Making a Point

Israel Defense Forces' planners overlooked the llama's intelligence and intuition; not surprisingly, the animals refused to cross the border.

1. A leak from the security cabinet's sessions: When I was in that cabinet under two governments, military operations on our northern border were proposed. Reservations always accompanied the proposals: "An offensive would be inappropriate now - it's the peak of the tourist and fruit-picking seasons"; "The summer vacation just started"; "The holidays are approaching"; "It's winter and the bomb shelters are freezing"; "It's summer and the heat is murder." We spent days and nights deliberating.

If only a country could be run without its citizens!

I am not ashamed of our hesitations and deliberations; I am proud of them.

2. Moran Cohen of Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov-Ihud was killed in Lebanon. I never met him or his family; nonetheless, he is one of my heroes.

His classmates gathered on the kibbutz lawn. One of them said about Moran: "He loved being at home, on his kibbutz. He couldn't stand the army and hated the war. The last time I saw him was two weeks ago, at Ginossar. He said he was having a hard time, that he was afraid to go back."

I read everything the newspapers write about our fallen soldiers; I want to remember them. Here is this rare individual, Moran Cohen, who could not stand the army, was not wild about soldiering, hated war, was afraid, went off to war but never returned.

Anti-heroes are the real heroes.

3. Last Thursday, author David Grossman begged that we save our children's lives. He received the bitter news Sunday that his son Uri had fallen in Lebanon.

How to comfort Uri's parents, brother and sister in their tragedy? Some families take comfort and draw strength from their belief that their loved one's sacrifice is God's will, but David Grossman refuses to be consoled.

Perhaps he can draw comfort from another belief: "This is my country, for better or worse, or the worst imaginable."

Wednesday we visited the Grossmans to strengthen them. The visit shattered us.

4. A commission of inquiry cannot create itself. If the government decides to appoint one, it will never materialize. You can say a lot about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, but you cannot say they are insane or suicidal. They will not hang themselves. Only the soldiers who emerged from the ditches could force the appointment of commissions of inquiry in 1974 and 1982. Today, the soldiers' protest will be joined by that of the civilians who have emerged from their bomb shelters. The problem is, these civilians cannot afford the bus fare for the trip to the government buildings in Jerusalem.

5. I remember a name I have not encountered for a long time and a meeting that was supposed to happen ages ago. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon promised to hold it and Olmert repeated the promise. If my memory serves me correctly, the name I am thinking of is Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and the meeting is an encounter between Israel's prime minister and the Palestinian Authority chairman.

But Olmert, neck-deep in Israel's problems, has no time for crazy ideas: "A meeting? Talks? What else do you propose? A meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad?!"

6. Grand hopes were pinned on llamas: They would carry the heavy equipment of the soldiers who penetrate into Lebanon. The llama, which chews cud and belongs to the camel family (Camelidae), has no hump and is smaller than the camel. It lives in the Andes and is used to transport heavy goods. This beast of burden seemed ideal for back-breaking work on Lebanon's mountainous, cleft terrain.

But the Israel Defense Forces' planners overlooked the llama's intelligence and intuition; not surprisingly, the animals refused to cross the border. All efforts to persuade or prod them, whether with a small or big stick, proved futile.

7. Last month I received a surprising invitation from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to attend a meeting in Bali of leading journalists from various countries.

The participants will meet in early September to discuss ways and means of advancing freedom of expression and promoting tolerance. Indonesia and Norway initiated the meeting after the storm over the Prophet Mohammed caricature. I was happy to be invited to a conference in the world's largest Muslim country, which intends to send soldiers to the multinational peace- keeping force in Lebanon.

This week I received a phone call from the Norwegian embassy in Israel, informing me that, unfortunately, under the circumstances, Indonesia could not issue me a visa.

I want the journalists invited to the conference from around the world to read this article in its English translation. Perhaps they will reconsider attending an international colloquy on freedom of expression that, even before its convening, has already been censored.