The Fun Is Gone

The joy has ebbed. The promising leader has become a lame duck.

It is now very hard to find anyone who was not in favor of ending the war within a week. All of a sudden, we are finding out that Chief of Staff Dan Halutz was in favor of a cease-fire after six days, as was the head of Military Intelligence, the head of the logistics division and several other members of the General Staff. Similarly, David Ivry, an advisor to Defense Minister Amir Peretz, favored a break in the warfare after no more than three or four days.

It is so easy and simple to rearrange history, retroactively. At the time, they chose to remain silent, kept a low profile and went with the flow. But now, they know very well what they should have said at the time. Because at the time, it was not popular to speak about a cease-fire. Ehud Olmert spoke of "unparalleled impressive achievements" and boasted about the international support he had been given to continue the war. Peretz pressed forward and said that Hassan Nasrallah would never forget his name. And the chief of staff spoke about continuing to pummel the enemy, and how the region was being cleansed of the threat of rocket attacks.

Precious few spoke openly in favor of accepting the G8's proposal for a cease-fire. Three days after the start of the war, the eight strongest and most influential countries in the world drew up a draft proposal that was exceptionally good for Israel. Under the terms of this proposal, the three kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldiers would have been returned without harm, the launching of Katyusha missiles at Israel would have ceased, Israel would have suspended its military actions and withdrawn its forces, and the Hamas ministers and other Hamas officials kidnapped by Israel would have been returned to the territories.

The G8 statement also declared that full responsibility for the crisis lay with Hamas and Hezbollah, and that the Security Council should immediately formulate a plan for the full implementation of Resolution 1559. It called for the Lebanese Army's deployment in southern Lebanon, with the support of an international force. Israel and Lebanon were called upon to open a diplomatic dialogue. Was there any better ladder for Israel to use in climbing down from the tree?

Israel's situation at the time was good: The long-range missiles had largely been destroyed, the Dahiyeh neighborhood of Beirut was demolished, Hezbollah's leadership was in panicked disarray, and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was asking for a cease-fire and an exchange of prisoners. But Olmert, Peretz, and Halutz hardened their hearts. They wanted to show that they were smarter, braver and more combative than Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya'alon - and they brought Israel resounding failure. It is all a matter of timing.

As the warfare continued, Hezbollah recovered; the Katyushas continued to fall; the number of dead and wounded grew; the north sustained serious damage; tourism absorbed a serious blow; international support vanished; the only two countries that still kept their embassies in Jerusalem (Costa Rica and El Salvador) abandoned the capital; the destruction in Lebanon, and particularly in Beirut, turned the Lebanese into haters of Israel; and instead of restoring deterrence, we received extremist declarations from the presidents of Syria and Iran.

Hezbollah is considered the victor, for not having surrendered to the vast and sophisticated Israeli army. Already, it is rearming. And Israel's budget, which was supposed to be directed toward solving social ills and poverty, is now being directed to the army. While everyone pays lip service and declares that what is truly important is Israel's social and economic strength, since this furnishes the real security - in essence, this has all been shunted aside because of the war. At no stage did anyone take the time to calculate the cost of a single shell, missile, helicopter or tank, even though the cost of a missile is enough to build an entire classroom.

That master of spin, Ehud Olmert, declares at every opportunity that the entire responsibility for the war is his, but in reality, he does all he can to dodge it. If he were not afraid, he would appoint a state commission of inquiry. But since he can already guess what an independent retired Supreme Court justice might have to say about him, he has invented an odd species, the "public committee of inquiry," whose members he himself chose, and whose sole function is to provide him with a fig leaf.

Nevertheless, nobody needs any investigation-inquiry-clarification committee. The fiasco of the war is obvious and known to everyone. All that is needed is for someone to take responsibility instead of hiding or running away. The three ringleaders - Olmert, Peretz and Halutz - should reach the only possible conclusion: that they are to blame for an abject defeat. That they led the state backward, and that they must resign, in order to save what is left.

Only a different trio of leaders could analyze what happened, draw real conclusions, rebuild what has been destroyed and obtain the trust of the young people, who will be calling - maybe as soon as tomorrow - for another war. Only another trio could lead the country to other, nonmilitary solutions, to a resolution of the Middle East conflict.

Upon entering office, Olmert promised that within four years, he would make Israel a fun place to live. But his horizon was cut short - from four years to one hour. Now, the next news bulletin might conceivably announce a new threat, crisis, strike or demonstration that could end his career. The fun is gone. The joy has ebbed. The promising leader has become a lame duck. It would be best for him to go home, and the sooner the better.