'Unprecedented Achievements'

Olmert is disturbed by the criticism of the failure to achieve the war's goals, and he is trying by words alone to turn this reality into achievements, both for the government and for himself.

Even the Six Day War was dwarfed this week by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's impressive spin. Olmert spoke of a war with "impressive achievements that are unparalleled, perhaps even unprecedented," adding: "We can say with certainty that the face of the Middle East has already been changed." And in order to enhance the achievements even further, government spokesmen upgraded Hezbollah from a small terror organization to an elite army, the spearhead of the Iranian army, which has come to destroy us. And if we are facing destruction, all means are permissible.

"They will never again be able to threaten this nation with missiles," Olmert continued. And the next day, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah replied with another 210 missiles on the north - the largest number since the start of the war. Experts say that he has another 9,000 of them.

Olmert is disturbed by the criticism of the failure to achieve the war's goals, and he is trying by words alone to turn this reality into achievements, both for the government and for himself. But the sad truth is that our situation today is worse than it was at the start of the war, and time is not on our side.

Three days after the start of the war, after a series of heavy bombardments of Hezbollah, Israel's standing in the world was at its height (even in some Arab countries). At that point, we could have stopped, embraced the excellent agreement proposed by the G-8 and turned to negotiations. Today, it is impossible to obtain the agreement proposed then. Today, it is difficult to obtain any agreement at all.

The situation in general is worrisome. Although Israel hurt Hezbollah and killed hundreds of its members, it has not succeeded in causing the organization to collapse. That is the strength of a guerrilla organization that enjoys sweeping support from the population. Nasrallah will always declare that he won. He can always claim that with 2,000 fighters, he succeeded in confronting the huge Israeli army honorably, and even caused it casualties. He can always claim that he caused us tremendous damage by bombing the north of the country with rockets and even paralyzing Haifa.

Nasrallah's status has been strengthened, both in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world, and there is a chance that his strength will increase following the next elections in Lebanon. That is not "restoring deterrence." It is a serious blow at Israel's deterrent capability.

In terms of our status in the world, Israel has suffered a disaster. Anyone who has seen the pictures of dead children being removed from the ruins, which are being shown on foreign television networks, can understand the growing demonstrations against Israel, both in Arab countries and in the West. Hatred of Israel and of Jews in general is on the rise, and European leaders are pressing for an immediate cessation of the war, even before any agreement is signed. Even the United States is losing patience.

The portion of the Arab world that sided with Israel at the start of the war - Saudi Arabia, for example - has now aligned itself with Hezbollah. The president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, yesterday called on all Arab countries to embark on a war against Israel, and there are even volunteers waiting in line. It turns out that even with the most sophisticated planes, Israel will never succeed in killing enough terrorists to reduce their overall number.

Even Israel's socioeconomic situation has declined. The economy was in the midst of fast growth, and the 2007 budget included far-reaching social-welfare plans. Now, however, there is a drastic change in the order of priorities: more for the army and less for society.

And all this is in addition to dozens of dead on our side, both civilians and soldiers, and hundreds of dead in Lebanon.

In the corridors of power, people this week began blaming the Israel Defense Forces and the chief of staff for the outcome of the battles. But the army must not become a scapegoat. The strategy and the goals were approved by Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and the responsibility is entirely theirs. They said that Hezbollah would be disarmed of its rockets, the Lebanese Army would replace it on the northern border, and the two kidnapped soldiers would be returned without compensation. None of that has been achieved.

Now, Olmert is talking about an entirely new goal: seizing a security zone six to eight kilometers wide until the arrival of a multinational force of "at least 10,000 soldiers," which will replace the IDF and disarm Hezbollah.

That is how we have suddenly gone from surgical air force strikes, without a single soldier entering the area, to the security zone from which we withdrew six years ago because of the large number of dead and wounded caused by that very same Hezbollah.

It is amazing that suddenly, we are relying on the soldiers of France or Poland to protect us. Judging by past experience, they will not sacrifice their lives for us, but will turn a blind eye to what is happening. And if no significant multinational force arrives, the IDF will be forced to remain in the security zone for a long time - and that is the familiar Lebanese swamp, which is once again pulling us in.

And when we are sitting in the middle of the swamp, Hezbollah will once again arm itself and attack our stationary army, whose only goal will be to protect itself. Thus in one fell swoop, we will go back 24 years, to the first Lebanon War.