Not Sparta - and Just as Well

Israel was not established in order to be a spearhead against global Islam, or in order to serve as an alert squad for the Western world.

When Israel embarked on Lebanon War I, one of its secondary aims was said to be "to heal the trauma of the Yom Kippur War." And what will heal us from the trauma of Lebanon War II? In this regard, there is almost complete consensus - only the next war. Yes, it is always the next war - the redeeming, corrective war that restores our "honor" and defines us until the war thereafter.

Lebanon War I began on June 5 - and not by chance: This is attributed to the melodramatic historical sense of then prime minister Menachem Begin, who saw it as some kind of an allusion to the date of the start of the Six-Day War - the queen of all our wars. That stunning (alas, one-time) victory that they remembered neither lets up nor gives rest, a victory that has been seeping since then into the national bloodstream like a toxic drug. Toxic, because nothing during the past 40 years even came close to the glory of those six days in the summer of 1967 (okay, except for the Entebbe operation and the triumph in the Eurovision song contest), yet we are living in its shadow and are not letting go of the longing for its return.

The roots of the failures of this war - the excessive ease with which it began, the arrogance and scorn for the enemy, the conceit and mystical belief in the power of the air force - can also be explained as distant by-products of those "three hours in June" 40 years ago. And it is not by chance that the smoking embers that now remain symbolize this - the hubris of a chief of staff like Dan Halutz and the myth of the all-powerful, haughty and arrogant air force in which he wrapped himself.

In any case, the tremendous Katyusha barrages that landed on Israel for an entire month are already beginning to diminish in the face of the barrages of self-torture, reciprocal floggings and accusations - barrages that no cease-fire will halt and will continue for years no doubt. Make room, therefore, on the shelf for the trauma of Lebanon War II - the third volume in the trilogy (so far), a continuation of the Yom Kippur War and the "War for the Peace of the Galilee."

But before we "investigate" and decapitate the leaders who have disappointed, and without exempting them from their responsibility, one must nevertheless remember: The haste, the wild gambling with human lives and the shoddy planning that accompanied this war did not arise in a vacuum and did not stem from some mental disturbance reserved exclusively for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Halutz. They were not the only ones who were deceived into thinking that they had in their hands an all-powerful tool that is replete with gadgets - the Israel Defense Forces and the air force - and can be put into operation and stopped by pressing a button, when the main thing is the fact of the desire to operate it and not the concern for its operation.

And indeed the semi-messianic slogan, "Let the IDF win," was, and is still, despite everything, the demesne of most of the Israeli public. No empirical proof, not even repeated bereavement and failure, have shaken the naive belief that somewhere out there is a huge, mystical, redeeming victory that failed leaders are preventing from taking place.

This longing, which reduces all of our existence to military bullying, does not stop at the country's borders: Of all the barrages of blame and disappointment that are falling on us after the war, the most annoying are the ones that are coming at us from the direction of our "friends" and "well-wishers" from the United States - those politicians and article-writers, Jews and others, who are clicking their tongues in disappointment at our performance on the battlefield and are even starting to wonder whether the investment of billions of American dollars is not being wasted on a hapless ally like us.

But to both those who send us into battle in order to derive joy from our performance, and those among us who are thoroughly depressed by the results of the war, it must be said: Comfort, comfort, my people. With all the acute importance of military might, Israel cannot be solely a derivative of victories or tactical defeats on the battlefield. Its existence is far richer and far more meaningful and varied than that.

If the Israeli mentality is "inferior" to that of Hezbollah, Iran and Hamas in that it does not seek suicidal death, the virgins in Paradise and genocide for its neighbors; if Israel has pity on the lives of its sons, on its comfort, on the nurturing of its landscapes and even on bed and breakfasts, wineries and the pleasures of life, it is nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary: We shall proudly bear our weaknesses as fragile, vulnerable human beings.

Israel is not Sparta, and this is a good thing. It was not established in order to be a spearhead against global Islam, or in order to serve as an alert squad for the Western world. It was established in order to live in it. And after the obvious is stated - with respect to the importance of might and strength - this too shall be said: Unlike some of its enemies, Israel has a far more means of existential solace - in vitality, culture and in creativity - than the planting of a flag of victory among the ruins.