Friday, August 25, 2006

Resign or Redesign

Yedioth Ahranot has the results of the latest, representative poll of the Israel public (usually means just the Jewish population). They are in line with my predictions a few days ago: A large majority wants the present leadership to resign, a sharp rise in support for the right (Likud) and extreme right (Yisrael Beitenu) , a sharp drop for the center (Kadima and Labor). Here are the main numbers.
  • Resign v. stay on: Olmert -- 63% v. 29%; Peretz -- 74% v. 20%, Halutz -- 54% v. 38%;
  • Knesset seats if elections now (present seats): Likud 20 (12), Kadima 17 (29), Labor 11 (19), Yisrael Beitenu 17 (11);
  • Choice for Prime Minister: Netanyahu -- 22%, Leiberman (YB) -- 18%, Shimon Peres -- 12%, Ehud Olmert -- 11%, Tsippi Livni -- 10%;
  • Match-up: Olmert - 29% v. Netanyahu -- 45%.
Accompanying this shift are growing public protests, led by army reservists, with distinctly right wing themes: we were misled, let down, unprotected, ill-supplied and betrayed. But unlike the Mel Gibsons of the world, the protesters cannot blame "the Jews." Maybe they should blame the Palestinians? Veteran military analyst Zev Schiff thinks the time and energy IDF spends on policing Gaza and the West Bank blunted its fighting ability. Hmm. If IDF trained the Palestinian militants, it might then have a good sparring partner in tuning up for the next big fight.

Yoram Peri, a specialist on Israel's military, op-eds in the Washington Post on Israel's frayed civil-military relationship. In the 1990s, he says, the generals were bolder than the politicians in seeking political solutions for Israel's security, particularly through negotiations with Syria. Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon turned down their proposals, which would have involved withdrawal of Israel from the Golan Heights in return for a peace treaty. The situation was reversed in the recent war, when militarily inexperienced political leaders hastily bowed to the demands of the generals, only to find later that the generals could not deliver. Uri Segei, a retired high ranking IDF general, weighed in on that point. At a Jerusalem forum, yesterday, he said IDF needs "fundamental treatments" from top to bottom, not just a few fixes: The conduct of the opening stages of the war were perplexing and its final stages were pathological. These criticisms do not daunt neoconservative Max Boot in The Los Angeles Times. Back from a junket to Israel, courtesy of the American Jewish Committee (proud sponsor of Commentary), he commands Israel to go to war against Syria. Why Syria? It supplies missiles to Hezbollah and could supply them to Hamas, it is an ally of Iran, and, above all, it is the enemy that Israel can most easily defeat through conventional means.

Do Israel generals have doctor envy? Israel military speak has become heavily medicalized. Of course, some terms like surgical strike are part of a universal military vocabulary. But IDF senior officers seemed to play doctor when they called Hezbollah a cancer that had spread beyond the red lines and that would have to be vomited out. Then last night, as noted, a retired general prescribed fundamental treatment for IDF pathologies. Maybe such talk indicates that Israelis are reverting back to more traditional Jewish choices of role models? Maybe Israeli mothers now want their children to become doctors or, at least, computer scientists, instead of generals?


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