Thursday, Yediot Ahronot reported an unbelievable exchange between Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert and Elipaz Bluah, whose son Nadav fell in battle in
Responding to Bluah's criticism of his decision to accept a ceasefire
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 ceasefire 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
ceasefire 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, 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 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 keep 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 ceasefire 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 decided 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
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 in order 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.
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