Failures Have Fathers

Even Ehud Olmert once complained that failures have no fathers and those who are responsible are not called to account for their deeds.

The report issued this week by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is a superfluous document and further proof that what seems to be an important committee is nothing but a wagging tail to the government dog.

The document is needless and shameful, not only because it spares the politicians but because it brings back to life the monster called "consensus." While some committee members added their personal reservations as a kind of footnote, not one of them dared to challenge the essence. Not one of them asked: "What was this war to you?" Not one of them demanded to know why it was fought at all. When all is said and done, the government didn't comprehend at the time that it was going to war.

If the committee didn't learn its lesson, how can it teach others? If it didn't do its duty during the war, how can it do it afterward? Every member of the committee held forth in the same vein before the war, and now they're at it again. They come from different parties, but all their streams of thinking flow into the same sea, and the sea is full of the "conception" that has been our bane. It was our undoing then, and so it remains, from that Yom Kippur to this.

The murder and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border in July 2006 may have deserved retaliation, but Israel's response was rash and wild. Right away, it pounced on Beirut's airport and suburbs, on its power stations and on villages in southern Lebanon. The government waged an all-out, indiscriminate war rather than a carefully aimed and contained strike that would have hurt Hezbollah more and helped Hassan Nasrallah less.

No one in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee called for restraint back then, which would have brought the goals down to earth and brought us back to reality. On the contrary: Everyone was pushing for more, more, more. Someone even suggested bombing Damascus. This committee is the last one that should be allowed to have its say today, trying to be smart in retrospect.

This report leaves the Lebanon war orphaned: It has no parents. It needs DNA testing, but even the Winograd Committee is up against a wall because the father won't cooperate.

It wasn't always so. There were other times. An interesting biography, "Begin, 1913-1992," by Avi Shilon, takes us back to them. For those who don't know, or have managed to forget, the book reminds us of the first time Ehud Olmert's name came up in public.

It goes back to June 1966, when a young man, a Herut party activist all of 22 years old, got up at the party convention and proposed the ouster of Menachem Begin. It was the first time a member of the movement demanded that the legendary leader go home. It cannot be that failures have no fathers and those who are responsible are not called to account for their deeds, argued the young rebel. There was a lot of sense in those words.

Today it seems as if those early insights have been forgotten. Olmert does not remember what he saw then, and from where he is now, he no longer sees. But it is Begin, of all people, who can remind him and serve as a role model.

Begin, too, was embroiled in a war of choice in Lebanon, sucked in by Ariel Sharon as defense minister and big chief of the Israel Defense Forces, and Rafael Eitan as little chief. Begin could have foisted the blame on them. But as a man of honor and integrity, he did not. As the casualty figures mounted and he was haunted by the specter of soldiers dying in vain, the prime minister got up and announced his resignation. "I can't go on," he said.

The glory is departed from Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is gone, and with it, conscience. Look at Begin and look at Olmert.

No one expects Olmert to shut himself up at home and pine away for the rest of his life. But was it too much to ask of him at least to wipe the smile off his face and control the belly laughs while being interviewed by Eli Yatzpan?