Absent / The Wrong Demonstration

How many people would have participated yesterday in a demonstration that would have called for a bold diplomatic initiative, including negotiations with Syria? Myself and two thousand others, tops. Nevertheless, this is the only reasonable demonstration that should have been held against Ehud Olmert. Instead, about 100,000 (maybe) showed up to express a general gut feeling: remove the man who failed to bring them victory. Just like frustrated soccer fans demanding the sacking of the coach, in the false belief that only a new coach can win the championship for them. This was the broadest and genuine common denominator of the children of all the tribes that gathered in Rabin Square last night; this is the main dynamic behind the disproportionate campaign that transformed the Second Lebanon War to the twin of the Yom Kippur War and has reached its peak at the rally; everyone spoke of "responsibility," but they were really yearning for a victorious leader to restore their lost pride. Just for that it is worth starting another war.

The excited atmosphere was fueled by the excessive and revolting use of the war dead as firm proof of the leadership's failure. When the bereaved parents are mentioned over and over again, you feel manipulation creeping up the back of your neck; when the protesters send Olmert "to work as a gardener in the military section [of the cemetery]," you understand that cynicism has overcome even those with good intentions; when the Winograd Committee dedicates the report to the memory of the "flowers, the IDF soldiers who were picked before their time during the war" (but forgets the civilian victims), you are unwittingly taken to the halls of populism ("they left behind a crying mother, a worried father, a sad brother, a yearning wife and a baby," the committee waxed poetic); and when Ilana Dayan says in her program "Fact": "I listened to Judge Winograd for half an hour and most of the time I thought about Yehudit Sela, the mother of Ben, who was killed in Debel," it is obvious that the rationale has been lost, even among the most rational commentators.

The same public that pushed Olmert into Lebanon, without thinking for a moment about the cost, went to the square yesterday in order to settle their accounts with him, counting the death and the failure and crowning a new leader in his place - whose identity is irrelevant. One would think that Ben-Gurion was waiting by the corner with some sort of enlightened vision. At most it's Benjamin Netanyahu, the main candidate for the job, who would like to grant the country a corrective combat experience.

The rally will allow all of Olmert's opponents to claim that "the nation has spoken" and "henceforth politics will not be the same." They will be exaggerating, of course, but even if Olmert may have to go in the end, it will be for all the wrong reasons. It is not the Second Lebanon War that needs to bring about his resignation. From a broader strategic outlook, his failure in the war is far from being unequivocal, certainly not if we consider the arrangements in place in southern Lebanon. Ask any resident of the North how they feel today.

Of all people certainly Olmert knows more than anyone else today that there is a need to impose civilian limits to the dangerous monopoly of the army over security doctrine and diplomacy, which in fact brought about the results of the war. We did not need a protest to know that its political impact would be close to zero.