Jerrycans and Text Messages

As the popular revolution gathers momentum, galloping toward the brink of its reason, text messages - "open lines" - and Internet polls will determine the make-up of the commission of inquiry and even - why not? - the justices of the Supreme Court.

"We have heard many informative things at this conference about the lessons to be learned from the war, but not all the critical comments were right, in my opinion, because professionals are too absorbed in their own fields and do not see the complete picture. Ultimately, the goal in war is to destroy the enemy, not save jerrycans." This statement was made by David Ben-Gurion. His chief of staff was missing from the command post during the war, looking for antiques to add to his private collection, even at the price of a soldier's life.

There was much friction between the chief of staff, an infantry man who did not understand air and armor tactics, and the operational commanders, who chose to ignore his outmoded concepts. This took place in the Sinai Campaign, 50 years ago. According to contemporary standards, it was a hasty, reckless, improvised and superfluous war. Ben-Gurion himself fluctuated between the intoxication of victory and the fear of a confrontation with the powerful states. But Israel was enveloped by a sense of achievement and felt the stranglehold had been broken.

When the officers probing the moves emphasized the flaws, Ben-Gurion reminded them that with all due respect to jerrycans, they should take a cold, focused look at the overall picture of whether the war's goals had been achieved.

Moshe Dayan's behavior was the most notorious. Then, there were the pains that paralyzed chief of staff Yaakov Dori in 1948, Yitzhak Rabin's collapse in May 1967, and Rafael Eitan's partnership in the first Lebanon disaster. Compared to all of them, the battered Dan Halutz is an angel. Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz wish to sacrifice him, in the futile hope that this will save their own skin.

Peretz's future depends on his power in his party. Olmert, who wasn't suited to his post to begin with, although a quarter of the public gave in to the temptation to vote for him, is clutching at every straw on the brink of the deep abyss awaiting him as soon as the state comptroller completes his investigations. It is amusing to see Olmert's media allies squirming under the howls of protest about the war and avoiding the obvious conclusion - that the man with the ultimate responsibility for it must pay the ultimate price.

All the official institutions, and the government first and foremost, malfunctioned. The Israel Defense Forces disappointed, with its sluggish movement and the number of casualties it sustained, including fatalities, due to negligence.

This, however, does not explain the depth of the depression that has taken hold in the past month among the public and the army. The strategic goals that Halutz set the day after Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were kidnapped were almost completely achieved, according to tangible indices (the damage to Hezbollah, the deployment of the Lebanese Army and a multinational force in the South, Hassan Nasrallah's modified platform). In cost-benefit terms, the general balance is positive but not outstanding. When measuring reality up to expectations, the melancholy is understandable, but not justified.

Not that the IDF is free of corruption. The army is tainted with political influence and ambitious competition suffused with malice. But correcting the wrongs must not be subjected to opinion polls. Available officers, such as Brigadier General Amos Ben Avraham, Brigadier General Yossi Heiman and Yisrael Ziv, who told Halutz at the end of the war that unless he is given a position, he will discharge himself, can help.

There could be no one better to coordinate the rehabilitation than Major General Dr. Yishai Bar, president of the military tribunal, a paratrooper who has been doing reserve duty for some 20 years, until he became a division commander and the commander for a battalion and brigade commanders course.

The polls must distinguish between elected officials and appointed ones. Today, anonymous masses are calling for Halutz's ousting. Tomorrow, there will be a poll to determine his successor; and a day later, this method of rampant democracy will be used to decide who commands the navy and an army division. If we proceed down this slippery slope, soldiers in veteran Golani and Givati companies will vote on their missions, targets, times and tactics. And as the popular revolution gathers momentum, galloping toward the brink of its reason, text messages - "open lines" - and Internet polls will determine the make-up of the commission of inquiry and even - why not? - the justices of the Supreme Court.