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Sunday, February 14, 2010

He has no shame

Former Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert has written a 'tell-all' book in which, among other things, he blames Defense Minister Ehud Barak for his failure to totally incapacitate Hamas in Operation Cast Lead.
Olmert says that initial estimates of the war effort indicated that overthrowing the Hamas terror regime in Gaza was a feasible goal, that could have been accomplished in a reasonable amount of time, and with relatively few Israeli casualties. But, writes Olmert, politicians with varying interests manipulated the information presented to the government, wildly exaggerating the expected number of Israeli casualties if the IDF continued its campaign to the heart of Gaza or retook the Philadelphi route in southern Gaza. Other disinformation surrounded the amount of time the IDF would require to achieve its goals, with some "experts" claiming it would take Israel months of tough battles to finish the job. Barak, writes Olmert, was among those behind the disinformation.

In the book, Olmert writes that he did not rely on the opinions of those opposed to the operation, but that he undertook his own investigation – and after speaking to commanders in IDF's southern forces, he was convinced that Israel could, and should, deliver a stunning blow to Hamas, to the point of uprooting it from Gaza altogether. But as the operation continued and pressure mounted, both in the media and the government, Olmert writes that he let himself be persuaded to declare a ceasefire – a move, he writes, that he regrets until today.
In response, Barak made an inane comment about his own 'professionalism.'

So who was at fault for Israel's failure to finish the job? On January 14, 2009, I reported that then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni wanted to walk away from Gaza, while both Olmert and Barak wanted to keep on fighting. On January 15, 2009, I reported that Olmert had become a hawk and was fighting with both Barak (over his calls for a 'humanitarian cease fire') and with Livni, whom he refused to let go to Washington to get 'guarantees' against the resumption of arms smuggling. Did Livni convince Barak to stop? Keep in mind that we were three and a half weeks from elections in which Barak and Livni were both candidates and in which Olmert was not a candidate.

On January 17, 2009, only two ministers voted against the unilateral 'cease fire' that ended Operation Cast Lead. Neither of them was named Ehud K. Olmert (Roni BarOn and Eli Yishai voted against; Rafi Eitan abstained).

The truth is that Olmert did not want to win in Gaza any more than Barak or Livni did. To claim otherwise is revising history.
But it was also a war that none of our politicians really wanted to win, as Daniel Doron pointed out in Thursday's Jerusalem Post:
Only after three days of bombing did the IAF finally bomb Hamas headquarters, and it took 16 days before it bombed the residence of Hamas's top commander. This country did not exploit the surprise it achieved to kill as many top Hamas commanders as possible (just as in the past it has neglected to do so) - even though this would have most likely led to the collapse of its war machine and shortened the war.

Exploiting the surprise of the attack to the fullest would have also made unnecessary the land incursion and the many casualties it involves. Hamas could be destroyed as an effective war machine by simply killing or chasing away, in short order, many of those who operate its war machine. When we forgo such effective action, we are forced to take other, less effective actions, such as massive closures and bombardments and prolonged land incursions. These cause much greater humanitarian damage without securing victory.
While Doron's statement about not needing a ground attack may be an exaggeration, his point about not attacking the Hamas leadership the first night is well taken. Why didn't the government take full advantage of the surprise it achieved? Doron tries to explain:
Some claim that politicians become more risk averse on the eve of elections. Others blame sharp internal divisions, confusion and lack of determination that inflict the unholy trinity governing the country. Still others claim that leaders who believe that "peace must be made with enemies" make sure they survive so as to have "partners" for a deal after "teaching them a lesson." Finally there are those who claim that a crushing victory will be a great embarrassment to our leaders. "If victory was possible," the public will say, "why did you wait almost eight years before liberating us from Hamas's terror?"

There is a kernel of truth in these explanations. But every terrible mess in Israel originates in "a conception." Against all historical evidence, and against common sense, most leaders, egged on by the media, have sold themselves on the conception that "there are no wars in existence anymore that can be won like the wars of yore" (as stated by a headline to a special Ma'ariv supplement "Not By Force" preaching against seeking victory); in other words that "terror cannot be vanquished by force."

This is nonsense, of course. Almost every terrorist movement was vanquished by force, from the 11th century Assassins to the 1936 Arab Revolt, from the post World War II communist insurrections in Greece or Malaya to terrors groups in Italy, Germany, Japan, etc.

It is also absurd to claim that the IDF, which is supposed to fight several Arab armies simultaneously, cannot vanquish a ragtag guerrilla force of 20,000 fighters lacking armor or airpower. The IDF cannot win only if - like in Lebanon - it fights without a clear plan for victory and under a leadership that does not enable it to win.
Ehud Olmert was Prime Minister. Worse, he was a lame duck Prime Minister, which means that if he had really wanted to prosecute the war to the end, he could have stood up and done so and faced no adverse consequences. He has no business claiming that anyone else talked him out of doing what should have been done. The buck stopped at his desk.

But Ehud Olmert did not want to win in Gaza any more than Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni did. To come now and claim otherwise is spineless, gutless, two-faced and shameless. In other words, it proves once again everything those of us who live here in Israel already knew about Ehud Olmert: Never in the history of this country has there been a more despicable leader. May he never hold any office in this country again.


At 6:22 PM, Blogger Moriah said...

Since when do we bomb the enemy and not want to eliminate the leaders - right away? Pure insanity ...

At 7:25 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Ehud Olmert is trying to rehabilitate his sorry reputation. Ironically, had the IDF sought to win, the Goldstone Report probably never would have happened. In bungling Operation Cast Lead, Olmert and the politicians around him helped to inflict totally avoidable damage on Israel and they ensured that at some point in the future Israel will be fighting a stronger and far better equipped Hamas. Olmert has no right try to blame his subordinates for his failure to pursue victory. The buck stopped with him and at point did he ever press towards the goals he now claims he wanted all along.

May he never become Prime Minister again.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Ashan said...

Olmert, Barak and Livni = The 3 Stooges.


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