Just six months ago, Israeli chief of staff Dan Halutz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were riding high. On July 12, they had launched what they were still convinced would be the knockout blow from which Lebanese Hizbullah and its Iranian allies/backers would never recover… And on July 17, despite some early signs on setback in that war, they still seemed very upbeat about its prospects of success…
Now, six months later, how are the mighty fallen.
In early November, I published a long essay in Boston Review about how the flaws in the concept that Halutz used in the war were considerably magnified by the chaos in the decisionmaking of Israel’s national command authorities at the very highest level… The result was a humiliating battlefield and strategic reverse for Israel, which damaged all portions of the Olmert government very seriously.
That damage has continued to play out in the Israeli body politic until today. Israel’s “Winograd” state commission of enquiry into the Lebanon episode still continues its work, after an earlier inside-the-IDF enquiry delivered a stinging indictment of the role of the chief of staff…
Today, finally, Halutz submitted a resignation that in the view of many Israelis was long overdue. Amos Harel wrote in Wednesday’s HaAretz:
- Now, Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz will need to overcome their mutual loathing and decide quickly on Halutz’s replacement. If a lengthy inheritance battle develops, that will only deepen the IDF’s depression.
Harel also wrote,
- by resigning now, [Halutz] increases the pressure on his partners in the war’s failed management, Olmert and Peretz, to follow suit.
Olmert is at political risk not only from the continuing work of the Winograd Commission, and not only from his continued humiliating position in the opinion polls and the apparent collapse of the brand-new political party that he heads, “Kadima”… But on Tuesday, in addition, state prosecutor Eran Shendar announced he had
- ordered the police to begin a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on suspicion of having tried, in his former role as finance minister, to influence a tender for the sale of a controlling stake in Bank Leumi.
So there we have it. A fateful time for Israel, indeed, with its national command authorities in a large degree of internal turmoil, and public confidence in the political leadership at rock bottom.
A situation, I should add, that is also mirrored to a great extent in a Washington whose main center of power– in the Vice President’s office– seems to march in near political lockstep with its friends in Israel..
For these reasons, over the past day or two I have again become much more concerned about the launching of a “Wag-the dog” scenario. Desperate times for both leaderships might indeed lead to a truly “desperate” search for remedies.