For now, the weekend papers are taking the place of a commission of inquiry. The frustration and anger expressed by both reservists and regular soldiers who took part in the fighting may never be heard by any official investigative body, but they will echo throughout Israeli homes for many months to come.
The impressions from the battlefield - the confused decision making, the helpless feelings of the untrained and improperly equipped soldiers, the contradictory and constantly changing orders, the lack of coordination and the lack of understanding of the missions and goals - have all caused a loss of confidence in the command ranks and the leadership. Too many fighters have said that if they are called up to fight again, they may not go.
There are many ways to express no-confidence, and this threat by reservists is perhaps the most severe of all. Lack of confidence in the chief of staff cannot be concealed via supportive advertisements organized by his comrades-in-arms. Dan Halutz may be an excellent friend and an outstanding warrior, but his claim that he is "more ethical than many others" does not meet the test of taking responsibility. "A victory on points, not a knockout," as Halutz summed up the war, is not good enough for a small, threatened country such as Israel.
Either we should not have embarked on this war at all, and we should settle accounts with the prime and defense minister over this point, or we should have won it in a way that would deter our neighbors from another round. A war to restore our deterrent power that ends with the feeling that there will soon be another round is a clear failure.
The chief of staff is responsible for the public's lack of confidence in the Israel Defense Forces' ability to win, and he will be responsible for reservists who fail to show up in the future. He is responsible even if other people, both above and below him, are also responsible. The politicians will be judged in the Knesset and in the next elections, and perhaps also by a commission of inquiry, and the day is presumably not far off when Kadima will fade away as if it had activated a self-destruct mechanism on July 12. But all the things that may yet happen must begin with the resignation of the chief of staff, so that it will be clear that change is imminent.
The chief of staff is responsible, according to the definition of his job, for all the failures that emerged in the IDF's operational deployment, training and equipment. Targeted assassinations of Hezbollah's leadership now will not change this impression, and it seems that that idea is meant to serve the army's and the government's public relations. The gap between the exhibitionist appearances of the IDF spokeswoman in the early days of the war, accompanied by senior officers who preached to the enemy in front of the cameras instead of fighting him successfully, and the flight of spokespeople from the screen as the rain of missiles on Israel intensified, teaches that failure is an orphan, and those responsible are now entrenching themselves in a sense of injury - as if the very demand that they take responsibility were an effrontery. Taking responsibility, it seems, requires no less courage than fighting a war.
Israel's culture of government does not encourage resignations or ousters after failures. And the results are clearly visible. The prime minister is already promising to set up a mechanism for learning lessons; the defense minister is appointing an inquiry committee devoid of any authority; and the government is establishing a committee to deal with the home front. Those who should be investigated are dressing up as investigators. Between this and what ought to be happening lies a yawning abyss.
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