All on Account of the War?

Everyone already knows and agrees that this war will bring down governments, determine fates, destroy careers.

Everyone already knows and agrees that this war will bring down governments, determine fates, destroy careers. Its significance and its consequences have already become so inflated in public and political awareness that no one wonders any longer what was so "formative" about the clash with Hezbollah, and why it is so self evident that in its wake national goals will be changed, political plans will be suspended, and the platforms of parties that were formed specifically to implement these plans will dissolve as though they never existed. Mainly because the war began as it did and ended as it did due to military failures and management failures, and - unlike the Yom Kippur War - because of some colossal error of political perception.

It is true that one of the possible diplomatic lessons of the war, beyond the disappointment with the personal abilities of its architects, is the undermining of the very idea of a unilateral withdrawal to the Green Line without an agreement. This is the reason for a certain logic in shelving the idea of "convergence," even if the ruling party was established and elected for its sake. But when in the same breath the government drops the alternative option of serious negotiations, with the claim it has become weak and paralyzed because of the failures of that war, this means the war, in addition to its military failures, has become a type of major alibi, a multipurpose excuse. For the opposition it serves as an instrument of attack for totally different political reasons (for example, opposition to the idea of withdrawals), and in Olmert's hands it is an excuse for a lack of any movement at all, including the suspension of any diplomatic initiative.

This can be easily tested by two hypothetical questions. The first: Would another government with the same army and the same chief of staff have achieved better results against Hezbollah? The second: Would the fate of the Olmert-Peretz government have been entirely different today had there been no war?

Let's assume there had been no war. Let's assume everything would have ended with a forgettable incident after two days of clashes. Let's assume there were no Winograd Committee. What would the Olmert government have done in that case? The answer is: apparently nothing. The same nothing it is doing now, but with a different excuse.

Is it really possible to imagine this government and this particular prime minister with his battering, negative, lawyer-like nature, soaring into the skies of daring diplomatic activity? Seriously examining the Saudi initiative, for example, or setting a "convergence" process into motion, or alternatively conducting serious negotiations?

After all, we cannot recall that Olmert demonstrated any special desire to promote a diplomatic process or any process at all, except a verbal one, even before the war. And had it not been for the war and its investigations, another excuse would probably have cropped up, one of a thousand, to justify the real goal for which Israeli prime ministers throughout the generations have yearned unless the sword was hanging over them: stagnation. Treading water.

And in fact, sooner or later, after being burned by some activity, all our prime ministers reach the stage where they begin to look differently at one of their predecessors in the job, and not necessarily one of the most charismatic of them: Yitzhak Shamir. Like a masterpiece that was not properly appreciated in its time and attains glory only after several generations, they begin to glorify the man who discovered the Archimedes point of stagnation: That precise point of balance where military restraint meets up with a pretense of diplomatic activity.

Ariel Sharon adopted this model during his twilight years. Olmert has not succeeded in maintaining this balance, and stagnation has slipped through his fingers. The war did not break out on its own, but because of his character. At least he will leave behind him one positive legacy: A refutation of the gloomy thesis prevalent in recent years that leaders and governments fall here because they try to make peace.