lebanon wounded 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said in his first interview after the Lebanon war that if he could have predicted the ferocity of Israel's retaliation to the capture of soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, he wouldn't have ordered the raid. Yet, looking at the current Israeli situation, he's actually got good reason to be a bit more satisfied.
The media is putting together special broadcasts and supplements this week to note six months since the outbreak of the war. Naturally, the emphasis is mainly on what happened on the battlefield and the homefront during that traumatic summer month, but perhaps we should be looking more closely at what happened within Israel ever since.
Beyond the long list of those killed and injured, what was the most serious damage the war caused us?
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Tuesday: "I would carefully say that not all the war's objectives were achieved, not the diplomatic ones, or the military."
Talk about understatement. Add this to the briefing by Military Intelligence Commander Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee affirming reports that Hizbullah has rebuilt most of its military apparatus destroyed in the war. And if that's not enough, there is also a sizable al-Qaida presence now in Lebanon. Quite obviously, the most significant strategic damage is to Israel's deterrence force; Hizbullah managed to withstand the might of the IDF with its hierarchy and organization intact and to recoup its losses in a very short time. That's going to be giving other enemies some ideas.
But even that outcome can be put into perspective. The IDF has at least been given the chance to learn from its operational mistakes, put into motion an urgent retraining program for the combat units and replenish its emergency depots. Better late than never.
What hasn't been improved one bit since the end of the war is the decision-making process of our political leadership; in fact, that's only got much worse. We've heard so many times about the woeful incompetence of our prime minister and defense minister in military affairs, but that wasn't the reason the government never came out with a coherent set of targets for the operation that unfolded so quickly - and intentionally - into a war without a clear purpose. Even when it became clear that Regev and Goldwasser were not going to be released by the end of the fighting, the government was still insisting that the war could be measured a success, though they weren't exactly clear on what scale. This total lack of a sense of direction naturally radiated downwards into the ranks of the army and government departments that failed to deal with a million civilians being bombed by Hizbullah.
Some of the reasons for the lack of coordination at the top were present already before the war. Chief among them was the total lack of chemistry and joint purpose between the government's two most senior figures, Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz, but the recriminations in the war's aftermath and the level of public anger put an end to any hope that the two could overcome their estrangement. What began as light bickering is now a total split between the leaders, and that's not the only breakdown.
Peretz is now being regarded by almost everyone in Labor as the outgoing leader, with four-and-a-half months left until the primary, and then farewell. Meanwhile, no serious politician wants to be seen cooperating with Peretz, and we have an isolated defense minister. In Olmert's Kadima, the rebellion is still only under the surface but the rising tension with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is causing havoc to Israel's diplomatic efforts.
Olmert is still in charge - just - but Mofaz, Livni and others are already breathing down his neck. Pursuing any policy save for political survival in such an environment is almost impossible. This isn't the first government to break up into warring factions, but it couldn't have happened so quickly and totally if it wasn't for the war.
If Israel still hasn't formulated a serious response to the Iranian threat and it is proving itself powerless to block the military buildup in the Gaza Strip or stop the Kassams falling on Sderot; if despite everything happening among the Palestinians, the government is still being pressured by the US to make concessions; if the relationship with Egypt and perhaps Jordan is in danger of coming apart, then Nasrallah can certainly take a lot of the credit for all this.
He destroyed the government's self-confidence and basic ability to work together. Six months later and it still isn't showing any sign of recuperating.