Why Israel's Leaders Always Take War Personally

Newly released documents reveal what we already knew about the first Lebanon war: our leaders lied to us. Expect something similar to emerge when the archive is finally opened on last summer’s Gaza war.

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Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. Honoring the soldiers who died in Operation Protective Edge, but nowhere to be seen at Second Lebanon War commemorations.Credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry
Yossi Sarid

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon decided a few days ago that an official memorial ceremony for those killed in last summer’s Operation Protective Edge will be held each year. How nice of him. He remembers them, and they surely remember him.

That’s how it works here: Every acclaimed commander commemorates those who gave their lives for his glory; only they will impart his military legacy from generation to generation.

And here’s the proof. Just a few days ago, commemorations began marking the nine years since the Second Lebanon War – and not a single minister, so it was reported, bothered to attend. Nor did the present defense minister – because that wasn’t his war. As chief of staff between 2002-2005, he only prepared the Israel Defense Forces for it. And it turned out that the army wasn’t all that prepared. But if he were to risk coming to a memorial service, people might say something to him about that, so why trouble himself? Let Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz show up and make the speeches – the current government is exempt.

It’s only “my personal war” that was and always will be “the most just and justified war.” That was the only one to quiet the land for 40 years, at least. All the other wars belong solely to the fallen and their families.

Who now would volunteer to make his presence known at a commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the first Lebanon war? Someone might mistakenly be led to think that Benjamin Netanyahu or Ya’alon was in charge then, that they are the scoundrels to blame for it. Better to be absent from it, any “strategic consultant” would advise.

If that is the case, isn’t it time to ask: Whose wars are these, anyway? And if they were so successful, why are they being forgotten? Why is it just the parents and families, and some friends, that remember?

The first Lebanon war is an orphaned war. All its fathers have gone to their graves – a prime minister who died at an overripe old age; a defense minister who fell into a coma and never arose; and a chief of staff who was taken by the sea. Last week, the IDF Archives revealed the original “operation orders”: “To join up with Christian forces in the Beirut area, destroy the Syrian army in Lebanon and deploy on the Beirut-Damascus highway.”

Now, everything that those who wanted to know already knew from the first day, from the first kilometer, may be revealed. Three scoundrels – then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan – knowingly misled the public and its representatives, and the public was naive or gullible enough to believe them. As long as you are unable to erase the bloodstains from the coat of many colors, don’t try to whitewash my words: Yes, scoundrels. And yet our despicable “friends” tried to get me to vote in favor of the operation.

When Begin stood in the Knesset and pledged “to halt all combat after 48 hours and 40 kilometers,” he lied to us and the world. Operation Peace for the Galilee in 1982 wasn’t meant “to prevent artillery fire on the northern border,” since it had been quiet there for nine months. And it wasn’t meant to repay the Palestine Liberation Organization for the attack on Israel’s ambassador in London, because Shlomo Argov was shot by Abu Nidal’s splinter group – a sworn enemy of Yasser Arafat [Argov eventually died of his injuries in 2003]. The goal wasn’t to teach the Shi’ites a lesson, but rather to permanently get rid of the PLO, so “the Palestinian problem” would also die once and for all. Thus, Operation Peace for the Galilee was really the “War for Judea and Samaria,” meant to ensure the longevity of the occupation.

Only now is the whole truth about the full extent of the lie being revealed: Lies upon lies, upon which 1,800 soldiers fell in 18 years. But who wants to recall them and keep their memory fresh? This is how we go to wars here – “in those days, and in that time.” And in our time, too, shall the whole people of Israel unite and rise up and be redeemed.

“Let the people of Israel remember its sons and daughters.” At the same time, let it remember its leaders, thanks to whom we “shall [remember and] mourn the radiance of the youths.” Just wait for the archives that will be opened 30 years from now, and then you’ll really understand whom and what you supported a year ago.

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