One can argue about who won the war in Lebanon. Alongside Hezbollah's claims of victory, widely echoed among Arabs and Muslims, was the location of the fighting and Israeli troops on Hezbollah territory. And the prime claimant of victory is making his statements from somewhere in hiding, most likely a Damascus basement.
Putting that aside, Israelis are widely disenchanted with their own performance. Organized protests are growing. Polls differ as to whether it is the defense minister, the prime minister, or the IDF chief of staff, or perhaps all of them who must give up their jobs. Today there is a march of angry reservists to the prime minister's office. Complaints focus on the miserable performance of logistics (units sent to battle without enough food, water, ammunition, communications, updated maps or soldier-fired missiles), a lack of detailed intelligence about enemy positions, and confused leadership at the level of fighting units.
This week the politicians seem to have given in to the pressure for formal inquiries, and they are arguing about the appropriate mechanism: what kind of inquiry, with what powers, mandates, and key personnel. "Save my own ass" is the prominent theme. Last week the defense minister announced a distinguished committee to investigate the military. As head of the committee, he named a former commander of the IDF who had given him advice during the war. No one expects this charade to move very far toward a credible explanation or repair of the faults. The performance of the defense minister and his office are outside the mandates of this inquiry. The minister himself is claiming that the military did not inform him about the missiles that Hezbollah could fire on Israel. Not only does the military deny the charge, but any reader of Israeli newspapers over the last few years should have known about them.
The great danger from all of this is that key figures will spend the next few months with their lawyers, preparing testimony before one inquiry or another, and defending themselves against charges of incompetence. Hopefully someone else will be minding the store, filing the shelves with the equipment not supplied to the soldiers this time, replacing what they used, refreshing maps and other kinds of intelligence, training reservists and regular troops for the next likely encounter, and preparing the officers for what they must do.
The foreign minister also has to answer some charges. Why did she beat the drums so loudly in favor of a United Nations resolution that seems to have been bankrupt from the beginning?. Israel stopped fighting without achieving (or having the hope of achieving) any of its proclaimed war aims: the return of soldiers whose capture was the ostensible cause of the war; the disarming of Hezbollah and removing it from southern Lebanon. The Lebanese army has moved to the border area, alongside a reinforced United Nations cadre, so far with 50 new troops with lots of countries arguing who else will send their soldiers to make up the 15,000 promised. Both the Lebanese army and the United Nations force have indicated with that they will not disarm or otherwise tangle with Hezbollah. Reports are that the troops need Hezbollah permission before they enter a village. Beside well photographed convoys and parades, we cannot expect anything from these forces.
Among the materials used against Israel were anti-tank missiles manufactured in Russia and night fighting goggles from Britain. The foreign ministry is making its polite inquiries. So far we hear that Russia sold the missiles to Syria on condition that they not be passed on to Hezbollah, and that Russia is angry about Israeli protests. The British are saying something about having sold night vision equipment to Iran for the purpose of dealing with drug smugglers, and that there is no proof that Iran transferred the equipment to Hezbollah.
International media, the United Nations, and the European Union are making a big deal about the war damage in Lebanon and the need for international organizations to provide financial assistance. What about the damage in Israel? That will be left to the Israeli government and overseas Jews. The Iranians are paying. Shiites who claimed to have suffered loss are getting $12,000 in cash. That will help recruit another generation of martyrs. Every time you fill up, you add a bit to the war chest.
We do not know the future, but we should know the relevant questions: Will Hezbollah satisfy itself with proclamations of victory, or begin upgrading itself for the next round of fighting? Will Israel satisfy itself with blaming one or another politician or military commander, or begin dealing with the most obvious problems and preparing itself for the next round of fighting? And what about Iran's nuclear program? Will Europe, the United States, and Israel continue to rely on diplomatic pressure via the United Nations, and--at most--half-hearted and easily evaded economic sanctions?
I am neither happy nor optimistic. If I could locate a place with better weather than Jerusalem . . . .