Chagrin has descended upon Capitol Hill. A Democratic congressman from Texas, Silvestro Reyes, was appointed head of the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees all the secret services in the United States. Following his appointment, the congressman was interviewed by Jeff Stein, a well-known Washington columnist. Stein asked him whether Al-Qaida is a Sunni or Shi'te organization, Reyes stuttered that it was probably Shi'ite. On a roll, the interviewer asked him another question. What is Hezbollah? Reyes pulled up an answer from the depths of his shallow thoughts, "Hezbollah," he groaned, "Why do you ask me these questions at five o'clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?" And the Hill blushed in shame.
A not-inconsequential number of high-browed Israelis are shaking their heads at the Americans: Look who they appoint to key positions. But those Israelis shouldn't mock. Here, too, ignoramuses like Reyes reign.
When the first Lebanon War started and quickly became complex and interminable, I had an opportunity to exchange some words with the deputy prime minister at the time, Simcha Erlich. "What did you see in this tragic foolishness," I asked him privately. "Yossi, believe me, nobody told us there were so many Shi'ites in Lebanon. They talked to us all the time about Christians and more Christians." And nobody asked?
Many muddy years went by in the Lebanese quagmire, and the Four Mothers came to solicit my support for the withdrawal from Lebanon. They insisted on telling me a story. "You've got to hear this," they begged. "A few days ago we went to see Raful [former IDF chief of staff and minister Rafael Eitan]. "Suddenly, in the middle of the meeting, we realized Raful thought that Hezbollah was a Palestinian organization. Would you believe it?" I would.
In the first days of the second Yitzhak Rabin administration, the government decided to deport Hamas members to Lebanon. "How many deportees?" I asked. "Maybe 20," they told me. On that same evening it turned out they were deporting 400. And they didn't ask?
Enter Benjamin Netanyahu's government, in which the prime minister together with the Mossad resolved to assassinate Khaled Meshal. The fiasco is well remembered, and its outcome equally hard to forget. The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee set up a committee of inquiry. They chewed on the matter for months, and as it turns out, no one had bothered to ask whether it was right to carry out the assassination in Jordan, causing a friendly king dangerous distress. No one stood up and no one asked one little question?
Then came the second Lebanon war, five months ago, and by now it is clear that it was not at all clear what was being decided: To embark on an operation or embark on a war? No one really asked.
And now that there's talk of returning to the Gaza Strip for the thousandth time in hopes of wiping out the Qassams, the question is: What will another military operation accomplish that all the previous ones did not? They only made the situation worse in Sderot and its surrounding communities. That is the question now.
That is what is happening, what must happen, when you put the full pot on the fire before you know what is cooking. And how will it not get burned? These are your leaders, Israel, that send your soldiers into battle, soldiers at the battlefront like civilians on the home front.
Not only is there no one to give answers, there is no one to ask questions ---questions of life and death.
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