American Jewish Committee representatives received a sobering account of Israel's position in the aftermath of the war in Lebanon on Monday, the first day of a three-day solidarity mission.
In a panel discussion at the David Citadel Hotel, pundits from across the political spectrum criticized a leadership incapable of making experienced war-time decisions, yet praised the populace for its resilience throughout the war and the IDF for maintaining the moral high ground.
"The Israeli army took out only the apartment buildings of the Hizbullah fighters, and not the neighboring buildings," said Uri Dromi, director of outreach at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank. "This is a democracy. We stick to our values."
Nonetheless, he admitted that the military exhibited too much hesitation. "Some people missed the good ol' Sharon because he knows how to deal with Lebanon," he said.
Earlier in the day, the 120-member delegation met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who welcomed the committee by stating the positive outcomes of the war.
"The situation in Lebanon is changed forever," he was quoted as saying in an AJC press release. "For the first time in 35 years the Lebanese army is down south, Hizbullah is hiding."
Other analysts, however, disagreed with Olmert's optimism.
"If there is any good news that came out of this disastrous war," said Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center, "it is that we were given a dry run for the next round."
He stressed that the war was simply one battle in a longer "jihadist war aimed at the home front" that began six years ago with the second intifada and that will culminate in a larger war with Iran.
"We need to free ourselves from an illusory promise of renewing the peace process," he said. "We need to focus our attention on war."
Halevi said that should the international community not take military action against Iran, he does not believe that Israel has a leadership capable of launching an attack.
"I need to know that I have a fall back in such an apocalyptic scenario," he said.
Other analysts suggested that Israel remain quiet on the Iran issue, despite President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's public desire to "wipe Israel off the map."
"This is not an exclusive Israeli concern," said Shlomo Avineri, a professor of political science at Hebrew University. "There are enough reasons for the West to decide to go at it should it decide to."
He said that any military action taken against Iran should never appear to be exercised on behalf of Israel, the Jewish people or the Israel lobby, but rather in defense of world peace and democracy.
Eran Lerman, executive director of the AJC's Israel/Middle East office, agreed with Avineri. "It is not Israel's business to go around telling the world what to do, but it is Israel's business to go around telling the world that there is a problem," he said. "It shouldn't be perceived as simply our issue."
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