The Unforgiven

According to the nihilistic school, the results of the war attest to some substantial deficiency in our lives: not only did the army fail, but also the politicians did. And not only the politicians, but also the systems that are supposed to examine and penalize them.

The failure to bring Nasrallah's head on a platter or "turn the lights out in Beirut" (or any other "victory picture" that was anticipated in the Lebanon War) served as a trigger for two raging streams of protest that partly overlap and partly diverge: the nihilist stream and the moralistic stream. And both comprise two types of agendas: the hidden and the naive.

According to the nihilistic school, the results of the war attest to some substantial deficiency in our lives: not only did the army fail, but also the politicians did. And not only the politicians, but also the systems that are supposed to examine and penalize them. No, even commissions of inquiry won't help.

In fact, you can hardly find any decent candidates for them who have "clean hands" and no questionable connections. And if you were pinning your last hopes on the media, well you couldn't be more wrong, since the media is guilty, too. Yes, the media especially! And also the local government, national government, Knesset, women's lobby, horny politicians, disengagement, Oslo, boys at the treasury, generals past and present, and also the "rule of law" gang at the Supreme Court, not to mention the corrupt members of the police, the rot of the presidency, the publicity-hungry pretension of the state comptroller, and just about anyone else you could think of. And thus, in a self-propelling tizzy, in a sort of desperate self-flagellation, the bitterness of criticism chomps away at everything, like that creature in the movie "Yellow Submarine" that swallows up all its surroundings: the objects, the background and finally itself, too.

The moralistic school says, however, that what we're facing is not merely a giant mess, but rather chaos theory with a particular address. That the beating of wings that sparked the hurricane was done by specific butterflies that must now be personally called to account. According to this outlook, there is a circumstantial connection between faulty judgments in the deployment of forces and the fact that the prime minister has been revealed as a crafty real-estate dealer, the chief of staff has been exposed as Mr. Stock Exchange, and the president and justice minister are suspected of being uninhibitedly licentious.

In other words, what happened here is that a corrupt, degenerate and greedy gang - that has no interest in anything but houses, stocks and kissing-with-the-tongue - has taken over the country's power centers. Getting rid of them - together or separately - will mark the start of an agonizing recuperation process of cleaning out the stables and bringing back the good, old values: full military supply units and Arabs fleeing barefoot. These values are primarily embodied by "the reservists" and "the regular fighters up to the rank of battalion commander."

The problems that were revealed in the army are worrisome, even hair-raising at times, and conclusions must certainly be drawn regarding those responsible for them. But perhaps it would be going too far to draw existential conclusions from this: the results of the war are really not unequivocal, but maybe it's an illusion to think that even a "perfect" war - such as one that flattens all of south Lebanon with carpet bombing - would have left us in a better diplomatic and international situation, or secured the return of the abducted soldiers.

It would also be naive to think that the nihilistic protest wave that invalidates the entire secular Israeli leadership (apart from you know who) and is gloating at its misfortune, is not linked to the permanent revolt mentality of the settler right (Just what were all the Kach people who were rejoicing at Haim Ramon's trial doing there? And is it just a coincidence that the same television reporter who in the course of the disengagement clearly slanted his reports in favor of the "orange camp" is the one who had the scoop on the new suspicions against Ehud Olmert? Or that members of the National Union are the ones who are suddenly at the forefront of those siding with the state comptroller and those advocating the establishment of a commission of inquiry?).

It would also be foolish to believe that only an extraordinary statistical coincidence caused it to be so that all the wrong in the world is concentrated in the acting prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff, while all the political and military wisdom is concentrated in the hands of the retired functionaries such as Major General (res.) Uri Saguy and Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon.

Either way, whether the protest is nihilistic or moralistic, and whether its agenda is veiled or naive - one thing is clear: All that would have been forgiven with Ariel Sharon, under similar circumstances (for example, the investigations, terror attacks and Qassams, which apparently only increased his popularity), is not forgiven with Olmert and Amir Peretz. And it's not only because of the political context. It's something intangible and inexplicable that has to do with charisma and leadership, or the lack thereof.

There's a famous anecdote from the world of music about the magical connection that existed between conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler and his orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic; it was so powerful that the conductor's mere presence in the auditorium caused the musicians to change their style, even under the baton of another conductor.

Israel today has no conductor of stature - either on the podium or in the auditorium. There are only arm-waving conductors who just don't have "it," and this is the main reason for the cacophony.