Thursday, January 31, 2008

Israel concedes defeat in Second Lebanon War

Olmert would prefer to close the chapter on the Lebanon file once and for all, but this week the Winograd Report slapped the PM with the conclusion he had tried to avoid ... that Israel didn't win the 2006 war.

Politically, the judge arrived at a sound and accurate conclusion. Israel failed in its objectives to deliver a serious blow to Hizballah, instead only increasing the power and resolve of the Shi'ite group.

There is an aspect to this war (a common aspect among wars in general), however, that has been notably neglected by both sides ... the humanitarian aspect. This war epitomised the sad nature of humanity, that we would place political and economic agendas above sacred human life.

Indeed, I can admit I am not innocent of this, and nor is this new to human kind (let's not be naive). Living outside of the region for most of my time, I get caught up in the geo-political, strategic games, ignoring the fact that there are millions of people who's livelihood is regrettably caught up in this mess.

But when I found myself trapped in Lebanon during the 2006 war, suddenly all of the geo-politics, ideologies and divisions meant nothing in the light of the loss of human life. Everything man created, from cars to religions, could not compare in priority to the life of a human being. Over 1200 civilians, overwhelmingly Lebanese, lost their lives. That is nothing to cheer about.

Whilst Israel and Hizballah weigh up the political consequences of the 2006 war, I lament the costly human consequences of another needless war.

AP article
below on Winograd Report:


JERUSALEM (AP) — The head of the panel investigating Israel's 2006 Lebanon conflict said Wednesday that the war ended without victory and the army did not provide an effective response to Hezbollah rocket fire.

Eliyahu Winograd, the retired judge who led the investigation, told a packed auditorium in Jerusalem investigators found "failures and shortcomings" in the country's political and military leadership during the conflict.

Nevertheless, both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his defense minister at the time, Amir Peretz, acted in "what they thought at the time was Israel's interest," he concluded.

"The overall image of the war was a result of a mixture of flawed conduct of the political and military leadership ... of flawed performance by the military, especially the ground forces, and of deficient Israeli preparedness," Winograd said. "We found serious failings and flaws in the lack of strategic thinking and planning."

The highly anticipated report, issued after a 16-month investigation, stopped short of holding Olmert personally responsible for the war's failures. That was a small boost as the prime minister moves forward with peace talks with the Palestinians.

A harsh indictment could have threatened his government and his stated goal of reaching a peace agreement this year. Olmert aides acknowledged they were relieved.

Winograd said the committee had decided not to assign personal blame for the war's shortcomings, preferring instead to search for ways to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

"It should be stressed that the fact we refrained from imposing personal responsibility does not imply that no such responsibility exists," he said.

Winograd said a last-minute ground offensive in Lebanon failed because it did not improve Israel's position ahead of a cease-fire and added the army was not prepared for that battle.

More than 30 Israeli soldiers were killed in that offensive launched shortly before a U.N.-brokered truce went into effect. Olmert had come under severe criticism for ordering the battle, despite his contention that the offensive improved Israel's position before the cease-fire.

Officials in Olmert's office said they were optimistic after a preliminary glimpse of the 629-page report. Olmert's spokesman, Jacob Galanty, was quoted by Israel TV as saying the prime minister's office was "breathing a sigh of relief."

Olmert's office said he had begun reading the report and would carefully study its conclusions.

Hezbollah lawmaker Hussein Haj Hassan told The Associated Press that the report underlined the Islamic militant group's victory.

"The Winograd report is an acknowledgment of Israel's responsibility for the war and its defeat," he said.

The war erupted on July 12, 2006, when Hezbollah guerrillas crossed into Israel, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two who have not been seen or heard from since.

Olmert entered the war with broad support from the Israeli public. But his popularity plunged after the campaign failed to achieve his two declared goals — winning the soldiers' release and crushing Hezbollah.

Despite a heavy Israeli aerial campaign, the guerrilla group rained nearly 4,000 rockets on northern Israel. Israeli reservists returning from the battlefield complained of poor training and a lack of ammunition and key supplies.

Between 1,035 and 1,191 Lebanese civilians and combatants were killed in the war, as were 119 Israeli soldiers and 40 civilians, according to official figures from the two sides.

Most of the army's wartime commanders, including the chief of staff and defense minister at the time, have already resigned so the big question about the report was how Olmert would fare.

A harsh interim report released in April by the panel accused the prime minister of "severe failures" and hasty decisions at the beginning of the war. Wednesday's report dealt with the war's final 28 days.

Olmert was able to beat back calls for his resignation after the interim report.

Opposition lawmakers, both from dovish supporters of peace talks to hardline critics, reiterated calls for Olmert to resign.

"The report paints a very dark picture of Israel and what happened in the army and the government and what happened between the army and the government," said Yossi Beilin, a prominent dovish lawmaker. "This should not have happened, and the man who is responsible cannot continue in his job."

Olmert has repeatedly said he would not step down.


Anonymous said...

I read your profile, I was amoung those who witnessed the war in Lebanon in 2006. I live in Canada. Keep up the good work, I hope you'll be one of those people who'll educate the rest on these issues.

Antoun said...

Thanks for your kind words.

There was a lot to learn from that war, as there is from every conflict.

There's only so much educating we can do, and I wonder how long we have to wait to see the fruits of such educations.

Anonymous said...

i'm not jewish but correct me if im wrong. who started this war. the palistiniens want what the jews got . israel belong to the jews . just because the dome of the rock is in jerusalem it doesnt mean it belong to the arabs.

Antoun said...

The Palestinian people are the indigenous people of the land. Their roots go further back than Arab rule, but instead to the original Canaanites of the region. Wikipedia dubs them "Syro-Palestinians", referring to the same indigenous group that inhabits Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and so forth.

They are as native to the Holy Land as the American Indians are to the US, the Aborigines to Australia and the Celts to Ireland.

Indeed, Palestinian Jews existed before Israel, but numbered roughly 5% of the population.

Today's Israel is a colonisation. That is, a mass migration of European and Caucasian Jews to Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s. Again, much like the European colonisation of North America and Australia.

Legislation in the US, Canada and Australia today acknowledges that the indigenous peoples of their lands are the original owners of the land.

Israel, on the other hand, has decided to pursue the Apartheid South African policy of persecuting the natives and denying them their rights.

That is essentially today's difference between democratic countries like the US and Australia, and Apartheid regimes like Israel.

The war started with the colonisation of Palestinian land by European Jews, and it continues today because the European Jews who hold power (Israel) refuse to recognise the right of the Palestinians to exist on their native land.

I hope I've explained it clearly. It's difficult to sum up 100 years of conflict in a short response.