Window on Israel: Not paradise, but not Lebanon

These are not issues that make Israelis burst with pride for their country, but they do show that it works.

window88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem Maybe Israel did not lose the war. Last week the chief of the IDF general staff resigned. The defense minister and the prime minister selected a replacement. Hassan Nassrallah interprets this as an additional sign of his victory in the past summer's war in Lebanon. He predicts that Israel will continue to crumble until it disappears. The next steps, he says, will be the resignation of the Israeli defense minister, shamed by his poor performance in the war and then the resignation or dismissal of the prime minister already mired in charges of corruption. To celebrate phase 1, the resignation of the IDF chief, there were fireworks over Beirut, as well as additional applause from Teheran. Shi'ite theologians do not view The New York Times as sacred text, perhaps because there are too many Jews among the management, staff, and daily readers. Yet us doubters about Shi'ite truth should take a look at an article that appears in today's edition: It tells a story from southern Lebanon, one of the areas that Israel pounded. Nasrallah and his followers promised to rebuild it into an ideal showplace of what they could do. There would be payments to the displaced, clearing of the destruction, and the construction of something much better than what had existed. Like West Berlin in the teeth of East Germany, southern Lebanon would show the Jews just over the border what the Shi'ites could do. It is not happening. According to The New York Times, the money has not come as promised. There is too much destruction for the available workers. Serious disputes at the pinnacle of the Lebanese government add to the problems of deciding what to do, as well as sending money to pay for it. The rubble remains. Paradise is not on the horizon. So Israel may have done something right. It was not a victory in the biblical sense of the term. Hizbullah created a fair amount of damage in northern Israel, and killed 44 civilians. One hundred and seventeen Israeli soldiers lost their lives. On the Lebanese side, wartime deaths are estimated at 1,000 civilians and 600-800 Hizbullah fighters. Of the nearly one million Lebanese displaced by the fighting, perhaps 200,000 were still displaced in early December. For many of those people, Nasrallah's victory is less than certain. Body counts and tons of rubble do not determine victory or defeat. Insofar as this latest chapter is part of a conflict that someday might be called one long war between Israel and the Arabs, the success of one side and the other will appear in what happens next. So far, the damage in Israel seems to have been managed, while rubble and recriminations are most prominent on the Lebanese side. After a brief decline during and immediately after the fighting, Israel's economy resumed an upward move that began three years earlier when the Palestinian intifada began its decay. The resignation of the IDF chief, and as yet unresolved problems of the defense minister and prime minister, can best be seen as the working of an orderly democracy. Party colleagues are increasing the pressure on the defense minister, and the judicial process is dealing with charges of corruption against the prime minister. These are not issues that make Israelis burst with pride for their country, but they do show that it works. It is not paradise, but it is not Lebanon.
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