Prime Minister Olmert angered many members of Knesset across the political spectrum — including some within his coalition — when he declined, earlier this week, to set up a full inquiry regarding the war in Lebanon via an empowered state commission. Saying we don’t have the “luxury” of a drawn out inquiry, he instead wants to set up separate internal committees. He wants a committee to investigate the political echelon, headed by former Mossad head Nahum Admoni; a committee to investigate the military, either under the auspices of Defense Minister Peretz or led by former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak; and a committee to investigate the readiness of the home front, headed by the state comptroller.
Objections to what Olmert is proposing include the fact that the committees would not have clear authority or a timetable, and concern that multiple committees will create confusion.
How Defense Minister Peretz comes out on this issue will be a major factor in how it plays out; decisions are to be made within the Labor party on Friday.
Members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee are furious because ChairTzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) refused to entertain a request by a majority of the Committee to discuss Olmert’s decision not to form the full commission. Said Effie Eitam: “It is clear that all committee members, other than Kadima legislators, support a national commission of inquiry, and it is inappropriate for a committee chairman to abuse his authority and prevent this issue from being raised at the committee.”
Both MK Matan Vilna’i (Labor), former deputy chief of General Staff and now a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), formerly chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, have been interviewed by the Post with regard to issues of our readiness for the war. In spite of their differences of political perspective, they drew some very similar conclusions: Our problem is not with intelligence, but with an inability to internalize and act on information secured.
Asks Steinitz: “Where did the defense establishment come up with the idea that the threat of conventional war against Israel is over?” Steinitz was actually partially responsible for a movement of troops to the Syrian border in the Golan to counter the threat of action by Syria, which was increasing its military preparedness while we were distracted elsewhere.
Yet, in spite of everything, Steinitz says he remains optimistic: “A miracle occurred here. All our arrogance, complacency and weakness were brought to the surface by Hezbollah — something that will enable us to learn from our mistakes and prepare for greater threats. I hope that within six months we will have made significant changes.” Let us pray so.
Barry Rubin was also optimistic in a recent column, “This is victory?” He examines the much discussed issue of whether Hezbollah “won” the war and what perceptions are. Says he, “Restored Arab pride wears out faster than un-refrigerated milk.” What counts, maintains Rubin, is that “Israel will get the Nautilus anti-rocket system, improve its tanks’ defenses and fix other shortcomings. Meanwhile, Syria and Lebanon have no serious air force, air defense or coastal defense systems…
“The new conventional wisdom that Hezbollah won and everyone must rush to beg the radicals to accept concessions is not reality. Remember the last two ‘victorious’ restorers of Arab pride: Saddam Hussein (in his cell) and Osama bin Laden (in his cave).”
In his semi-annual review to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, reported that the Sinai has become a “garden of Eden” for terrorists struggling arms into Gaza. “At this point, anybody who wants to smuggle something through the Philadelphi route can apparently do so. You can smuggle anything… except maybe a tank or a plane.” The Shin Bet, he says, knows of at least 20 active tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
Other points made by Diskin:
— There are increasingly close relations between Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.
— Terror organizations felt strengthened by Israel’s performance in Lebanon because they interpreted the delay in sending in ground troops as a fear of face-to-face combat.
— There is a lack of intelligence in Samaria, especially in the area where four communities were dismantled last summer as part of the “disengagement.” “Samaria has become the land of Islamic Jihad following the disengagement.”
A massive tunnel was discovered in a joint IDF-Shin Bet operation, extending from a home in Gaza to the Karni Crossing — which has been closed of late because of terror threats. A sophisticated tunnel into which a good deal had been invested, it was clearly intended to be used for a terror attack at the crossing.
Kofi Annan was here, and among the people he met with were members of the families of the kidnapped soldiers. He promised them he would work for their release, which, as far as I am concerned, does not mean a hill of beans. Those holding our boys captive care not a fig what Kofi Annan has to say. A Hezbollah cabinet minister said yesterday that the soldiers would be released only as part of a prisoner exchange.
A major rally for securing the release of our soldiers was held in Tel Aviv tonight.
In spite of a meeting held between Annan and Olmert, there remains a serious disagreement with regard to maintaining an arms embargo on Hezbollah. Annan sees it as possible for the Lebanese army to do the job (possibly with Germany training the troops); Israel insists it won’t work without international troops at the Syrian border.
Speaking of international troops… Annan says 5,000 will be in place in Lebanon within days. The IDF says less than 50% of south Lebanon is under UN control.
There have been repeated suggestions of late that we go into negotiations with Syria and offer turn over the Golan Heights as part of a final deal in order to get Syria to stop aiding Hezbollah. A bad, bad idea. The Golan has been annexed and is part of Israel proper. A strategic asset, and a treasured area of farming and recreation, it should remain part of Israel eternally now. The suggestion that we consider allowing Syria to move down to the Kinneret, which is what Syria would demand, is a horror.
The Europeans are pushing this — in particular Finland. But so are some elements within Israel.
Max Singer, fellow at the Hudson Institute, has it right when he suggests that instead Syria should be “compelled” to refrain from re-arming Hezbollah. Compelling Syria is possible because Syria’s government is too weak to tolerate Israeli bombing even of a limited nature. “Israel’s natural inclination is to shy away from ‘starting another war.’ But that is a misunderstanding. The way to prevent another war and to bring a more favorable result to the one that was fought, is for Israel to stand up to Syria… “
This posting can be found at: http://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2006/8/30/posted-august-30-2006.html