Israeli criticism of the war in Lebanon

Citizens in Israel not only can criticize their leader in the middle of a war but can call for his resignation -- without being branded traitors.

Published August 11, 2006 4:27PM (EDT)

Ari Shavit is one of the most respected, veteran establishment journalists in Israel, and today, in the pages of Haaretz, he heaped blame on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the grave harm that the war in Lebanon has imposed on Israel:

"If Olmert runs away now from the war he initiated, he will not be able to remain prime minister for even one more day. Chutzpah has its limits. You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory, produce humiliating defeat and remain in power. You cannot bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, keep a million Israelis in shelters for a month, wear down deterrent power, bring the next war very close, and then say -- oops, I made a mistake. That was not the intention. Pass me a cigar, please.

"Therefore, the day [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah comes out of his bunker and declares victory to the whole world, Olmert must not be in the prime minister's office. Post-war battered and bleeding Israel needs a new start and a new leader. It needs a real prime minister."

Also in Haaretz, Israeli politician Yossi Sarid today said: "This war is, first and foremost, an Israeli tragedy. It is also a Lebanese tragedy and, in fact, an international one. When the Israeli cabinet decided to respond to the abduction of two soldiers by launching a war, it did not take into consideration the fact that no one would stop it ...

"The United States under Bush single-handedly destroyed its deterrent power and that of the free world, including Israel. If the American demon that has taken over Iraq is not so terrible and can be worn down, then just how terrible could the Israeli demon possibly be?"

These columns illustrate several important points:

1) Many Israelis are openly acknowledging that the Israel-Lebanon war has been a disaster for Israel;

2) Waging unnecessary wars, particularly when they are waged poorly, makes a nation much weaker, not stronger (see, e.g., Iraq);

3) Contrary to the reprehensible accusations in this country that opposition to, or criticism of, the Israel-Lebanon war is evidence of anti-Israel bias or even anti-Semitism, many people are opposed to the war -- and critical of President Bush's foolishly unrestrained support for it -- precisely because it is so harmful to Israel;

4) Israel's democracy is sufficiently healthy that journalists and other citizens not only can criticize the country's leader in the middle of a war but can call for his resignation -- without being branded a traitor, a subversive, a coward and all of the other slurs to which Bush critics in the U.S. are routinely subjected.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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