Emma Sabry / Al Jazeera – 2007-05-01 00:53:25
“The Real Aim of Lebanon War Finally Revealed”
Emma Sabry / Al Jazeera
(April 27, 2007) — The Israeli government has long claimed that the primary objective of last summer’s war in Lebanon was to retrieve two soldiers captured by Hezbollah in July. But a top military commander recently revealed the real aim of the war.
“After a couple of hours it became clear that we would not get the kidnapped soldiers back through military means,” Gadi Eisenkott, director of operations at the time of the war, told a group of students during a speech at a local school.
Eisenkott also asserted that the primary objective of Israel’s offensive in Lebanon was to deal a major blow to Hezbollah, a mission that Israel failed to accomplish.
Eisenkott’s speech caused uproar in Israel as it contradicted claims by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who alleged in a series of important speeches to the Knesset and the media that the key goal of the war was to secure the release of the two soldiers.
It came just a few days before the release of a report by a government-commissioned panel that’s expected to criticize Olmert’s handling of the 34-day war against Hezbollah, prompting many Israeli analysts to speculate that the prime minister wouldn’t survive the political fallout and would be forced to step down.
Eisenkott’s remarks assert speculations of several Middle East analysts who said that Israel used Hezbollah’s capture of the two soldiers as an excuse for launching the deadly offensive in Lebanon, in which more than 1,200 mostly Lebanese civilians died.
The Israeli army also lost 116 soldiers, and 43 civilians who were killed by more than 4,000 Hezbollah rocket attacks.
A UN-brokered ceasefire ended the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in August, with Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah declaring a strategic victory over Israel, whose failure to retrieve the two captured soldiers, crush Hezbollah or halt its daily cross-border rocket attacks led the Israelis to view the war as a failure.
Since the war ended, there have been widespread calls for Olmert to resign. Approval ratings for the prime minister, already implicated in a series of corruption probes, have reached unprecedented lows, and his political future became uncertain.
“The pressure is rising all around Ehud Olmert and his chair could soon be vacated,” said a commentator on army radio.
However, some Israeli analysts speculate that Olmert’s popularity could rise if he reached out to his leftist base and resume peace talks with the Palestinian Authority or the Syrian government.
According to an article on World Net Daily, Olmert, extremely worried about the conclusions of the upcoming repot, met with leading leftist officials and promised them to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians and carry out Israeli withdrawals from the occupied West Bank in exchange for their continued support.
The report is expected to be especially critical of Olmert’s decision to launch a massive ground offensive in Lebanon in August, just 48 hours before the UN ceasefire resolution was imposed. According to Israeli defense sources, the army had petitioned for a massive invasion to crush Hezbollah since the start of the war in July, but the prime minister delayed the launch of the operation till the last minute.
Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon said Olmert delayed the large-scale operation for political reasons. “That was a spin move,” Ya’alon said. “It had no substantive security-political goal, only a spin goal. It was meant to supply the missing victory picture.”
“For that you don’t even need a commission of inquiry,” he said. “Whoever made that decision has to assume responsibility and resign.”
Military leaders have been probing whether Olmert knew a truce would be imposed within two days when he approved the large-scale ground operation.
“It’s possible Olmert knew a cease-fire was coming. If so, our stepped-up operation that he approved two days earlier was a pointless exercise in which troops were killed. This is a very serious situation,” a senior military official said.
Olmert under Fire over Scathing Lebanon War Report
(April 30, 2007) — A government-sanctioned commission that probed Israel’s summer war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday of “severe failure” over his handling of the 34-day conflict.
Citing a “severe failure in judgment, responsibility and caution”, the panel said Olmert hastily led the country to war without a comprehensive plan.
Israel used Hezbollah’s capture of two of its soldiers last July as an excuse to launch a deadly offensive in Lebanon, in which more than 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis were killed.
A UN-brokered ceasefire ended the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in August, with Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah declaring a strategic victory over Israel.
Israel’s failure to retrieve the two captured soldiers, crush Hezbollah or halt its daily cross-border rocket attacks during the war led the Israelis to view the war as a failure, sending Olmert’s approval ratings to unprecedented lows and triggering widespread calls for his resignation.
” “Impossible to Achieve” ”
According to TV reports, the commission, led by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd, strongly criticized Olmert and his Defense Minister Amir Peretz over their decision-making, and failure to question plans submitted by the army during the war.
Presenting the findings of the six-month probe at a news conference, Winograd said the aims of launching a war against Hezbollah – to crush the resistance group and force it to release the two captured soldiers – were “overly ambitious and impossible to achieve.”
“The responsibility is on the prime minister, the defense minister and chief of staff,” Winograd said.
The former chief of staff, General Dan Halutz, has already resigned over the army’s mishandling of the conflict.
The panel said that Halutz failed to provide political leaders with a sufficient range of military options, played down the threat of rocket attacks by Hezbollah and silenced dissenting opinions within the army command, Israeli media said.
After receiving a copy of the panel’s findings, Olmert said: “We will definitely study your material… and ensure that in any future threat scenario against Israel, the difficulties and faults you cited will be corrected.”
Although the commission doesn’t have the authority to sack officials, its scathing report is expected to spark public protests that could force the resignation of Olmert and Peretz, correspondents say.
On Sunday, Labor Party MP Ofir Pines-Paz, who is challenging Peretz for party leadership in a May primary election, said Olmert and Peretz “should follow the example of Halutz, who did not wait for the Winograd commission to show him the door.”
Opposition MPs from the dovish Meretz as well as the hard-line National Religious Party also called for the government to step down.
A rally planned for Thursday in Tel Aviv will also call for Olmert and his government to resign.
However, the prime minister’s aides said he has no intention of quitting.
In addition to the failures during Lebanon war, Olmert’s popularity has been deeply affected over his involvement in alleged corruption including real estate deals and undue interference in government transactions to favor friends and backers.
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