Sunday, July 16, 2006

Thomas Friedman “Is There” for Ehud Olmert

The Israeli right continues to exploit the increasingly bitter sense of frustration in Israel over the sad results of the July fiasco, cooked up by Olmert and Bush. Israel wants to know what happened, how and why. Unfortunately, it has still not yet dawned on broad sections of the public that the cardinal question was and remains that of policy and not performance.

Meanwhile, Olmert is trying to weather the latest storms. A vicious “battle of generals” has erupted, and instead of serious analysis of the strategic and tactical flaws that marred the IDF efforts, the big boys are playing a very rough version of the old blame game. General “A”, head of the Northern command, broke rank with a public letter of resignation arguing that his boss, the chief of staff, Halutz and the Minister of Defense, Peretz, and not him, were responsible for the failure of the ground operations. Then, Halutz’s immediate predecessor, “Boogey” Ya’alon, came out, guns blazing, blasting the war and everything connected with it.

Ya’alon on Olmert: “Going to war was scandalous, and he is directly responsible for that. The war’s management was a failure and he is responsible for that.”
Ya’alon on Halutz: “The chief of staff failed in the management of the war. He gave the political echelon the feeling that he had the capability, which in practice he did not have, to bring about a political achievement by means of an extremely aggressive military operation.”

Ya’alon on the ground operation at the end of the war: “That was a spin move. It had no substantive security-political goal, only a spin goal. It was meant to supply the missing victory picture. You don’t do that. You don’t send soldiers to carry out a futile mission after the political outcome has already been set. I consider that corrupt.” (Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz, September 14, 2006)

Enter Thomas Friedman with his Head in the Dyke

One important observer has some advice for Israel. Friedman tells the Israelis to “get a grip.” Friedman is tough: Stop whining, you won the war. “Nevertheless, Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, did a better job under the circumstances, than he is being credited with, and more important, the situation evolving in South Lebanon now has the potential to offer a whole new model for peacemaking.” (International Herald Tribune, September 14, 2006

Friedman is so enthralled by the new model for peacemaking that he suggested it for the Israeli-Palestinian (non-existent and non-recognized) borders. Friedman wants us to believe that peace is absent because the Palestinians are unable to control territory which Israel has left. He ignores the need for anything so elementary as negotiations and an agreement on the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state.

Unfortunately, Friedman’s pals in Israel shot the whole idea – the new model for peacemaking - down before it could get off the ground. Tom is there for Ehud, but Ehud is not there for Tom.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 – Fact and Fantasy

This resolution which is supposed, according to its main sponsors to establish a new reality in the Middle East, does nothing of the sort. Characteristically, Thomas Friedman’s sales pitch for the resolution is just another example of the wish being the father of the thought. Phrases, noble or base, rarely shape reality. Basically, the resolution contains two operative elements: the imposition of a cease-fire on Hezbollah and Israel and the provision for the introduction of strong U.N military presence in South Lebanon.

The new edition of the fresh UNIFIL mandate is an extraordinary document whose origins have little to do with Lebanon proper. The idea for an international force is in one respect a product of internal struggle in the U.S. ruling circles. Condoleezza Rice exploited the recent crisis to promote a revision of the Rumsfield-Cheney demand for exclusive U.S. hegemony as a condition for any international cooperation. The miserable results of the basically unilateral invasion of Iraq inspired Rice’s attempt to sponsor a counter model of diplomatic and military action.

Rice had hoped that successful Israeli military action would make the picture easier to manipulate. But the Israeli attack failed to come close to breaking Hezbollah and actually strengthened it politically. The new edifice that was supposed to be put in place to “prevent the return to the status quo anti” did nothing of the sort.

What it did do was to create a UN military force in South Lebanon which is nothing more than a base for diplomatic jockeying by the countries represented. In truth, France entered the fray to reestablish its traditional links with Lebanon, the Europeans wanted to give Condi a leg up in her battle against Rumsfield-Chyney and a number of Asian countries are interested in religious and economic links in the region. None of these countries is the least bit serious about their troops fighting anyone, least of all Hezbollah.

Everyone is agreeing to 1701 because everyone understands that nothing has been decided and hopes that nothing will have to be decided. Bush’s brainstorm to let Israel lead the battle to realign Lebanese politics did not quite work out. Washington and Jerusalem did impress everyone that they are trigger happy and ready to use their technological arsenals to unleash death and destruction, but they also need to recuperate from the recent fiasco. Teheran is busy with the nuclear negotiations. Damascus and Hezbollah are tip-toeing in order to consolidate their gains. And Israel is having more and more trouble convincing itself that 1701, that reads well but has very little or no impact on reality, proves that it has won the war.