Convene an emergency government now
The government led the country into a critical strategic maneuver without being aware of its consequences or foreseeing its outcome. When the war is over, the prime minister will be called to account for his actions. He has proven himself a lightweight and an irresponsible statesman, unworthy of high public office.
Criticism of the government is mounting, and for good reason. The government entered Lebanon War II in a hasty and reckless manner. The goals of the war were not properly defined, the hidden risks were not sufficiently clarified and the implications were not fully analyzed. The government led the country into a critical strategic maneuver without being aware of its consequences or foreseeing its outcome. When the war is over, the prime minister will be called to account for his actions. He has proven himself a lightweight and an irresponsible statesman, unworthy of high public office.
Criticism of the army is also mounting, and for good reason. The Israel Defense Forces have chalked up failures in the air, on the ground and at sea. The army did not have vital intelligence, and was not even aware of this. It did not have a forceful response to Hezbollah's rockets, and was not even aware of this. The army dragged the politicians into a decisive war without having the means to win it. When the fighting is over, the high command will be called to account for its actions.
The arrogant conduct of the chief of staff, Dan Halutz, was inexcusable. He has failed in his job as executive director of Israel's security. When the war is over, Halutz will be forced to do something he hates: roll up his sleeves, bury his nose in the details and rebuild the army. This time, without the spin.
Criticism of the Israeli establishment is justified, too. The nation is strong, but its leaders are weak. While the public has shown resolve and stamina, the elites have shown substantive and moral weakness. Has Aliza Olmert gone to live in a shelter in Kiryat Shmona? Has Shlomo Nechama personally supervised Bank Hapoalim's easing of credit restrictions on victims of the Katyusha attacks in the north? The insensitivity of the government in failing to approve adequate compensation for the residents of Tiberias and Haifa is just the tip of the iceberg of a phenomenon that goes much deeper.
Life in the center of the country is detached from the lives of the soldiers fighting in Bint Jbail and the lives of the civilians under attack on the Carmel. Tel Aviv can go on partying in wartime, but it must not cut itself off from the war and its victims. The Israeli establishment has not yet found a way to cope with this duality. No leadership - political, ideological or civilian - has been found to unify and bring people together, to impart a sense of meaning when the country is being put to the test.
So yes, all these various criticisms are justified. To a certain extent, criticism of Israel's use of force against Lebanese civilians is also justified. But make no mistake: This may not be a smart war, but it is a just war - arguably more so than any other war in Israeli history. And it is a war that must be won, despite the mishaps and failures.
Hence, whatever questions may arise with respect to the political echelon or the military echelon or the civilian leadership, they must not be allowed to overshadow the emphatic justness of Israel's cause. This time it is not a war over land, but a war for survival. It is not a war over settlements, but over Israel's theaters, pubs and restaurants. It is not an offensive war launched by Jewish fanatics but a defensive war against Muslim fundamentalists.
For that reason, not only Israel's existence as a Jewish state lies on the scales, but its future as a democratic country. And as a democracy, Israel must prove that it is capable of defending its liberty, its values and its way of life.
A year ago, Ehud Olmert said that he was tired of wars. Therefore it is not surprising that he has no idea how to win one. But in this difficult hour, we cannot replace him. What we can do is strengthen him. Only the immediate convening of a special emergency cabinet that includes Ehud Barak, Moshe Ya'alon, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yossi Beilin can give Olmert the boost he needs to infuse the nation and the army with new fighting spirit and create a strategic turnabout.
Israel in the summer of 2006 faces a state of emergency no less grave than the state of emergency in the summer of 1967. An emergency government is the need of the hour.