For a second war of independence

Yes, Olmert must go. But Israel will not truly heal until the economy is separated from politics.

Olmert pissed off 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
Olmert pissed off 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
As someone who fought in the 1948 War of Independence, among other conflicts, I view the reservists' protest against the Lebanon fiasco as having the potential of initiating a process that could contribute to a politically, economically and socially healthier Israel. If that happens Lebanon II will be remembered as our "second war of independence." It will become a true war of liberation from a corrupting system which threatens our future existence. First, the irresponsible politicians who started the war without foresight or adequate preparation must be held accountable. The disastrous results of their confusing hesitations, motivated by political considerations, are so obvious that those at fault ought to go even before any commission formally defines their culpability. The fact that their bungling caused so many unnecessary casualties, that they failed to realize any of their declared war aims - dismantling Hizbullah, removing the rocket threat to the North and returning our captive soldiers - is reason enough to have them go. So, too, is the grave damage they caused to Israel's deterrence capacity and to its standing in the US and the Muslim world. Their inept and hesitant management of the war prevented the powerful Israeli army from winning a decisive victory over a 15,000-man guerrilla army. They squandered the backing that the US president gave them (at high political cost). They boosted the morale of our Muslim enemies. These reasons alone justify sending them home. But above all they must go because they have lost the confidence of the people. Recent revelations about how the campaign was manipulated in the first place tells me that those who now govern won only because of lies, defamations and distortions - by a level of chicanery far worse than is common even on the rough-and-tumble Israeli political scene. If we are to believe the polls the public is sickened not only by the government's ineptitude and negligence, but also by repeated allegations of corruption. No intensified resort to spin - such as the prime minister attempted in his Monday evening speech - is going to blind the public to the government's depravity or assuage its growing rage. THE PROCESS of repairing the body politic must not stop with throwing the rascals out. We cannot hope to mend the systemic faults revealed by the second Lebanon war if we do not understand them in the context of previous military failures, and especially of repeated policy failures that have caused Israel to snatch political defeats from the jaws of military victories. For the recent military failures express the same prolonged systemic failures that plague our civil system of governance, law enforcement, justice, education, welfare and health. They also reflect the resounding failure of our economic system that has made a most talented people economically lame. ISRAEL IS undermined by a system that has created a concentration of political and economic power without parallel in any other Western democracy. This concentration of power is highly corruptible - since politicians can make people enormously rich. It is also unmanageable. There is no organization that can perform the many, often contradictory, tasks the government of Israel undertakes, from determining the amount of jelly in doughnuts to the contents of TV broadcasts. The government controls most resources; it dispenses them according to political, anti-productive and corruptible criteria. The government sanctions the many inefficient monopolies which inflate prices so that most Israelis cannot make ends meet. The struggle for government patronage fragments and radicalizes politics, it inflames envy and hatred and it exhausts most Israelis who have to struggle to survive economically. The bulk of government assets has been sold by the bureaucracy to the well-connected with credit provided by government-controlled banks. This manipulation of privatization has resulted in an even greater concentration of power, and in reduced competition. It has created a piggish, rapacious, cabal of cronies who corrupt politics and the economy. This same cabal dominates the electoral system. It finances costly political spin-masters and campaign managers, the Adlers and Co. who sell us politicians whose main agenda is self-preservation and cronyism. In doing so, they have also stacked the civil service with mediocrity. ISRAEL WILL not heal until its system of government is changed and its economy separated from politics. The size and scope of government must be drastically reduced to enable government to manage its vital tasks, such as law enforcement and security. But land must be liberated from the stranglehold of the bureaucracy and its oligarchic allies that force Israelis to pay the equivalent of nine years' salary for a modest apartment. Small businesses, the chief engine of growth, must be liberated from strangling regulation and taxation. The monopolies that exploit our consumers must be abolished. Last, but not least, we must belatedly institute a reformed electoral system that will be truly - not just putatively - representative. The struggle to replace our corrupt system, started by the brave reservists manning the Rose Garden barricades (I urge you to go visit them), is our second War of Liberation. If we persevere, this campaign can free us, finally, from the corrupting system that is choking Israel to death.