New Reality / Whispered Bragging

Last week, after an Israeli soldier was killed during a raid in the city, Palestinians were quick to return the detached foot of the soldier. Not out of solidarity, IDF officers say, but out of a belief that the rules of the game had changed. Israel could take a leaf from its Lebanon book and attack the rocket stores held in civilian homes in Gaza.

The IDF command views this reappraisal of Israel as proof of the regional success of the war in Lebanon. It is of a piece with the longstanding Mossad perspective, according to which, "If you knew what I know, you'd realize just how huge our achievements are." Now senior IDF officers are bragging in a whisper about the hidden successes of the fighting in Lebanon.

The whispers are a response to growing complaints about the slow speed with which the IDF is conquering the "Nasrallah Line" close to the border and silencing the roar of the rocket launchers. They emanate mainly from the General Staff and are aimed mostly at the head of the Northern Command, Udi Adam, and his Air Force counterpart, Eliezer Shkedi.

Shkedi and Adam are alike in their poor media-comprehension skills. Both men refuse to understand that if you do not bank your credit for a rainy day, no one will suddenly give it to you.

The series of mishaps in the air force in the past several months, combined with the aircraft crashes in the past week, have forced Shkedi into a defensive posture. The decision by former defense minister Shaul Mofaz and former chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon to appoint him a commander despite his lack of appropriate General Command experience, appears problematic in retrospect.

In another sense, Shkedi succeeded too well and too early, in the first moments of the fighting - the operation against Hezbollah's long-range missiles, 34 minutes of a massive surprise attack on the hiding places of the Fajr missiles. The air force tore the finish line during the first hour, and only then began to run. Now it is finding it hard to explain why the Katyushas are still coming, and killing.