Three well-known columnists, who apparently met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, wrote flattering things about him. That he is "calm," "sober," "single-minded," "focused." That he is doing an "awe-inspiring job" of directing the war against Hezbollah. And when will Israel agree to a cease-fire? "The moment we decide that the army has created the proper infrastructure for an agreement."
The question that was not asked was whether the chief of staff had mentioned to him, before the operation began, that a million and a half citizens from Metula to Haifa might spend weeks under a barrage of missiles.
Did the chief of staff tell him that Israel's civilian population would be bombarded by hundreds of rockets every day, and that the threat might extend south of Haifa, reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Dimona? Did the chief of staff say anything about a third of the population of northern Israel being turned into refugees or living in bomb shelters? And even more importantly, did anyone determine ahead of time what the goals or the parameters of victory would be in this war, which most Israelis perceive as a no-choice war that we cannot afford to lose?
But with all the praise that Olmert and the Israel Defense Forces' top brass began to heap on the home front, suspicions began to creep in that maybe the army was not doing its job quite as well as expected.
David Ben-Gurion had an idee fixe that a people who had experienced the Holocaust should not have to suffer indiscriminate bombing from the air. That was the mindset that produced the nuclear plant in Dimona, as well as the strategic approach that wars must move as quickly as possible to enemy territory. Ben-Gurion refused to join the Anglo-French invasion of Nasser's Egypt during the Sinai Campaign (1956) until France provided Israel with an aerial umbrella.
Until 1967, the State of Israel fought against neighbors who refused to recognize its existence. Since then, all the Islamic countries (with the exception of Iran) have stopped talking about the destruction of Israel. We have peace treaties with some of them, and some of the more sane ones even appreciate having us around.
The current war is being waged by fanatic Islamic organizations - President George Bush's axis of evil - whose declared aim is to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. They are fighting us in the name of Allah, attacking civilian targets in Israel and Jewish targets overseas. In the same way that we have no answer to long-range ballistic missiles, we have no answer to the ideology that promotes Israel's destruction.
The trouble is that we are fighting with yesterday's weapons. Israel should have switched over long ago to another form of deterrence and retaliation. When Hezbollah kidnapped two soldiers on our border, using rocket fire as a diversion, Israel should have responded with a very powerful pinpointed strike. Instead, the chief of staff recommended a war best described as half tea, half coffee - bombing and besieging Lebanon in the hope that the world would intervene and create a demilitarized zone between us and Hezbollah. So far, the air raids and massive destruction that were meant to restore our power of deterrence have only done the opposite. No minister in the security cabinet, apart from Shimon Peres, has asked what Israel is planning to do in the last stage of the game.
A recent scenario has Israel agreeing to a cease-fire and a multinational force deployed between the Litani River and the international border. But Israel cannot go about its business and ignore the intolerable ease with which Hezbollah lobs missiles at innocent civilians - something that no Arab country at war with Israel has ever dared to do in all the years of its existence. It is unthinkable to walk away from the battlefield with the depressing sense that out of all the wars Israel has ever fought, only Hezbollah, a mere band of terrorists, was able to bombard the Israeli home front with thousands of missiles and get off scot-free.
Before any international agreement, Israel must sound the last chord, launching a massive air and ground offensive that will end this mortifying war, not with a whimper but with a thunderous roar.
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