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What does Ehud Olmert mean when he says the state does not have the luxury of wallowing in internal investigations and reciprocal recrimination? What does Amir Peretz mean when he stresses that the internal examination committee he was so quick to appoint will not search for failures but instead study the army to prevent problems in the future? What does Dan Halutz mean when he declares that the entire Israel Defense Forces should undergo review but that for now it must focus on preparing for the next round, which is imminent? All three mean the same thing. They mean to prevent the creation of a government commission of inquiry with muscles to probe and sharp teeth to sink into those responsible for the calamity that befell the country during the dog days of July and August, but they hide their motives behind beautiful explanations.

This troika does not even realize it has lost all credibility, as well as its ability to rule the country and command the army. Above all, it has lost its moral authority to send soldiers into the next war. The prime minister and the defense minister, who decided to launch this disastrous war after only a few hours' consultation, the chief of staff who failed to prepare the army for the task and presented an unrealistic outline of its outcome - all three are unfit to remain in their jobs. The basic principle of reward and punishment mandates their immediate resignation. Their aspiration to remain in their jobs reflects a rare degree of arrogance: By what skills and achievements proved in the past month is the public supposed to continue to place its fate in their hands?

Were Olmert, Peretz and Halutz to wake up tomorrow morning and announce they were leaving public life, there would be a point to avoiding the labor involved in a state commission of inquiry, with all its legalistic fuss and bother, and to make do with external IDF examinations and emergency civil forums. But all three men are holding onto their jobs - and for extraneous motives. It is not the good of the state that stands before them, but rather the impulse to save their honor. They seek to go down in history not as failures on a scale not seen since the 1973 war, but rather as leaders who had a mishap. They are hoping to make up for their resounding disaster with future acts and decisions. And that is the main danger.

Olmert, Peretz and Halutz have already proved their judgment cannot be trusted. They have repeatedly made decisions whose motives are not pure and which cost the lives of soldiers and civilians. If the initial decision to go into battle stemmed from inexperience and an inability to look one step ahead, the decisions taken later, especially toward the end of the war, demonstrated that all three were driven by ulterior motives. Take for example the decision to send certain commando units deep into Lebanon, the main achievement of which was the (relatively) safe return of their soldiers, or the tragic decision to send reserve divisions beyond the Litani River during the final two days of battle. Operational reasons were given to justify these moves, but behind them was the desire to fashion an "image of victory" out of the fog of battle. A similar suspicion shadows yesterday's commando operation in Baalbek. How does this operation fit with Israel's agreement to a cease-fire?

Military authority and political leadership are not acquired through orders and protocols alone; they also require moral authority and personal credibility. The Olmert and Peretz of August 20 are not the Olmert and Peretz of the day the government was sworn in, and the Halutz of today is not the Halutz of his first day as chief of staff. They have been exposed in all their nakedness in the cruel test of a war in which all is laid bare, particularly in an age in which it is broadcast live. They will not be able to send the country and the army into the next war, which according to them is bearing down on us, because they have lost their authority to do so. For their own benefit and for the good of the country, the sooner they step down, the better.