Middle Israel: For heaven's sake - go

Halutz must agree with Mao Zedong that politics is bloodless war and war is bloody politics.

amotz asa el 88 (photo credit: )
amotz asa el 88
(photo credit: )
Surrounded by damning investigations, treacherous colleagues and hostile pundits, an increasingly embattled Dan Halutz must agree with Mao Zedong's observation that politics is bloodless war and war is bloody politics. Yes, the chief of staff has had his fair share of both, but so have we. Now, since the efforts to convey this to him politely have failed, we must say this in his face: you cannot be part of the solution, as you insist; you're part of the problem. Judging by what he said and didn't say, and by what he did and didn't do, before during and after the outbreak of our midsummer nightmare, the IDF's first pilot-commander had no idea he would preside over an old-fashioned war that would expose a million civilians to a month's worth of rocket attacks, a war that would unnecessarily and inconclusively kill some 160 soldiers and civilians, wound hundreds more, and destroy some 4,000 homes. Much less did he expect to become embroiled in a public debate surrounding his suitability for the position at which he arrived so improbably, and in which he has failed so colossally. Perhaps it is this lack of mental preparation that best explains his refusal to vacate the IDF's helm despite the harsh attacks on him by retired generals Doron Almog, Yoram Yair, Yanush Ben-Gal, Yossi Peled and Uri Saguy, and even after the postwar resignations of Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam, who commanded the northern front, and Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsh, who commanded much of the Lebanese border. One can almost hear Halutz muttering to himself: "Why should I go? I am at least as suited for my position as the defense minister is for his, and he is not going anywhere. Fire him first." Yes, that's a point, as in fact is also the prime minister's unbearable refusal to assume his own responsibility. And yet, Halutz more than all the rest personifies not only the tactical disorientation and strategic blindness that have so crucially crippled the IDF, but also the entire Sharon era's moral bankruptcy. ACCORDING TO Yuval Steinitz, who chaired the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee at the time of Halutz's appointment, the former air force commander's over-reliance on air power was not circumstantial, but the result of a consciously adopted doctrine. Halutz really thought Hizbullah could be destroyed from the air, within days. For that misconception alone he must leave. What was his job if not to identify and address the threat that produced Israel's longest war since 1948, and its least successful ever? In America, the Roberts Commission dismissed in 1942 General Walter Short and Admiral Husband Kimmel due to what it saw as their responsibility for the Pearl Harbor fiasco. Halutz and Olmert may disagree, but Middle Israelis think that last summer the IDF's commander handed us a Pearl Harbor of his own. Is there any arguing that the ground forces' equipment and training had been neglected? Is there any doubt that Israel's deterrence has been dealt a blow? Is there any disputing that the IDF's time-honored values of leadership by example, boldness of maneuver and quest for total victory have been compromised? These failures are strictly military and as such attributable first and foremost to the chief of staff. Yet the Halutz phenomenon has been part of a broader malaise, one that characterized the Sharon era and was fraught with political decadence. THOSE OF us who championed territorial compromises back when Sharon was a super-hawk, now agree that his belated conversion to our faith was opportunistic, just like Greater Israelites now realize Sharon's initial siding with them was expedient rather than idealistic. Like his invasion of Lebanon, Sharon's launch of the settlement project was done in a way meant to serve his own career, if even at the price of nearly tearing this society asunder. As prime minister Sharon finally discovered the merits of consensus politics, but not the perils of his lifelong scorn for governance. That is how he celebrated nepotism by turning his son into a national kingmaker, that is how he accepted and ejected coalition partners like a serial dater, that is how he crowned Moshe Katsav president, that is how he ignored the results of a referendum he had ordered himself, that is how he fired a chief of staff who asked too many questions, that is how he made Ehud Olmert his No. 2, and that is how he made Dan Halutz the IDF's No. 1. "What the heck," Sharon must have told himself, "the pilot dude is charismatic, and the public will buy this choice as unconventional. As for the IDF - about which, let's face it, he is pretty much clueless - I will be there, and I am not going anywhere." But Sharon did go, and he left us with the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the most fateful of times. This, the fact that his appointment was not only ill-fated, but also ill-conceived, that it was part of a Zeitgeist whereby government became synonymous with cynicism, is what Halutz refuses to understand. Now, as a product of the Ariel Sharon school of government, he thinks he can treat us the way Sharon did. Well, Dan, you're no Arik, and we are no longer the suckers who let him get away with our future. You seem to think you are the chairman of some corporate board, and that the noise we are creating is that which civilian managers hear when their employees grumble about the long hours, low pay or staleness of the sandwiches served on their night shifts. Yet the truth is that it is you who is working for us: we are your customers, we are your shareholders, and in fact we pay your salary. Now, it is in all these capacities that we must lead you where you wouldn't go by yourself: out.