guilt?

We won't forget the futile war, 30 years ago, which claimed 1,216 victims in vain. Every Jewish mother should know, as should every father, who bears the guilt for their deaths.

By Yossi Sarid
Published 04:57 08.06.12

And this is what I promised the attorney general: My home contains no classified documents; I emerged naked from 33 years of participation in every security forum. But my head is full of memories, for which you can't indict me, or maybe you can. "The dead, did they have time to lick their wounds? Do they remember who killed them?" (Wislawa Szymborska ). It's not the dead who will remember, it's the living who remember on their behalf. We won't forget the futile war, 30 years ago, which claimed 1,216 victims in vain. Every Jewish mother should know, as should every father, who bears the guilt for their deaths.

The guilt is borne by then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin. From the start he wasn't suited for his job because of his weak connection with reality. All his life he was borne between waves of mania and depression, until he drowned. It would have been better for him and for us had he been chosen president, whose every strange and unrealistic statement is considered a vision. "A war of choice" is how he described the Lebanon war, only the dead were left with no choice. "One can feel the fresh mountain air here. Divine," he said to his defense minister when he landed with his helicopter on the blood, at the Beaufort fortress, another unnecessary battle in a fruitless war. That's what he had to say, before he turned to the astonished fighters and asked: "Did they have machine guns?"

And the guilt is borne by then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. He was the one who plotted the war for an entire year, and constructed it on foundations of deception. After all, from the start it was not meant to cover 40 kilometers and last 48 hours, but that's what they sold the people and their representatives. From an early age Sharon revealed a basic opposition to telling the truth, and he turned deception into a way of life; he went far. Since he fell asleep, Israel is awakening to a different reality, which shortens the distance between Jerusalem and The Hague.

And the guilt is borne by then-Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, the little Arik who forgot to shut the door on his lies. Once, during the days of fighting, Mordechai Gur gave me a ride, and I spoke to him about the possibility that Raful tended to be imprecise. And Motta said: "When I was chief of staff and he was the head of the Northern Command I gave a standing order: It is forbidden to open fire based on the reports of the general alone. You must receive verification from an additional source."

There was a difference between Sharon and Eitan. Arik was sophisticated, you wouldn't catch him red-handed. This is the man who was born with transcripts in his hand, everything was always documented: "I didn't report to you in time? Aren't you ashamed? It's a good thing we write down every word."

Raful, on the other hand, was infantile; the lies were smeared all over his face like ice cream on the face of a child. Rather than relying on documents, he relied on his weather-beaten, farmer/soldier image, which naturally aroused confidence. The two of them together, the raven and the starling, deceived an entire country, which was so eager to follow them blindly.

And the guilt is also borne by President Shimon Peres, who was the head of the opposition at the time and betrayed his duty. He and his friends - "our friends" - knew many days in advance where things were headed, all the way to the heart of Beirut, and were firmly opposed. But they soon joined Sharon like sheep, because they have never been prepared to march against the flow of traffic; they're afraid of being run over. And so everyone who was a partner to Sharon's guilt in Samaria was also a partner to the guilt in Lebanon.

That's how they begin a war here and give it a fictitious name, that's how they conduct it, that's how heroes who have been abandoned fall helplessly in battle; it's "divinely" frightening. When the poisonous smoke dissipates, after the next war of choice, those who incited it will emerge from their atomic bomb shelter and say, after songwriter Naomi Shemer: "Ah, how refreshing, mountain air as clear as wine"; and nobody will say, after Begin: "I can't take it any more."