Analysis: A non-victory for a non-war

It was never called a war, so there appeared no reason to declare victory Monday in the Knesset, where Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni all spoke about the "cease-fire to the month-long military operation." Although those officials have joined many others in calling the violence in the north a "war" behind closed doors, the careful deletion of that word from formal speeches had many in the Knesset seeing red Monday. "They did not call it a war and so there was no declaration of an emergency state in the north," said opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. When an emergency state is declared special conditions apply that would provide compensation and recovery aid to residents of the designated area. The failure to label the north an "emergency state" was lambasted by politicians since violence began more than a month ago. "If the north is not an emergency state I don't know what is," Netanyahu said. Like many others, the opposition leader called for an inquiry committee into the government's handling of the past month's "events." Unlike the others, when Netanyahu did not use the word victory in his speech to the Knesset, it appeared for very different reasons. "There will be another round [in this war] because the government's just demands weren't met," said Netanyahu. "The [kidnapped] soldiers weren't returned home, Hizbullah was not disarmed... Right now, we are [merely] in an interim period between wars." For many in the Knesset, the words "war" and "victory" are more than just semantics, they are guidelines for how to behave. "When the war began we weren't sure what to do because we weren't really calling it a war," said one Israel Beitenu MK. "Now we aren't quite sure if it's over so we don't know if we have the go-ahead to start criticizing… Like the rest of the state of Israel we are confused about exactly what has happened here this past month." In the plenum on Monday, the only Knesset members who did not seem confused were MKs such as Estherina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu), Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) and Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), who have been increasingly vocal in their opposition to the government. Those three were evicted from the plenum Monday when they interrupted Olmert's speeches by yelling out their criticisms. Many, however, said afterward that those MKs would soon be joined by others. "There are many of us who have questions and accusations, soon the time will come to air them," said MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud). On Monday, a Globes-Smith survey showed 58 percent of the public stating that Israel achieved few, if any, objectives in the war. In addition, 60% of those who voted for Kadima and Labor said they would not vote for them if another election were held this week. Those results, said MKs, did not bode well for the prime minister. "We will have a victory, one day, in the future, if we have patience," Olmert told the plenum Monday. Patience, however, may be one word the Knesset members are not eager to hear.