From Ynet News, 22/11/06, by Isi Leibler ...
Weak leadership must be replaced; Iran threat requires different approach
These are difficult times. In contrast to the quiet confidence that prevailed even during the height of the terror, nowadays whenever Jews or Israelis gather, the conversation gravitates towards the state of the nation and invariably ends on a depressing note.
There is contempt and an utter lack of confidence in the military leadership. Most Israelis consider it outrageous that the principal failed military leaders responsible for conducting the war still remain in their posts. Some were even recommended for promotion.
And besieged Chief of Staff Halutz went so far as to reprimand the officers he had himself selected to investigate the army's performance, because their findings were highly critical!
There is also frustration that despite the prime minister's approval rating sinking to below 20 percent, and that of his defense minister collapsing to an all-time low of four percent, both remain in the saddle.
Even more disconcerting is that Olmert's government continues to zigzag on a day to day basis without any strategic game plan, despite a widespread belief that the winds of war are gathering. The ongoing "spins" like the prime minister's bizarre statement to the GA that " Israel 's geo-political position has never been better," exasperates everyone.
His blatantly contradictory statements designed to "make us happy" are equally infuriating. He informs the nation he has shelved plans for future unilateral withdrawals but tells the Americans that he has only temporarily suspended this policy.
He assures the Israeli public that he is determined to stand firm and prevent a repeat Gaza performance of the Hizbullah missile build up but is still undecided how to respond to the Qassam rockets raining down on Sderot and Ashkelon.
When an errant shell tragically kills Palestinian innocents, instead of blaming Hamas, he apologizes and pleads for a meeting with Abbas telling him "you will be surprised how far I would be willing to go."
He regurgitates the nonsense about Abu Mazen being a moderate. As was the case during the Lebanese war, despite grating Churchillian style outbursts, the climate of indecisiveness is all pervasive and ministers continue to publicly contradict one another.
To retain power, the prime minister co-opted Avigdor Lieberman's party to his coalition despite the fact that it is diametrically opposed to all the central policies in the Kadima platform. Had Olmert called for a national unity government, there may have been some logic to his position, but what he has done, once again makes a mockery of responsible government.
Privately, most MKs agree that this is one of the worst coalitions in the history of the State and concede, despite indictments of leading public figures, that a genuine purge against corruption is impossible as long as the failed leaders remain in control.
If they were acting in the national interest, they would already have brought about the dissolution of the government and held new elections. But many of them, fearful of losing their seats, opted for the status quo, despite the realization that their inaction was holding back reforms desperately needed in the face of a possibly impending two-front war.
Reject gloomy mood
The Jewish people are surely entitled to better, but their rage has been transformed into a deep depression out of a feeling of impotence that they cannot force the failed leaders to relinquish their positions and a conviction that nothing will change.
We must not permit such moods of gloom and doom from overtaking us. We should remind ourselves that the most meaningful changes and revolutions in the global social order were achieved by people power. We should set aside the doom and gloom and recall that we overcame far greater challenges in the past.
After all, despite our troubles, the Israeli economy remains robust, terror today is more effectively contained than it was a few years ago, and notwithstanding the blunders in Lebanon , Israel remains a regional military superpower.
But for our immediate purposes, we should demand the creation of a blue chip national task force on the lines of the Baker Commission appointed by President Bush to reassess his Iraq policy and to chart short and long term strategies to be considered and implemented by his Administration.
The alternative is that we could well wake up one day with yet another flawed policy similar to the unilateral Sharon disengagement fiasco which, despite clear warnings of disastrous consequences by the military leaders, was determined by a handful of politicians behind closed doors.
In the short term, we must demand that our indecisive leaders not replicate the disaster they committed when they succumbed to pressure from the State Department and relinquished control of the Gaza borders, enabling terrorists to flood the area with sophisticated armaments. We have yet to pay the bitter price for that blunder.
In addition, we must gird ourselves for the reappearance of James Baker and other new players on the Washington scene, many not as friendly to Israel as their predecessors. If, in order to accommodate to their broader political interests, the Americans try to pressure us to make further concessions impinging on our security requirements, we must be prepared to stand up and say no and explain our position to the American people.
Overriding all these concerns is the Iranian nuclear threat, which now heads the crisis agenda. It is obligatory for the prime minister and other leaders to highlight the fact that Iran poses an existential threat to the State of Israel.
But when Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh proclaims that a nuclear Iran will cause Israelis to emigrate and that this will lead to the collapse of the Zionist dream, he needlessly creates an atmosphere of malaise and doom within Israel and plays into the hands of Israel's enemies.
He should be stressing that the Iranian threat transcends Israel because in the event of a rogue state or terrorist group obtaining access to nuclear weapons, a disaster of holocaust dimensions could occur in New York , London , or Tokyo no less than in Tel Aviv.
It would be a surrealistic nightmare if a weak and indecisive Israeli leadership seeking to curry favor with the public is propelled by demagoguery into adopting a flawed policy in this crucial area. Instead of generating hysteria, they must warn the Iranians and the world at large that Israel has sufficient deterrence to guarantee that any nation that directly or indirectly initiates a nuclear attack on it will be decimated.
Our leaders must urgently determine a collective policy in relation to Iran and commit to speaking with one united voice in relation to this potentially existential threat.
Isi Leibler chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and is a veteran Jewish international leader