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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The fabric of Israeli society is at stake

Historian Michael Oren, who fought in the Second Lebanon War, has a comment in today's Wall Street Journal (which was written before today's final Winograd Report was issued) that should be read and re-read, especially by those who are not Israelis and who may underestimate the significance of Olmert's actions. (Hat Tip: Little Green Footballs)
In another country, perhaps, such blunders might result in the resignation of senior officers but not necessarily elected officials. In Israel, though, no one is above blame. Accountability for decision making is a tenet of the Zionist ethos on which the Jewish state is based and, unlike most nations, Israel has a citizens' army in which the great majority -- politicians included -- serve. Most uniquely, Israel confronts daily security dangers and long-term threats to its existence. Israelis can neither condone nor afford a prime minister who passes the buck to their army or shirks the onus of defense. The person who sends us into battle cannot escape responsibility for our fate.


At stake is not merely the government's future but rather the fabric of Israeli society.

Israel lacks a constitution but is bound by an unwritten social contract. Israelis defend their country with their lives and their leaders' pledge not to send them to war heedlessly. Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Menachem Begin resigned in the aftermath of disappointing wars, though both were exonerated of incompetence. By ignoring these precedents, Mr. Olmert, whose culpability began before the war, when he appointed a defense minister devoid of military experience, threatens to break the contract. Israelis will think twice before following his orders -- and perhaps those of future prime ministers -- into battle. The cohesiveness that enabled Israel to survive 60 years of conflict will unwind.

Thousands of Israelis are calling for Mr. Olmert's resignation. Rightists convinced that the prime minister cannot safeguard the country's security have joined with leftists who understand that leaders who fail at war will never succeed at peacemaking. All are united by a willingness to shoulder the burden of Israel's defense. This was the commitment that united us that last night in Lebanon, as we took up the stretchers bearing the remains of somebody's son, somebody's husband, and brought them home for burial.
This is perhaps the worst result of Olmert's self-serving behavior. Who will fight for this country in the future knowing that its political leadership won't be accountable if it causes the war effort to fail?


At 9:25 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - my guess is no one will fight for Ehud Olmert. But then again, he values his own short term political needs ahead of the nation's future. Especially escaping prosecution for corruption and other felonies is incentive enough for him to cling to power. Regardless of the disastrous consequences it portends for the fabric of Israel's society.


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