Weak leadership must be replaced; Iran threat requires different approach
Isi Leibler Published: 11.22.06, 17:34
These are difficult times. In contrast to the quiet confidence that prevailed
even during the height of the terror, nowadays whenever Jews or Israelis
gather, the conversation gravitates towards the state of the nation and
invariably ends on a depressing note.
There is contempt and an utter lack of confidence in the military leadership.
Most Israelis consider it outrageous that the principal failed military
leaders responsible for conducting the war still remain in their posts. Some
were even recommended for promotion.
And besieged Chief of Staff Halutz went so far as to reprimand the officers he
had himself selected to investigate the army's performance, because their
findings were highly critical!
More On the Iranian Issue
There is also frustration that despite the prime minister's approval rating
sinking to below 20 percent, and that of his defense minister collapsing to an
all-time low of four percent, both remain in the saddle.
Even more disconcerting is that Olmert's government continues to zigzag on a
day to day basis without any strategic game plan, despite a widespread belief
that the winds of war are gathering. The ongoing "spins" like the prime
minister's bizarre statement to the GA that " Israel 's geo-political position
has never been better," exasperates everyone.
His blatantly contradictory statements designed to "make us happy" are equally
infuriating. He informs the nation he has shelved plans for future unilateral
withdrawals but tells the Americans that he has only temporarily suspended
He assures the Israeli public that he is determined to stand firm and prevent
a repeat Gaza performance of the Hizbullah missile build up but is still
undecided how to respond to the Qassam rockets raining down on Sderot and
When an errant shell tragically kills Palestinian innocents, instead of
blaming Hamas, he apologizes and pleads for a meeting with Abbas telling him
"you will be surprised how far I would be willing to go."
He regurgitates the nonsense about Abu Mazen being a moderate. As was the case
during the Lebanese war, despite grating Churchillian style outbursts, the
climate of indecisiveness is all pervasive and ministers continue to publicly
contradict one another.
To retain power, the prime minister co-opted Avigdor Lieberman's party to his
coalition despite the fact that it is diametrically opposed to all the central
policies in the Kadima platform. Had Olmert called for a national unity
government, there may have been some logic to his position, but what he has
done, once again makes a mockery of responsible government.
Privately, most MKs agree that this is one of the worst coalitions in the
history of the State and concede, despite indictments of leading public
figures, that a genuine purge against corruption is impossible as long as the
failed leaders remain in control.
If they were acting in the national interest, they would already have brought
about the dissolution of the government and held new elections. But many of
them, fearful of losing their seats, opted for the status quo, despite the
realization that their inaction was holding back reforms desperately needed in
the face of a possibly impending two-front war.
Reject gloomy mood
The Jewish people are surely entitled to better, but their rage has been
transformed into a deep depression out of a feeling of impotence that they
cannot force the failed leaders to relinquish their positions and a conviction
that nothing will change.
We must not permit such moods of gloom and doom from overtaking us. We should
remind ourselves that the most meaningful changes and revolutions in the
global social order were achieved by people power. We should set aside the
doom and gloom and recall that we overcame far greater challenges in the past.
After all, despite our troubles, the Israeli economy remains robust, terror
today is more effectively contained than it was a few years ago, and
notwithstanding the blunders in Lebanon , Israel remains a regional military
But for our immediate purposes, we should demand the creation of a blue chip
national task force on the lines of the Baker Commission appointed by
President Bush to reassess his Iraq policy and to chart short and long term
strategies to be considered and implemented by his Administration.
The alternative is that we could well wake up one day with yet another flawed
policy similar to the unilateral Sharon disengagement fiasco which, despite
clear warnings of disastrous consequences by the military leaders, was
determined by a handful of politicians behind closed doors.
In the short term, we must demand that our indecisive leaders not replicate
the disaster they committed when they succumbed to pressure from the State
Department and relinquished control of the Gaza borders, enabling terrorists
to flood the area with sophisticated armaments. We have yet to pay the bitter
price for that blunder.
In addition, we must gird ourselves for the reappearance of James Baker and
other new players on the Washington scene, many not as friendly to Israel as
their predecessors. If, in order to accommodate to their broader political
interests, the Americans try to pressure us to make further concessions
impinging on our security requirements, we must be prepared to stand up and
say no and explain our position to the American people.
Overriding all these concerns is the Iranian nuclear threat, which now heads
the crisis agenda. It is obligatory for the prime minister and other leaders
to highlight the fact that Iran poses an existential threat to the State of
But when Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh proclaims that a nuclear Iran
will cause Israelis to emigrate and that this will lead to the collapse of the
Zionist dream, he needlessly creates an atmosphere of malaise and doom within
Israel and plays into the hands of Israel's enemies.
He should be stressing that the Iranian threat transcends Israel because in
the event of a rogue state or terrorist group obtaining access to nuclear
weapons, a disaster of holocaust dimensions could occur in New York , London ,
or Tokyo no less than in Tel Aviv.
It would be a surrealistic nightmare if a weak and indecisive Israeli
leadership seeking to curry favor with the public is propelled by demagoguery
into adopting a flawed policy in this crucial area. Instead of generating
hysteria, they must warn the Iranians and the world at large that Israel has
sufficient deterrence to guarantee that any nation that directly or indirectly
initiates a nuclear attack on it will be decimated.
Our leaders must urgently determine a collective policy in relation to Iran
and commit to speaking with one united voice in relation to this potentially
Isi Leibler chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem
Center for Public Affairs, and is a veteran Jewish international leader
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