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More on the Post-Lebanon Report Crisis in Israel

Open Thread

So, with the weekend passed and Israeli PM Olmert's situation still somewhat critical - but clearlyOlmert stabilized - the betting, as I predicted in my first commentary in the Guardian, is still on Olmert politically surviving - for now at least.  Olmert's government has just survived no confidence motions in the Knesset by an easy margin.

Tzipi Livni apparently made a bad political miscalculation last week in calling for the PM to resign while continuing to serve as his Foreign Minister.  She has been thoroughly savaged in the LivniIsraeli media - "embarassment," "cowardice," "timidity," and "typical Livni compromise" being just a few of the epithets thrown at her.  In the hebrew blogosphere she has been labelled "Tzipi-pitputi" - which broadly translates as "Tzipi-blah-blah-blah!"

But perhaps she is being written off prematurely - the experience may be a learning one.  There has been an air of machismo in the criticism, and if Kadima eventually does oust Olmert, then Livni remains a potential successor.

The demonstrations have predictably petered out.  Here is the caustic observation from the Israeli Ma'ariv newspaper's lead commentator, Ben Kaspit:

Ehud Olmert watched last night's demonstration against him from the Prime Minister's official residence in Jerusalem – the same residence from which tens of thousands of protestors want to have him evicted forthwith. He watched on television with concern until, at about 9 P.M., his various advisers let out a collective sigh of relief that could be heard all the way to Rabin Square. 

The police reported that less than 100,000 people had turned up for the rally; Olmert's people rejoiced. This was perhaps the first time that the police had some good news for the prime minister.

And Israel's most respected jouranlist, Nahum Barnea, had this to say in Yediot Ahronoth:

The citizens who attended the rally are dedicated to democracy; they are pure of intention and pose no threat whatsoever... It was not the sort of crowd that takes to the barricades. It is not the sort of crowd that will come back to the square week after week until the government falls.

... for better or for worse, the people who showed up at the demonstration last night were naïve... For worse, because most of them joined the protest without considering political ramifications of their actions. It is easy to call for the ouster of the prime minister. The real challenge, however, is to change the rules of the game, the political culture of Israel and the quality of government. If they knew that, in place of Olmert they would get Netanyahu, I doubt most of the 100,000 would have turned up last night.

The next test will be whether the Labor Party - either before or after its leadership primary on May 28th - agrees to stay in a Government led by Olmert.

In the meantime, here is a selection of just some of the excellent commentary that continues to appear in the Israeli press on this (at least a selection of what's available in English).

Amos Harel on the decision to launch a broad military campaign (AKA war):

... the policy of restraint along the northern border: Does the committee justify its application during the six years that preceded the war, and does it essentially believe that the Olmert government should also have adopted this policy?

Even though this is not said openly, it seems that the answer is affirmative. Not only does the committee consider Ariel Sharon's policy of restraint logical, its harsh criticism of Olmert's decisions suggests that the panel questions whether there were any grounds for a severe military response to the abduction, given the circumstances extant on July 12, 2006.

Avi Issacharoff draws the same conclusion:

Anyone who reads the report carefully cannot escape the impression that in the view of the committee, this was an unnecessary war. It is possibly that because of this, Olmert's successor, whoever he may be, will think twice before going to war.

And Aluf Benn:

Thus, the Winograd text may be interpreted as follows: Israel believed that the Syrians are weak and intimidated, and therefore did not prepare for war and neglected the ground forces, and at the same time did not genuinely try to achieve peace.

Ehud Asheri on the demands around which Israelis should have been mobilizing and demonstrating:

How many people would have participated yesterday in a demonstration that would have called for a bold diplomatic initiative, including negotiations with Syria? Myself and two thousand others, tops. Nevertheless, this is the only reasonable demonstration that should have been held against Ehud Olmert. Instead, about 100,000 (maybe) showed up to express a general gut feeling: remove the man who failed to bring them victory. Just like frustrated soccer fans demanding the sacking of the coach, in the false belief that only a new coach can win the championship for them.

... but even if Olmert may have to go in the end, it will be for all the wrong reasons.


Of all people certainly Olmert know more than anyone else today that there is a need to impose civilian limits to the dangerous monopoly of the army over security doctrine and diplomacy, which in fact brought about the results of the war.

And finally, this comment from the most unexpected of sources...

In an unprecedented move, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah yesterday praised the Winograd Committee's report on the Second Lebanon War.

Nasrallah said he respected Israel's "verdict of failure." During an appearence in Beirut, Nasrallah said: "I will not gloat. It is worthy of respect that an investigative commission appointed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert condemns him," Nasrallah said. "When the enemy acts honestly and sincerely, you cannot but respect it."


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Daniel Levy


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 8, 2007 9:15 AM.

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