The Coalition of The Unwilling
UPDATED below on the green light
Olmert & Peretz:
- Both leaders failed to secure victory in the political arena.
- Both leaders failed to secure victory on the battlefield.
- Now both leaders appear destined to lose on the diplomatic front.
After weeks of delays, hesitation, and threats that never materialized – The duo of Olmert & Peretz have simply been for months now utterly ineffective on every front.
Olmert – Early in 2006, with Ariel Sharon incapacitated Ehud Olmert served as the interim acting Prime Minister of the State of Israel. The newly minted Kadima party facing a national election seemed poised to pounce, an almost certain victory within its grasp. With approval ratings soaring and a solid block of the country's center hungry for representation, Kadima seemed prepared to cruise to the finish line. Polls showed Olmert peaking only weeks before the election, upwards of 44 of the Israeli Knesset's 120 seats within his grasp. Such a solid majority in the traditionally fractured coalition politics of Israel represented a near carte blanche for his radical political ideas of withdrawal in the West Bank.
In the final weeks of the election with Hamas already rising to power in Gaza, an unusual change of direction began to pass. In the final short weeks of the long campaign, week after week polls showed a worrying trend. Olmert began bleeding seats, at first it was a trickle, from 44 down to 42. Ehud was all smiles, but the next week the smiles were tempered as Kadima hit 40. Before long the party was already polling in places in the high 30's. As the election day neared, only days away an ugly question was in the air, was Mr. Olmert a closer?
Peretz – On the cusp of what seemed an unlikely victory in itself, Amir Peretz entered the election season as the newly minted leader of the Labor party, beating out veteran Labor politician Shimon Peres. A sense of euphoria seemed to permeate the Labor ranks, similar to the euphoria seen in the far left of the American Democratic party under Howard Dean, as he himself neared the Iowa primary. Peretz like Dean was a radical, a revolutionary. His entire campaign featured revolution in fact as his theme. Under him the socialist dream would be reborn in Israel.
The similarities to Dean do not end there, with the party promising a revolution in shrill campaign speech after speech Peretz marched on towards the election. For Dean it all came crashing down in Iowa, he never did secure the Democratic ticket – the screech heard round the world had tempered his march to victory. For Peretz, the finish line seemed closer. His meltdown was evident to all but the Labor faithful in a shrill and hollow looking speech just before the election in the city of Bet Shemesh. The Labor faithful believed, but those of us looking in could see that victory for Peretz and Labor would be elusive indeed.
On election night, neither leader would be pleased with the results. Olmert peaking at 44, secured only 29 mandates. One of the thinnest margins imaginable, Kadima barely crawled to victory in the election. Omert had won, but the image of a powerful closer would not be his to claim. For Peretz reality was even more unkind. Labor did not produce any revolutions, at 19 or so mandates the traditional power party of Israel had seen itself humbled by the electorate, one of the worst showings in party history. Denied their victory, the two party leaders formed their 'coalition of the unwilling'. Olmert claiming the PM seat, while Peretz insisted on Defense Minister. Only Ted Kennedy himself could probably be considered a more unlikely Israeli defense minister, no one in Israel but the revolutionaries were amused. Neither man could claim victory under these circumstances.
The Battlefield – Gaza
For months following the disengagement from Gaza Hamas sat idly by, quietly supporting a barrage of rocket fire that quickly made living in the southern town of Sderot nearly impossible. Day after day, rockets pounded the civilians in the area. Olmert, promising 'an Iron Fist' on terror unleashed the air power of Israel. In targeted attack after attack, the ranks of the Islamic Jihad – responsible for much of the rocketing were thinned. Despite the unwavering aerial attack, the rockets continued. Neither Olmert, the IDF or its defense minister could produce a solution. For Amir Peretz, a native of the town of Sderot the situation was particularly unpleasant.
With the vaulted disengagement plan hanging in the balance and amenable to both leaders, neither man was prepared to send in ground troops to Gaza. Such a move would be an acknowledgment of disengagement failure. They hesitated, they waited, they threatened, and in the end little was done. Before long, Hamas sensing the weakness became emboldened. Despite their international semi-seclusion (a limited diplomatic victory for Olmert & his popular foreign minister Livni on the wings of America) Hamas could smell resistance. Corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted early one morning in a vietcong type attack that caught the IDF off guard.
Facing political disaster the two leaders reluctantly acted. At first the most limited engagements imaginable. Hampered and with a hand tied behind its back by a defense minister in over his head, and a PM who talked a big talk but never seemed to deliver, the IDF pounded Gaza with an aerial campaign. Results were elusive. Tentatively, Olmert sent in some small unit sized forces to Gaza, cut bridges, took positions a kilometer or two from Gaza's borders and waited.
For days, tanks massed, troops waited eager to rescue Gilad or at least pound the hamas into the ground. But the order to invade never really came. Before long, this political weakness would embolden a far more dangerous enemy. Once again, the issue would remain open, Olmert was again evidenced as far from a closer. Even now Gilad Shalit, months after his abduction remains in Hamas hands. The IDF, limited to small engagements taunts & picks at Gaza, but Olmert is more concerned with public opinion, not his own per say but that of Europe and the UN and of his shaky coalition of the unwilling.
The Battlefield – Lebanon
Four full weeks of Lebanese entanglement later, with two soldiers abducted, 8 killed initially and 80+ more lost in battle Olmert again has shown himself unable to close. At first, unwilling to deploy any troops at all Olmert elected for another aerial campaign. Bombing more bridges, more targets, bombing day and night brought limited results. Long range rockets were destroyed, some communication abilities degraded, supply depots hit. Within days the IDF appealed to PM Olmert, we need troops. Again, unwilling to commit Olmert looked to unit sized engagements. The best of Israel were thrust into Lebanon, lacking numbers, lacking ground support they met stiff resistance and there were casualties.
The option to commit, to command and to conquer for Peretz & Olmert was in their grasp. They wavered, they stalled. Olmert claimed that nothing would deter him or the IDF. He was partially right, the IDF was not detered, yet the soldiers never came, and the security cabinets never gave the order. As battles raged with losses to Hezbollah mounting, young IDF soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice. The IDF stabbed into Lebanon, only to pull back and repeat over and again. It became clear to all that the time had come for a real invasion. Thousands of soldiers were called up, reserves mobilized, but again small unit engagements were ordered. Small slivers of Lebanon were to be the order of the day, a limited security zone, not to be held, not to be fully cleared, but to be stabbed into repeatedly.
The Litani and victory was in the IDF's grasp, if only the order were given. It never came. Diplomacy would be the ultimate victory Peretz & Olmert promised, and again Israel blustered. The IDF was ready to roll - the frustration and anger in their voices plain for all to see, as they rolled not towards the Litani and victory, but out of Lebanon last night to cease the fire that never fully materialized. After thousands of rockets, over a hundred killed, with Israel's fighting men begging to protect the state, the political will was lacking. "Tomorrow you will pay" they declared in political land, more threats, more empty words, more soldiers fighting in limited engagements.
Why should Israel's diplomatic initiatives be any different? The resolution has been pulled, replaced now with another an even worse one. Twice now the supposed 'weak' Lebanese government has rejected the resolutions, backed by the the Worlds other big talkers - the French & the Arab World. Israel has yet again declared – Diplomacy! Or else the gloves come off. But we have seen Olmert's Iron Fist, it has pounded the residents of the North, while leaving Hezbollah for another day. The big socialist Peretz? Left them wallowing in the dark, neither an invasion or economic aid very forthcoming.
We will see today the big non results from the UN. The IDF has been frustrated, its pleas for action ignored. The residents of the North are unavenged, the rockets are ever flying. Hezbollah men were killed in great numbers, but they are not disarmed, there is no international force deployed, there is not even an IDF force deployed..
The words of Israel's leaders today as we speak are hollow, one trusts Olmert & Peretz have done what they could. Socially, militarily, politically, and now it appears diplomatically they have failed to deliver on every count.
Cease the fire, pull out the small unit engagements, send the boys home. Swap the prisoners, send terrorists on their merry way and bring the three soldiers home to their families. Do it all quickly please.. So that the calls for unity are ended, and let the calls for national elections begin. Do it sooner than later, so that the next leaders of Israel facing the next set of existential threats, will bring home the victory. It will not be long before war in the North returns.
The nation of Israel was clearly prepared for battle, the IDF could clearly deliver it in spades, I've never doubted them for a second.. But it has been clear even from the days of the campaigns, that these two leaders simply lacked the will to win.
They truly are, the coalition of the unwilling.
JPOST: Analysis: IDF fumes over denied victory
YNET: 73 % say government failed on home front
Haaretz: Truce draft doesn't call for disarming of Hezbollah Military chiefs strongly oppose cease-fire terms
[...] Brigadier-General Alon Friedman, Chief of Staff of the IDF 's Northern Command, told Ynet, "The army doesn't like waiting. Due to the nature of things forces want to move, to fight and to attack."
According to Friedman many Hizbullah rocket-launching cells are now operating just north of the areas in which the IDF is fighting, which obligates the homefront to stay in shelters. "We don't like having them in shelters, and we want to do everything to protect them," the officer said.
The mood of waiting and uncertainty was clearly felt among reservists as well. One soldier, a reservist from an elite unit, told Ynet, "The situation is extremely difficult, it damages motivation. We were on the verge of entering, our faces painted with camouflage, all of our equipment ready and at the last minute they brought us back. This is happening all the time. We have friends in Lebanon – we should have gone in to give them backup, to fulfill our missions, but the state is hesitating. It's not healthy – it's dangerous. If they don't need us here they should send us home."
Other soldiers from the unit discussed their feelings with their commander. "We're ready to go in and carry out any mission and slay our fear, but they're stopping us anew every time. In the end this will cost in human lives," one soldier said. [...]
UPDATE: Olmert & Peretz (holding the final say after cabinet deliberations approved an IDF offensive) give the green light for expanded operations to the Litani. Faced with rockets striking Haifa, a confused public and an absolutely resolute military according to YNET.