The cries of distress from the top official reminded me of Friedrich Nietzsche's observation: "The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it." The voice of this man who acquired for himself a reputation in the political and diplomatic community as an unflappable analyst revealed profound worry.
"You've no doubt noticed the many reports about the large number of missiles in the hands of Hezbollah, their long range and the preparations by the Home Front Command for a missile attack on population centers," he said. "Take these reports, put them together with the jumpiness at the top levels of Hezbollah and the regime in Damascus in the wake of the filing of the indictments against suspects in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and add to this the forecast by outgoing Mossad chief Meir Dagan that the Iranian bomb isn't at the gates."
Now that the Iranian genie has been squeezed back into the bottle, the senior official continued, noting that in any case the Obama administration has not given its blessing to an Israeli attack in Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be left with the Palestinian nightmare that is teaching Israel a diplomatic lesson, and with U.S. President Barack Obama, who is continuing to pester him with this nonsense called "a permanent status agreement."
And the greatest threat of all: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and opposition leader Kadima MK Tzipi Livni are working to push him into the battlefield where war is being waged between the religious and the secular.
If something huge and terrible doesn't happen in some other area, in the next elections the Likud will be depicted as the poodle of Shas and United Torah Judaism.
The other arena Netanyahu and his aide Defense Minister Ehud Barak are eyeing, continued the senior official, is the Lebanese arena. In a few days they will have a battle-hungry chief of staff after their own hearts. Incoming Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Yoav Galant proved in Operation Cast Lead that he is a real man's man no less than Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz was as Chief of Staff during the days of the second intifada - before he repurposed himself from the General Staff camp to the peace camp.
The risk that an attack on Lebanon will elicit a missile attack on Israel does not deter real men like them, who would have shown the Iranians who the boss is here were it not for the Americans. (And indeed, a senior person in the defense establishment who knows Galant well agrees he is a warhorse chomping at the bit and defines this troika as "a fatal match." )
The senior official concluded the conversation with a prediction that this time an attack on Hezbollah will not end without a war with Syria. The way Damascus has been behaving since the start of the investigation of the assassination and up until the dissolution of the Lebanese government on the eve of the filing of the indictments shows the close connections between the Alawite minority regime and Shi'ite organization.
Both of them are clients of Iran, which will not hesitate to fight Israel to the bloody end. As the north burns, and with it neighborhoods in the heart of Tel Aviv, the inhabitants of Sderot will also become accustomed again to the Color Red incoming missile siren.
The conversation was held just a few hours before Barak imposed a harsh diet on himself and informed the nation he had shed eight of the 13 Knesset seats the Labor Party managed to eke out in the last elections. The departure of the relatively moderate cabinet ministers Benjamin Ben Eliezer, Isaac Herzog and Avishay Braverman makes the irrationality with regard to the idea of an attack on Lebanon a more cardinal condition for its existence.
The government of 'no comment'
Of late the signs have been multiplying that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's message - whereby Israeli organizations that report human rights violations in the territories are 'terrorist collaborators" - is trickling down. This dangerous definition has even received an expanded interpretation and has been applied to media people, who are depicted as collaborators of the collaborators.
Government officials, military officers and spokespersons who in the past made a point of replying to questions concerning harm to Palestinian civilians and their property are often now making do with "no comment." There are those who have chosen to ignore the questions.
Here is a collection of examples from recent weeks.
A question to the spokesman of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories: One of the stretches of the road form Jerusalem to Tel Aviv (Route 1 ) crosses over the Green Line. Has this area been legally expropriated, and if so, when?
Answer: "No comment."
A question to the spokesman of the Civil Administration: According to up to date documentation by Peace Now's expert on settlements, Dror Etkes, there is currently illegal building of permanent structures underway using rapid construction methods, in at least 10 outposts and settlements; Palgai Mayim (Eli ), Nof Harim (Eli ), Bruchin, Haroeh, Tahelim, Shvut Tahel, Ofra, Adei Ad, Kida and Carmei Tzur. I would like to know what steps the administration is taking against the lawbreaking?
The answer: "The Civil Administration chooses not to comment."
A question to the prime minister's spokesman: The inhabitants of the village of A-Sawiya have recently received expropriation orders. The purpose is to build observation towers on their land in order to protect the settlement of Eli (where some of the houses, among them the home of the family of the late Maj. Eliraz Peretz, were built on the private lands of these inhabitants. Most of the houses there were built without permits ). How does this measure line up with the prime minister's commitment in his Bar-Ilan speech that Israel will not expropriate more lands belonging to Palestinians for the needs of the settlements?
The answer to several repetitions of the question: None.
Any high school student with an average understanding of civics knows the meaning of the public's right to know and understands it is the obligation of public servants to administer the state's affairs with transparency. Don't expect any parliamentary committees of investigation here.
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