Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Israel's broken heart

A piece by Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi entitled "Israel's Broken Heart," in the current New Republic (subscription only), places the blame squarely on the Olmert administration for mishandling the opportunities of the last month.

Israeli public opinion was united as never before; only the furthest reaches of the far left failed to see this war as an existential one--and that's "existential," not in the sense of some arcane Satrean philosophy, but in the original sense of "a battle for its very existence."

In such struggles, it's useless to pretend that one can fight halfheartedly, or with one hand tied behind one's back because of PC considerations. Halevi describes a political cartoon that appeared in Maariv showing Olmert as a boy playing with a yo-yo inscribed "Israel Defense Forces." Halevi writes:

None of Israel's wars was ever fought with greater micromanagement by a government, and no government was ever less qualified to manage a war as this one.

But it wasn't just Olmert. In recent years, Israel experienced cutbacks in its defense forces much like the US did in the Clinton years. Lulled by Oslo and Camp David and a vision of its own strength, as well as the dream of peace that seemed close at hand, the state of military readiness that Israel had maintained for so many years seems to have softened.

And who can blame them, really (oh, I know; many people can blame Israel for just about anything and everything)? As others have stated before, Israel was tired, bone-tired and weary, of being Sparta all the time.

The immediate post-World War II generation in Israel had no such illusions. They were used to the idea that they would have to struggle against the world merely to be allowed to exist. Subsequent generations lost some of that edge. But events are conspiring to force them to resharpen the swords they were so eager to beat into plowshares.

Halevi ends his article on a note of hope; he believes that this is only one round in a lengthy battle, and that Israel will ultimately be victorious.

But what does "victory" mean in this context, I wonder? How bad will it get before this is over? Will it go nuclear on Iran's part? And how much time is left before it does? If so, what sort of preemption is necessary, what sort is effective, and what sort is possible?

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