Israel Failed to Learn Lessons From Second Lebanon War

Our leader made many mistakes during the Second Lebanon War that not only stemmed from personal weaknesses, they stemmed from the Israeli leadership problem - its quality, values, conduct and the planning, administration and command institutions that serve it.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The great failure of the Second Lebanon War is the failure after the war. The 2006 war was waged poorly, and its results were grave. But the five years since were worse than the 33 days of the war itself. Even after the sirens wailed and the warning lights were lit, Israel wouldn't change. It avoided internalizing the deeper meaning of the war. It didn't have the courage to confront the deep systemic and moral failures the war had exposed.

Israel did not make conclusions, learn lessons or change its conduct. The war failed to wake Israel from its coma.

The Second Lebanon War exposed a failure of leadership. The leaders of the war made inconceivable mistakes. But they were not merely personal. They didn't stem only from the personal weaknesses of Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz. They stemmed from the Israeli leadership problem - its quality, values, conduct and the planning, administration and command institutions that serve it.

The leadership problem has not been addressed since the war. Olmert, Peretz and Halutz aren't there anymore, but the sickness is. A bitter personal disagreement on the personal responsibility of the leaders of this failed war prevented radical treatment of the overall leadership problem. There have been changes here and there - some for the better, some for the worse. But both the political system and the media, including yours truly, bear the responsibility for prioritizing personal over state matters.

The day after the war was a day of skirmishing and accusations, not a day of correction and amendment. The question of who leads us, where he leads us and how he leads us has been left open. Unanswered.

The Second Lebanon War exposed a grave military failure. The IDF operated as an unfocused, indecisive army, corrupted by internal politics. Immediately after the war, two major moves were made: Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi was crowned, and Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch was demoted. The message was loud and clear. The IDF after the war will be very combative, very soldierly, but without originality, honesty or a spark. And this is how it was.

Just like after the Yom Kippur War Motta Gur built a great army whose spirit was dim, Ashkenazi built a combative army whose spirit is bleak. The emergency stocks are full, the soldiers are training, but there's no spark, creativity or uncompromising values. This is why the army question also remains open. The improvements introduced into the army don't match the challenges facing Israel.

The Second Lebanon War exposed a political failure. The hardest feeling left of the war was that there's no state. There's no one to run the ghost cities in the north. There's no one to take care of the refugees from the north. There's no solidarity linking north, south and center. After the State of Israel became the Economy of Israel it was left bereft of a serious public sector, a responsible state system and without the feeling of a shared fate.

It suddenly turned out that the political-consumerist ethos we developed does not match the historical reality in which we live. When the day comes, our fabled market does not protect us and does not sustain us as one society and one country. It makes us strong in some aspects and weak and vulnerable in others.

In the five years since the war, this dramatic contradiction was not settled, but redoubled. The economy is blooming, while society is withering. The GDP is skyrocketing but the government cannot function. We've forgotten the trauma of 2006 and went on living as if we were in southern California.

So when the day comes again, we'll be surprise again. When it next comes, we'll once again ask what happened to us. Why we went on partying for five years on the deck of the Titanic, instead of reinforcing it and steering it away from its doomed course.



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