Sunday, August 20, 2006

 

The lessons of Lebanon - II by LENNY BEN-DAVID

The lessons of Lebanon - II
by LENNY BEN-DAVID

The war did not go well. It's easy to point to Hizbullah's six years of preparations, its fanatic devotion to death, and an endless supply of technologically advanced Iranian and Syrian weapons. But the analysis of what went wrong must first be focused on ourselves.

Five of my sons and sons-in-law fought in this war. Now coming out of Lebanon and surviving some of the bloodiest fighting, they are filled with anger. Their short-term and long-term orders were confused and ever-changing. The emergency stocks for their reserve units were in horrible condition. One reservist special forces unit lacked basic communications equipment, they were provided guns that they had never trained on, and their rushed training was done in conditions unlike anything they would see in Lebanon.

Truly by the grace of God, one son missed his death by a few seconds and yards. Instead he had to evacuate dozens of dead and wounded under fire. The evacuation force never came, and the survivors had to carry the dead, wounded and themselves miles back to the Israeli lines.

Over the course of the war soldiers were held back for weeks when they were ready to charge. When they were finally dispatched, they were given unachievable missions in impossible time constraints. Soldiers were sent on daytime missions that should have been carried out only under the cover of darkness. Some died as a result.

My generation has failed our sons. Not because we failed to give them the proper equipment. We failed to provide them and ourselves with proper leadership. At the start of this war I never felt such a lack of confidence in our national and political leadership. At this point in the war - and I suspect it is only half-time - I feel despair.

Last week, the commander-in-chief of the IDF admitted that at the moment Israeli soldiers were chasing after their abducted comrades and engaged in fighting Hizbullah on July 12 - on the eve of the war - he was busy selling his stock portfolio. The police meanwhile charged a senior Kadima Member of Knesset, Tzahi Hanegbi, with bribery and a handful of other crimes. And today, the police announced that they would charge Minister Haim Ramon with sexual abuse.

What shame! Did we receive the leaders we deserve?

ALL OF this has been a long time coming. There was no public outcry when aides to Israeli prime ministers made fortunes in under-the-table kickback deals with Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian cronies. Why, for instance, were the Palestinians paying high prices for cement and gasoline from Israeli companies when they could have gotten the products at a fraction from Arab companies? Why were Israeli officials and their relatives involved in the Palestinian casino?

What Israeli officials profited from the disengagement from Gaza? Is there any truth to the claim by the eccentric Israeli-French billionaire, Shmuel Flatto-Sharon, that the northern Gaza Jewish settlements were demolished to make way for a Palestinian casino with a silent Israeli partner? We dismissed it then as a crank claim, but today, who knows? Palestinian rockets are now fired from those sites.

We were silent when senior IDF officials were allegedly fired and replaced by army friends of Ariel Sharon's sons and cronies. Are we paying the price today in the army's malfeasance, nonfeasance and misfeasance?

Columnists in the Hebrew press are questioning where in the war are the sons of the `branja, Israel's political, media and financial elite. Their sons don't seem to show up in the casualty lists, because, as one columnist charged, their children are overseas, do not serve, or sit at cushy office jobs in the army.

We stood quiet while the civil rights of thousands of Jews from Gaza were trampled by the police. We didn't realize that the government's abandonment of these citizens in 2005 would be a precursor to the neglect of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in the bomb shelters of the north in 2006.

How much IDF and government planning, manpower and resources went into the disengagement last year that could have been expended on preparing for the Hizbullah war this summer?

I have always opposed airing Israel's dirty laundry in public, but perhaps it is time to do it. Israel's supporters are pouring out their sympathy and dollars to help rebuild Israel's north. They must make sure the millions of dollars are not going to be funneled through the companies of political cronies and party hacks.

I know of what I speak. After the December 2004 Tsunami, I was approached by American sources looking for immediate supplies of water for Asia. Water from Israel could expedite delivery considerably. I approached an Israeli minister for assistance. The call back came from a political party hack who had already figured out the percentage that would go to political purposes.

The great political sage from Okefenokee Swamp, Pogo, expressed Israel's predicament best some 30 years ago when he proclaimed, "We has met the enemy, and he is us!"

Israel has another war on its hands. In the Hizbullah war, our citizens performed unselfishly with extraordinary valor, patriotism and volunteer spirit. They reacted in ways their leaders did not deserve.

Now Israel's citizens must battle again, this time in Israel's own political arena.

The writer served as Israel's deputy chief of mission in the Washington Embassy. Today he is an international consultant to corporations and foreign governments.

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