Column One: The coronation of Kofi

By going to war, Israel placed the initiative for freeing the soldiers in its own hands.

glick long hair 88 (photo credit: )
glick long hair 88
(photo credit: )
  • Clarification This week we witnessed one of the greatest perfidies in Israel's media history. Channel 10's decision to broadcast both Hizbullah's 18-year-old film of missing IAF navigator Ron Arad, who was taken hostage by Shi'ites in Lebanon in 1986, and Hizbullah's video of its abduction of IDF soldiers Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Suwaid in October 2000 constituted nothing less than direct collaboration between Channel 10 and Hizbullah. Hizbullah clearly released the films now to sow the seeds of defeatism and powerlessness among Israelis. The films are a part of its blackmail campaign to coerce Israel into releasing hundreds of terrorist murderers from our jails in return for IDF hostages Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit. That Channel 10 agreed to participate in this psychological warfare operation against its country is a disgrace to the profession of journalism. Yet at the end of the day, Channel 10 is a private business. It ran the films to make a buck. More disturbing than its treachery is the Olmert government's mismanagement of the hostage issue. Thursday, Yediot Aharonot reported an unbelievable exchange between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Elipaz Bluah, whose son Nadav fell in battle in Lebanon. Responding to Bluah's criticism of his decision to accept a cease-fire without first bringing about the soldiers' release, Olmert said, "From the beginning I knew we would have to negotiate to secure the release of the hostages. In order to rescue them we would have to pay a very heavy price. How many more children would you want to die like your son died in order to rescue them? Did anyone seriously think that I would get to some place, that I don't know where it is, and would try to rescue them?" We should recall that Olmert stated at the outset of the war that Israel's goals were to secure Regev and Goldwasser's unconditional release, disarm Hizbullah, and remove its fighters from the border. The nation fully supported all of these goals - none of which was achieved. No one questioned Olmert's assertion that Israel cannot negotiate the release of our soldiers. Every family in Israel understands that when Israel releases terrorists from its prisons in exchange for its abducted soldiers and citizens, it ensures that more Israelis will be kidnapped in the future. By going to war, Israel placed the initiative for freeing the soldiers in its own hands. By agreeing to the cease-fire without first securing their release, Olmert effectively handed the power to determine their fate to Hizbullah. But rather than acknowledge his failure, Olmert attacks the public for having believed him. Today the only way to prevent other Israelis from sharing the fate of the captives and their families is for the government to wait patiently until the IDF receives actionable intelligence that will enable our forces to rescue them. But instead of acting responsibly and owning up to its failures, the government compounds them by meekly conducting negotiations with Hizbullah and the Palestinians. The government's dereliction of duty regarding the IDF captives is of course but one component of its overall failure in managing the war and the cease-fire in Lebanon. Other components are the result of the government's capitulation to all UN and European demands and positions. These include Israel's acceptance of the participation of soldiers from hostile states in the UNIFIL force, and its resignation to the assertion that UNIFIL forces will not disarm Hizbullah, will not patrol the Lebanon-Syria border to enforce an arms embargo against Hizbullah, and will not force Hizbullah fighters to abandon their positions in southern Lebanon. The government's failure is caused by its refusal to accept the simple fact that Israel's national security interests are best safeguarded by Israel. Rather than keeping as many cards in its hand as possible, the government has surrendered card after card, option after option to the UN, the EU, Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas and the Bush administration. The most extreme example of this cognitive confusion by the Olmert government is its complete abrogation of responsibility for contending with the greatest single threat to Israel's existence - Iran's nuclear weapons program - to the US. Disturbingly, the Bush administration's handling of Iran's nuclear program is all too similar to the Olmert government's handling of Iran's proxy, Hizbullah. Much as Olmert's strong rhetoric during the war bore little to no resemblance to his war policies, the Bush administration's rhetoric on Iran's nuclear weapons program is disconnected from its policies for handling the issue. President George W. Bush's speech to the Military Officers Association of America Tuesday was a case in point. While Bush eloquently declared that the US will not permit Iran to achieve nuclear capabilities, the course of action he prescribed for contending with Iran has no chance of preventing it from achieving nuclear capabilities. Bush said, "The world is working together to prevent Iran's regime from acquiring the tools of mass murder. The international community has made a reasonable proposal to Iran's leaders, and given them the opportunity to set their nation on a better course. So far, Iran's leaders have rejected this offer…. It's time for Iran's leader to make a different choice. And we've made our choice. We'll continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution. The world's free nations will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon." On Tuesday, when Bush committed the US to pursuing diplomacy, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had already rejected the UN Security Council's demand that Iran cease all its uranium enrichment activities by August 31. Bush spoke after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana declared their desire to continue negotiating with Iran rather than imposing sanction on the genocidal regime. That is, Bush made this statement after it was already clear that America's "allies" have no intention of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and as a result, there is no way for the US to both prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and stay faithful to its strictly diplomatic course. THE SELF-DEFEATING nature of the Israeli and American policies is due to both governments' preference for process over content. During the war, the Olmert government said Israel was fighting in order to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559 which calls for Hizbullah's dismantlement. Yet that was not what Israel was fighting for. Israel fought to secure the release of the hostages and to dismantle Hizbullah. Whether or not Israel's actions brought about the implementation of a UN resolution was beside the point. Yet, by framing the war in the context of UN resolutions, Israel gave undeserved legitimacy and power to the UN in adjudicating the war and so paved the way for the cease-fire resolution which secured none of Israel's actual goals or interests while vastly upgrading the UN's position. By the same token, the US goal is to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear capabilities. Yet America too has fallen into the UN trap. Like Israel, the Bush administration has confused process with content by deciding it is more important to receive UN and French backing for its policies than to adopt policies that have the possibility of preventing Iran from achieving nuclear capabilities. In so doing it has weakened itself and empowered Annan and his European friends. There are two possible explanations for this counterproductive behavior. First, as the US did before its invasion of Iraq in 2003, Israel and the US may have turned to the UN to prove the organization's fecklessness and so build cases for operating independently. Second, the Bush administration and the Olmert government may believe that the UN-led international community will save them. It is hard to know which explanation is more obtuse. What is clear enough, however, is that with the Israeli government authorizing the UN to "solve" its problems in Lebanon, and the Bush administration authorizing the UN to "solve" the Iranian nuclear crisis, the Israeli people find ourselves in unprecedented peril. We face existential threats without leaders willing to do what is necessary to protect us. It is little wonder that the hostages were abandoned.