Political Animal / What Will We Do if There's a Real War?

While Hezbollah is capable of organizing itself in quasi-military form, and has armed itself with more highly developed rockets than Qassams, it is and remains a relatively small guerrilla force.

1. These are not days that the Israel Defense Forces will want to remember and hail as part of its historical military heritage. The IDF was not properly prepared for this new war in Lebanon, returning to it as if to an unknown land. Lebanon is the same Lebanon as in 1982, but the IDF is not the same IDF.

The army has not exactly been twiddling its thumbs in recent years. On the contrary: It's been tied down to ongoing and highly demanding operational duties that forced it to cancel training exercises and courses - and especially to put off any orderly thinking about real war. Instead of functioning and preparing like an army, the IDF has been deployed and has been behaving like a foreign legion or quasi-police force. The Gaza Strip and West Bank territories have sucked up most of its material and mental resources. After all, an army also marches on its spirit.

The young soldiers and officers were told during the intifada years that they were at war, and they thought that what they were experiencing was indeed war. Many of them had never experienced any other kind of war. But any similarity between the fighting in the territories and war is vague at best.

Attempts to apprehend wanted terrorists by surrounding a house and using the "neighbor procedure" - that is not war; targeted assassination - that is not war; raiding Qassam factories - that is not war; even the siege placed on Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah is not a military campaign about which books will be written. Almost everything that happens in the occupied territories, from the day the IDF occupied them, has really only been a deluxe form of war.

The current war in Lebanon more greatly resembles a real war, although it too is limited in scope, in as much as it is being waged against a guerrilla force rather than a regular army. While Hezbollah, unlike the Palestinians, is capable of organizing itself in quasi-military form, and has armed itself with more highly developed rockets than mere Qassams, it is and remains a relatively small guerrilla force. What will happen if a real, full-fledged war breaks out one day?

Those who wish to prepare for war (and not only for peace, one day) must not wear themselves out in Gaza, Hebron or Jenin, and should not exhaust themselves on remote, difficult operations.

2.The simple soldiers are always the ones who save us. The privates and sergeants and junior officers save Israel physically, but also save its politicians, generals and admirals. They are the ones who with blood and fire cover up all the failures and blunders that preceded the war and continue to accompany it.

This week, the daring and bravery of the soldiers of the Egoz commando unit caught our eye. Our hearts go out to them wherever they are. When their comrades fell, their spirits did not, and they immediately went back for yet another battle. The IDF's public relations machine is grinding away on their backs, and I am not completely convinced that it is fair to load so much on them.

3.Every time a war breaks out, I have this irresistible urge to go back to Jaroslav Hasek's unforgettable "The Good Soldier Svejk." Svejk, who was declared by a medical board to be a "certified fool" and was later promoted to first-class fool, said something like: It doesn't take any special talent to get inside somewhere - anyone can do that. But to get out - that is the real art of war. And if a person does get inside somewhere, then he has to know what is going on around him, so that he doesn't find himself part of a slip-up known as a catastrophe.

4. If the Israeli public's "resilience" and "firm spirit" were praised just once or twice, it would be one thing; it would be bearable. But words of praise cascade down on us without any end in sight. Every speech and every spokesperson chews his own cud and everyone else's with it. It makes you want to vomit.

I, too, am a civilian just like everyone else, and instead of enjoying the bouquet of roses presented to me, I am pricked by its thorns and I feel offended. Is it just me?

Some go as far as to call the behavior of Israel's civilian population a "strategic surprise" - no less - giving rise to amazement, not to mention admiration. The government and army are grateful to the people.

What makes it a "surprise"? Ironically, our very own ministers and generals (and not just Nasrallah) apparently have considered Israeli society as no stronger than a spider's web. They too believed that with the first barrage of rockets, the people would cry out to the heavens; that when the first air-raid siren was sounded, the people would wail like the Children of Israel in the desert.

Put simply, the political and military system adopted a "working assumption," according to which the Israeli people are no more than rabble; that is why they are so surprised. And no official spokesman on television feels the job has been done properly unless cloyingly sweet and unctuous flattery has been poured on the heads of the public.

Perhaps the nation's leaders should step off their pedestals from time to time and get to know the people they are leading. Then they wouldn't be so surprised.

And, entre nous, with political and military leadership of this caliber, leadership that is finding it difficult to clearly and responsibly define the goals of this war - what is left for the public to do other than to bolster and rebolster its own courage?