The generals speak up
By Robert Rosenberg in Tel Aviv at http://www.ariga.com
For the first time in anyone's memory, a group of IDF reserve major generals and brigadiers are organizing a letter demanding a sitting chief of staff resign. The group, which includes the highly respected Uri Saguy, a former Military Inteligence chief, Yoram 'Yaya' Yair, a former Manpower branch chief, and Doron Almog, a former commander of the southern front, are said to be preparing the letter to present to Halutz at a meeting the chief of staff has scheduled next week with some 100 reserve major generals.
And former chief of staff Moshe Yaalon said in Washington he expects those responsible for the Lebanon war should go, and said he expects there will be a judicial committee to probe the management of the war. Interestingly, he spoke to an Arab TV network, El Hura, and was only quoted by Israeli TV stations.
Obviously, not every ex-general is as apparently angry as those who are organizing in what could be described as an attempt at a non-violent putsch. Reserve major general Danny Rothschild, for example, the president of the dovish Council on Peace and Security, an association of former top security officials, has said that he would prefer to wait until the various investigation committees come up with their conclusions before demanding any heads. The generals seem as frustrated by Halutz's arrogant manners and conviction the air force could do the job in Lebanon, as by his decision making about ground operations.
Meanwhile, just what kind of investigative committee will be established is suddenly being questioned again, after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a three-committee solution: one for the political echelon, one for the military, and one for the social problems exposed in the home front. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has reportedly stated -- meanwhile behind closed doors -- that he favors a judicial commission of inquiry to analyze all the issues of the war, and that he is not afraid of any inquiry because it will show that he was left with a 'difficult situation' by his predecessors.
Peretz's comments, of course, might be a transparent effort to try to regain some authority in his party, where the Knesset Labor faction and most of its ministers have already made it clear that they are against Olmert's move for three toothless committees and favor one judicial inquiry with a Supreme Court justice heading the commission and picking the rest of the panel. Labor's ministers and MKs are meeting tomorrow at their headquarters in south Tel Aviv, to discuss the issue, and presumably to vote on how the party's ministers should vote on the Olmert proposal when it comes up on Sunday.
Even if Labor is opposed, Olmert will likely win the three-committee solution he is proposing, because Kadima, Shas and the Pensioners will vote with the prime minister. But the Labor move might be part of a broader move by the party, which is growing increasingly unruly with each passing week. The real test of Labor's intentions will come right after the coming Jewish New Year holidays, when the government begins its discussions of the 2007 state budget. Will Labor's internal strife -- Avishai Braverman and Ami Ayalon have already announced their plans to challenge Peretz's leadership -- lead to a breakup of the Olmert government? Will Olmert replace Labor with Rightist parties, which no doubt would alienate the increasingly important European diplomatic efforts in the region? And can Olmert survive a state comptroller's investigation that continues to pry at questions about how Olmert, as mayor of Jerusalem, might have been favored to the tune of half a million dollars when
he bought a house from a contractor who suddenly was given extra building rights or for that matter, a Haaretz report today that says that Olmert, as trade minister, favored companies that used a close Olmert friend as their lawyer.
If the issues weren't so serious, it all might be considered a soap-operetta. Just how serious the issues are, however, is evident in what has already happened today and what yet is scheduled to happen. Hours after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued yet another call for an end to Qassam rocket fire, and after PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniye was reported by the Palestinian press as saying that he is taking a stand against the Qassam launches, five of the rockets were launched into the western Negev, three hitting Sderot. And an hour after that, the IDF killed a leading West Bank 'mastermind' of terror attacks against Israelis, and IDF troops pulled out of a Gaza neighborhood where in the last six days 18 Palestinians were killed and a huge tunnel aimed at the Karny Junction and presumed to be preparations for mining the lifeline into Gaza, was discovered.
This evening, thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv's Rabin Plaza as an expression of solidarity with the three soldiers now being held as hostages by Hamas and Hizbollah. The demonstration's organizers say it is not political or partisan, and will not be a protest, just a reminder of the absence of the three soldiers -- Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev. That also means no demand from the organizers for negotiations now for the release of the Israeli soldiers -- and presumably Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. At most, the common refrain among the organizers is that Israel should not miss the opportunity to win back the soldiers now, lest the three end up like Ron Arad, the missing Israeli aviator who fell in 1986 into the hands of the Amal militia, which lost him to Hizbollah, which in turn sold him to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards some time in 1988 and since then no trace of him has reached Israel, despite a $10 million reward offer for informat
ion about his whereabouts. Tonight, the lead item on the news was the sentence, 'I am an Israeli soldier,' that a bearded Arad says to a video camera sometime in the late 1980s. It was part of a promo for the upcoming LBC TV documentary on Israeli hostages in Lebanon, and included footage of the capture of the three soldiers who were seen being taken alive from Mt. Dov but returned dead from Hizbollah custody. Next week the documentary will be shown, meanwhile Lebanese Prime Minister Fu'ad Siniora called on Israel to make a deal. The Germans are supposedly taking command of the secret talks for that prisoner exchange. Israel says that it will deal with Siniora's government when the soldiers are handed over to Lebanon and out of the hands of Hizbollah. We'll see. Meanwhile, Jesse Jackson is hinting this way and that about information he supposedly brought from Damascus and Beirut; it makes the Israeli side very nervous, but so far nobody has told Jackson to keep his nose out !
of the affair.
Copyright 2006 by Robert Rosenberg, www.ariga.com
01 September 2006
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A message to the Jewish people and the entire world
Chronicles I - 16:15-18: "Forever remember His covenant that he commanded forever; That He made with Abraham and swore to Isaac; and confirmed in a decree for Jacob, for Israel, as an eternal covenant; saying to You I will give the Land of Cannan as your alloted heritage"