Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Initial Winograd Responders

Dear Friends,
Chers Amis,

The Winograd Commission has handed over its final report 2 hours ago.

As Judge Winograd said, "it's up to the public to draw the conclusions".
There is no clearer message than "Go to the polls".
Because the cardinal question for our future is to have a leadership - moral, political, military - that we can trust for the difficult decisions ahead.

By the way, please take the time to read again the paper that I wrote and sent 4 DAYS after the starting of the war, on July 16th 2006.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jacques Heller
Migdal Hamenorah, 12 apt 13
71726 Modiin, Israel AFTER THE 1973 YOM KIPPUR WAR,

This Sunday morning, July 16th, rockets are raining on the North of Israel and kassams are landing in Sderot.
For the first time since my alya 9 years ago, I feel unsecure and unprotected in my country.
The absence of moral, political and military leadership is striking and costs us, the Israeli people, dearly.
It is clear now that from the top echelons of the government, the army and the main government agencies, there was:
∑ no long term political and strategy vision,
∑ no national objectives,
∑ weakness, un-preparedness and nonchalance.

How did it happened, how did we let it happen ?

I. The situation before:

Oslo in itself might not have been a mistake.
The mistake was not to react firmly immediately after the first negative declaration, cheating and aggressive action of Arafat and his team. Not to have appreciated, up to now, the steady destructive and hateful attitude of the large majority of the Palestinian people.
We were lead by dreaming and irresponsible descriptions of “the New Middle East”.

The second historical mistake has been the “unilateral” withdrawal strategy conceived by “the Gang of Four” (Ariel Sharon, Omri Sharon, Dov Weissglass and Shaul Mofaz).
We pay a heavy price for Boggi Ayalon’s departure a year ago.
Everything he said and predicted happens now, unfortunately.
His absence is strongly felt. Mr. Olmert’s insistence on the retreat strategy is the expression of a political blindness. The same goes for Mr. Amir Peretz who, according to TV reports, is busy in the last days, to prepare the evacuations of some Judea and Samaria communities. What a strange priority!
Once and for all, there is no policy without “give and take”. Even if it takes decades.

II. The situation now:

According to the information available, we are witnessing an extraordinary slowness and hesitation in the government’s reactions and the military apparatus to the crisis that we are going through.

If this is not war, what is it?

We found ourselves unprepared, although there were many advanced notices from the Hizbullah in the North and the Hamas in Gaza.

Look at the body language of our present “Trio”, Omert, Peretz and Halutz, if they appear at all. They are conveying to the people a sense of surprise, weak and too-late actions. The Arab world and the terrorist organizations have well received that message.
Unfortunately for all of us, Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz are the wrong men at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
What the Chief-of-Staff is concerned, the un-preparedness of the army, the wrong evaluations, the very slow reactions (due also to the failing political leadership) should be of deep concern to the country and its citizens. True that the budget cuts are not improving the military might.

Tactically, the choice of gradual limited military operations instead of a full blow from the start might hamper our ability to destroy the terrorist apparatus in the North and in the South and impose a heavy burden on the generation to come, on our children.
We are REacting to rockets fired on Haifa and the North and we feel that there was no pre-emptive strategy, as it always has been in
Israel’ s history (except for the Yom Kippur war). In wars, time is an essential factor. To extinguish a fire, you better act from the start and not wait until there is a conflagration.

Another essential factor in time of war, is the morale of our people and the morale of our soldiers before going into battle.

Obviously the silence of our leaders and the face of our military generals on the TV screen are not very encouraging.
For the first time, Israeli generals admit that they have no answer to the terrorist arsenal and tactics. If they can’t protect us, they should leave and let others manage the war.
But in the present situation, our sons, daughters and their commanders should be fully supported with all our heart.

Where is the pep talk of Mr. Olmert to the Nation, at the Knesset or in front of the cameras ? Where is the President of the Knesset ? Nahman Shai has already politely mentioned that failure in a TV interview 48 hours ago.
Who is leading this country ?
By the way, have we heard anything from our intellectuals?
Fortunately a few leaders from the Right and from the Left have expressed some sensible and responsible opinions. But they are “vox clamans in deserto”.
What the opposition is concerned, Mr. Netanyahu has declared with much restraint on the first day of the war, that the opposition is behind the government if it changes course. The left has not been so gentle during the Lebanon war in 1982.

The media have played a terrible partisan role in the last years. They continue to act irresponsibly when showing the impact of the rockets and helping the Hizbollah or Hamas to adjust their fire or when they demand full information on the army’s plans.
Haaretz’ editorial asking restraint and limited objectives in our military operations is shocking. They weaken our options on the diplomatic and military front. There is a limit to total free-speech in times of war.
Asking the removal only of the Hizbullah and the deployment of the Lebanese army in South Lebanon is a plaster on an open wound.
How ironic also to hear Gideon Meir from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declaring that all is well and that our diplomatic position has never been so good.

III. The future:

It might be time to prepare a more aggressive and vocal policy from the ranks of the opposition and from its leader.
It is the right time to start explaining what are the stakes and ask the People to openly support a strong, well defined and clear objective for our future generations.
The People of Israel has enough of this long terror environment.
We have tasted the “realignment”. It does not work.
Let us protect our strategic depth. No inch of territory should be evacuated if not in return for a comprehensive peace agreement, tested over a number of years.

The Arab world declares that time is on their side.
We have returned to our Homeland for eternity and we will stay here in our Jewish land until the end of times. Israel is strong and our enemies should know it and feel it.
Otherwise, there is no reason for our soldiers and our children to risk their lives now.

It is time also to organize a public support for a strong and clear-cut policy and to assemble around a national consensus.

Regarding Iran and Syria:
Syria is our neighbor, our enemy but only a middleman.
It is a passageway from Iran to Irak, from Iran to Lebanon, to Gaza and to Israel.
The real threat is Teheran.

Menahem Begin said: “If our enemies (the Arabs) declare that they want to annihilate the Jewish People, believe them”.
He launched the “Osirak” operation.

We should believe what the Iranian leaders say and act accordingly.
Its time to warnthem first on the Lebanese soil.
This is our priority, unless the Iranian people will wake up.

Finally, when we will go to the polls, we will have to carefully choose our leaders according to their moral values, their competence and their honesty. We cannot afford further mistakes.

The Knesset and our Society have many challenges ahead in justice, education, economy, security, ethics. “Tsedek, Tsedek tirdof”.

Let us win this war, bring back our kidnapped soldiers including Ron Arad while caring and praying for our soldiers. Let us quietly prepare the long term visions for our People.

Yitschak Jacques Heller

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