During the final preparations for Operation Greater Oranim, which would soon become the First Lebanon War, an ambitious young Major General Ehud Barak wrote a memo to the Minister of Security, Ariel Sharon.
Barak considered the war plans to be too pedestrian, and he wanted to broaden the scope of the war, so that it would include the destruction of the Syrian armed forces.
Knowing the Israeli public would object, he suggested to Sharon the public should be deceived. Sharon, no stranger to such planning, was impressed; but he rejected the suggestion.
This summer the very same Barak – older, yet still lacking in honesty – was appointed Minister of Defense, after winning his party’s internal elections. His winning seems to have come about by means of a combination of ballot fraud, an avoidance of any controversial statement, and his slogan: “Choose the better leader for the next war”. Not, heaven forbid, the one to bring about the next peace.
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The Lebanon War began as a fraud upon the public. Its goal was not just to push the PLO away from the northern border – the PLO adhered strictly to a cease fire lasting almost a year – but also to “remake Lebanon”, and elect Bashir Gemayel president on the points of the Israeli army’s spears.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin made what could be considered – from his own point of view – a tragic mistake: he spoke the truth, and claimed the war was “a war of choice”.
But, of course, so were most of Israel’s wars. It can cautiously be claimed that following the first ceasefire,the entire War of Independence was a war of choice. The 1956 Sinai War was the result of a British-French-Israeli conspiracy against the Egyptian Nasser regime, and was preceded by no Egyptian aggression. In fact, Egyptian provocations were so scarce, the Israeli army was forced to fabricate its own, dressing Israeli soldiers in Egyptian uniforms and claiming border incursions.
The Six-Day War began with an Israeli surprise attack. True, it was preceded by a significant Egyptian provocation, but Israel didn’t bother with the usual rules: it did not announce the occupation of the Sinai and the closing of the Tiran Straits to be a casus belli, and did not issue an ultimatum. No; Israel always believed in a surprise blow. The Yom Kippur War was the direct result of the Israeli refusal to negotiate the return of the territories occupied in 1967. The Egyptians and Syrians, going for a surprise attack, had excellent mentors.
Actual reality-based information was always kept secret from the Israeli public. Until 1973, the press was the slavish handmaiden of the army and the government; this was a position it adored. During his final illness, Moshe Dayan confessed Israel was responsible for the vast majority of border incidents in the 1950s and 1960s. The government used the printed media to feed the public stories about Arab provocations and Israeli reactions. Questioning these official fairy tales meant branding oneself as a traitor.
The army is in the habit of knowingly fooling the government. On the eve of the Six-Day War, the General Staff terrorized the government – while knowing full well the expected results of the war. Under Sharon’s direction, Israeli army officers presented Begin’s cabinet with incorrect maps of Lebanon. During the last war, the Israeli army refrained from informing Olmert that the two kidnapped soldiers – the casus belli of the war – are likely dead. He had to learn it from a reporter.
In order to carry out such schticks, the army needs the cooperation of Trojan horse in the cabinet, the Minister of Security. And if the Minister of Security is new and not familiar with the material, he can simply be passed over – as indeed happened to Amir Peretz.
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I don’t purport to know what happened in Syria yesterday. It may have been an Air Force sortie. It may be that the Air Force plane simply made a navigation error. It may be – given the location where it is claimed the incident took place – that it was an American plane, or a Turkish one. I really don’t know.
Had a Israeli army Spokesman denied the event, one would assume he was lying, as is traditional for the position. Since the Israeli army refuses to deny it, it is reasonable to assume it is afraid of being caught at yet another lie. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that somewhere in the Syrian Desert lies a pile of Israeli military equipment, waiting to be found by Syrian soldiers.
Now, according to the reports – which were not denied – the pilots made every effort to make sure they were noticed by the Syrians: flying low and breaking the sound barrier. This was no clandestine sortie, and it would seem it was not an attempt to stress-test the Syrian radar system, either. Given this information, it is reasonable to assume that those who sent the plane, wanted it to be noticed.
There are several possible reasons. One, to torpedo peace talks held by the energetic President Peres with Syrian officials, behind the Prime Minister’s back. This, at any rate, is the claim made by Syrian officials . Israeli officials deny such talks take place – but they would deny them in any case.
The second possibility, even more troubling, is an that attempt to get Israel into a war by hook or by crook. Since the summer of ‘06, the Israeli army has been beating the drums of war, dating it for the summer of ‘07. Inter alia, its spokesmen howled that Syria is strengthening its anti-aircraft system to an unprecedented degree; but anti-aircraft systems are defensive weapons, and its strengthening only highlighted the fact that Syria is – justly! – afraid of an Israeli attack.
The Syrians, knowing full well their military and regime constitute tempting targets for our generals, refrained from any provocation.
Summer has ended. The collapse of the Olmert government is drawing closer by the day, and the Minister of Security who promised us a well-run war needs some success he can point to before facing Binyamin Netanyahu in general elections. The army is ready, quivering with ripeness; the public wants to see blood, the more the merrier, something to wipe off the disgrace of August 2006; and the Syrians, the bastards, adamantly refuse to play the part tailored for them.
Therefore, the bunch of good-for-nothings who serve as Israel’s leadership should be told as follows: we are not living in 1956 or 1967. We are not even living in 1982. If you insist on drawing us into another war of choice, if you carry out provocations to heat up the border and don’t even bother to hide it, prepare for fighting on your own. We will not answer your call.
War is no laughing matter. It is worse than hunger and plague; it is the handmaiden of death. Soldiers and civilians are not chess pieces on a board, to be moved when the King plays with the Queen. Once, at the beginning of the earlier century, the leaders of a country were assumed to have the right to take it to war as they please. We’ve gone some distance since then; starting an aggressive war is a war crime, and we shall not participate in it.
Should we go to war because of this or any other provocation, every Israeli will have to choose his or her path: Some will flee and hide, some will openly refuse orders, some will demonstrate. But none should show up when the trumpets are sounded again. It is time for the Israeli army to learn what happens when some declares a war, and nobody shows up.
Update: Turkey found two IAF detachable fuel tanks, close to the Iraqi/Syrian/Turkish border triangle. Now Turkey, practically an ally, is also demanding a clarification. One hell of a day for the Israeli Air Force, harming relations with two countries, one of which is friendly. And the Israeli government keeps silent.
And aside from that, the Darfur genocide should be stopped.
(Written and posted in the Hebrew blog today; translated by Yossi Gurvitz.)