They Would Not Listen, by Moshe Arens (Haaretz)
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“Rocket fire from Gaza occurs almost daily, endangering the civilian population in the south. It is a small-scale version of what happened in the north. Unless something is done about it soon, it will surely turn into a larger-scale version as time goes on. Yet our ground forces are not being ordered to put the Qassam rocket launchers out of range of our civilian population in the south.”
Now that we are beginning to learn what was said in the inner councils – at meetings with the prime minister, at meetings of the ministerial security committee and at sessions of the Israel Defense Forces General Staff – it is becoming clear that our leaders just would not listen to opinions that were contrary to theirs while discussions were being held on the conduct of the Second Lebanon War. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then chief of staff Dan Halutz stubbornly clung to their fantasy that the war could be won from the air, while Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni thought that we could get the UN Security Council to pull us out of this mess by calling for a cease-fire, leaving Hezbollah undefeated.
It really would have been too much to expect that in such trying times, those carrying the burden of responsibility for the security of the State of Israel and its people would pay attention to opinions voiced on the pages of Haaretz, even if their author was a former defense minister. On August 8, in an article entitled “Gallipoli and the Lebanese quagmire,” I wrote:
“There is probably no better air force than the IAF [Israel Air Force], but it should have been clear from the start that suppressing the rocket attacks against Israel could not be left to the IAF alone. And suppressing these rocket attacks must be the primary objective of the IDF in this war. Not only to protect Israeli civilians, but because the outcome of Israel’s war against Hezbollah will be measured in the minds of the Arab world by the degree to which Israel was successful in suppressing the Hezbollah rocket assault … The perception that [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah was victorious in this war will have dire consequences for Israel and for the entire Middle East.”
And a week later…, in an article entitled “Win that war!” I wrote:
“By now it should be recognized by all that the absolute first priority of the IDF must be the suppression of the rocket attacks against Israel. This is not only of ultimate importance for over a million Israelis who live in the north, but that, and nothing else, will determine the outcome of this war. The IDF has to quickly move into southern Lebanon and put these rockets out of range of Israel … Considering the IDF’s superiority in numbers and equipment over the few thousand Hezbollah fighters in south Lebanon, this is a mission that can and should be accomplished.”
But now it has become clear that similar ideas were voiced, as the war proceeded and the IAF’s inability to suppress the rocket fire against the north became apparent, by none other than two air force generals who are members of the IDF’s General Staff. Olmert may not have wanted to listen to a former defense minister, and possibly the contents of the discussions in the General Staff were not made available to him, but one man he should have listened to is Meir Dagan, the head of the Mossad, who, it is reported, from the start advocated an offensive by ground forces in southern Lebanon.
Major General (reserves) Meir Dagan knows Lebanon like the back of his hand – its topography and its people. He has been there, and he has been almost everywhere in Lebanon. It was he who brought a Lebanese army general, Antoine Lahad, out of Lebanon to command the South Lebanon Army, which valiantly fought alongside the IDF against Hezbollah for many years. He certainly should have had the prime minister’s ear. But the prime minister would not listen, and the war was botched.
Has our leadership learned anything from this fiasco? Regrettably, it seems that they not only did not listen then, but that they have also not learned anything from their past failure. Rocket fire from Gaza occurs almost daily, endangering the civilian population in the south. It is a small-scale version of what happened in the north. Unless something is done about it soon, it will surely turn into a larger-scale version as time goes on. Yet our ground forces are not being ordered to put the Qassam rocket launchers out of range of our civilian population in the south. Instead, ludicrous development projects, which will cost billions of dollars and are advertised as being able to intercept Qassam rockets and mortar rounds in flight, are being promoted, while in the meantime, homes and schools in the south will be put under meters of reinforced concrete to protect them from the impact of Palestinian rockets. When are they going to wake up?
Moshe Arens was a former Defense Minister of Israel.