Being absolved of a long list of crimes doesn’t give one the right to incriminate oneself on other crimes. Yet, that is exactly what former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did today. On July 12, 2012, two days after being acquitted, he spoke at a conference in Tel Aviv, which was devoted to the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. While the media recorded his astonishing words, he admitted that Israel’s main excuse for its brutal attack on Lebanon—the retrieval of two captured soldiers—was false. “The war had one objective which we did not achieve, and we knew in advance that [we] couldn’t achieve, and it was spoken in cabinet meetings,” Olmert said.
The prime minister, the government, and the army, knew that. Openly deceiving the entire world, they attacked for the sake of achieving a different target.
Zar’it Incident | Trigger of the 2006 War
The Semantics of War
2006 – Israeli Children | The girl wrote: “I waited for this moment for so long…”
In the morning hours of July 12, 2006, Hezbollah launched a diversionary rocket attack toward Israeli military strongholds near the coast, not far from Zar’it. In parallel, Hezbollah soldiers crossed the border Israel and attacked a patrol of two Israeli Humvees, in the location marked in the map above. In the event, three IDF soldiers were killed, two were injured, and other two were captured. Master Sergeant Ehud Goldwasser and First Sergeant Eldad Regev, were taken by the Hezbollah soldiers to Lebanon.
This event marked the beginning of a 34-day long war between Israel and Hezbollah. “Kidnapped Soldiers” blared the Israeli headlines. I was surprised. Since when is a soldier “kidnapped?” Were they watering their mothers’ gardens at the time? No, they were participating in military events. Soldiers are never kidnapped; they are captured. Afterwards they should be treated according to the international Geneva Convention. That one simple semantic deceit by the Israeli media kidnapped the nation’s mind. The Israeli government used the event to fulfill a different agenda.
Shortly after their capture, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the event as an “act of war” by Lebanon. He didn’t mention the fact Israel continuously carries acts similar events in Lebanon since “Operation Litani” in 1978. He didn’t mention the fact that the Lebanese government wasn’t involved. Moreover, it couldn’t be involved because Israel had damaged the Lebanese government control over the southern parts of the country. Olmert said then that “Lebanon will bear the consequences of its actions” and that it will suffer a “very painful and far-reaching response.” IDF’s Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said “if the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years” while the commander of Israel’s Northern Command Udi Adam added “this affair is between Israel and the state of Lebanon. Where to attack? Once it is inside Lebanon, everything is legitimate, not just southern Lebanon, not just the line of Hezbollah posts.” Yet, they knew the captured soldiers were already dead. Next day, Israeli destroyed Beirut’s international airport and begun a brutal, systematic destruction of Lebanon. Israel’s Air Force flew more than 12,000 combat missions, its Navy fired over 2,500 shells, and its artillery fired over 100,000 shells. 400 Miles of roads and 73 bridges were destroyed. Roughly 150,000 houses, 350 schools and 2 hospitals were hit, as well as facility structures like water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities, fuel stations, commercial structures, and others.
Yet, this time Israel miscalculated. Israelis found themselves running south away from the bombings all the way down to the Jezreel Valley, the valley connecting Mount Carmel with the Jordan River. Jezreel is deep within the Israeli heartland, a place most Israelis consider equivalent to the US State of Kansas in geographical terms. The implications of this situation escaped international eyes. For the first time since the foundation of the State of Israel, a significant percentage of its population ran away from their homes because their government failed to protect them—actually was responsible for initiating the military operation that led to the disaster. Up to half million Israelis were displaced. The situation was so bad, that Israel agreed to a ceasefire provisioned by UNSC Resolution 1701, on August 14. Hezbollah and Israel both declared victory; the two captured soldiers—unwittingly having caused this massacre—remained in the hands of Hezbollah.
Their bodies were returned to Israel on July 16, 2008 as part of a prisoner exchange. In exchange, Hezbollah got from Israel the incarcerated Palestine Liberation Front militant Samir Kuntar, four Hezbollah militants captured during the war, and bodies of about 200 other Lebanese and Palestinian militants.
Dan Halutz & Ehud Olmert | During Conference on the 2006 War
The Soldiers Were Already Dead
The brutal Israeli reaction was odd, especially since Hezbollah had announced its readiness to indirectly negotiate the release of the soldiers, as it has been done several times in the past. Yet, Prime Minister Olmert blamed Lebanon, and purposely created a situation that could not be solved. There was nothing the Lebanese government could do. In other words, Olmert forced a war, knowing “that the war had one objective which we did not achieve, and knew in advance that we couldn’t achieve, and it was spoken in cabinet meetings.” In the same conference, Olmert also admitted that “We said that we were working to bring about the two soldiers’ release, [however] we had no doubts that it was so [that they were no longer alive],” and he added “those who had participated in cabinet meetings at the time knew there wasn’t a chance to bring them back through a military operation.” Then, Mr. Olmert, why did you perform the massacre?
The actions of the IDF were a complete disaster. The army commander back then was Dan Halutz, an air force officer (he also participated in today’s conference, see picture above). It is unusual for a “blue” (someone from the air force in Hebrew slang) to reach such a position. Halutz held back the “greens” (ground forces) during the operation because he “didn’t trust them” and sent the air force ahead. It was a disaster. The fact that in the morning of the attack he found time to contact his broker and sell his stock in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange didn’t help his public image. He left humiliated, after having shown the world where the real interest of senior IDF commanders are.
Mr. Olmert wasn’t kind enough to inform us on why he took the odd decision to blame and attack Lebanon. Yet, his actions give a very solid testimony that he begun the war not to save the captured soldiers, but to destroy Hezbollah. The two soldiers were used as a mere justification for a military action that he couldn’t justify otherwise, not even to the Israeli public. A collateral corroboration of this is what is known as “the last 48 hours.” It refers to the two days before the ceasefire, when Israel begun a wild offensive, knowing it was the last chance to hit additional targets. Olmert said this was done in an attempt to force the UN to change the final wording of its ceasefire decision “there wasn’t an intention to change strategy, just to create the required effect to bring the international community to finalize things in a direction which we perceived as the right one.” In other words, the “Jewish Heart” he presented towards his Jewish electorate (“We will bring back the boys!”) was nothing but a cold political calculation.
Israel as New Masada
“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” says the Bible in Exodus 21:24. It may seem a bit barbaric nowadays, but back then it established the idea of proportional punishment and—in nearby texts—a method of indemnification for crimes committed. These days, if your neighbor breaks the window of your house, you expect to get a new window and some degree of compensation if the damage was intentional. No modern society would accept the retaliatory breaking of the neighbor’s window—or demolishing his house, as the Israelis do in Lebanon and the occupied Territories—as a just response. For a long time now, Israelis are running amok in this violent manner. Having rejected their last Teacher, they are now forgetting even law morals, receding dangerously back to lawless times.
“Masada won’t fall for a second time,” are the words used by Israeli soldiers to swear allegiance to their country. Two millennia ago, Masada was an impressive fortress overlooking the Dead Sea. A small Jewish sect occupied it, and withstood the Roman siege for a few years. Surrounded by high cliffs on all sides—an early version of the modern Israeli wall around the Palestinian territories—the place seemed unconquerable. Food reserves within the walls and sophisticated wells ensured survival in the arid landscape. But the Romans were resourceful and built a ramp all the way up.
Nowadays it is called the Snake Way—due to its undulating shape around the cliffs—and it is still the only way to reach the top by foot; the nearby cable car is a modern contrivance. When the Romans reached the top, Masada’s people committed suicide to prevent captivity. Only one woman and her children survived to tell the tale. Masada is a powerful myth for Israelis. They like to consider their tiny country—without a constitution, without agreed upon borders and with racist laws discriminating amongst its citizens—a kind of modern Masada. The word is even used as the code name for certain strategic military plans.
“Masada won’t fall for a second time”
“Masada won’t fall for a second time,” say the Israeli soldiers when swearing loyalty; young children disguised as soldiers shout with all their might while tightly closing their eyes to reality. After the 2006 War, “Masada won’t fall for a second time,” sounds more than ever like a hollow, teenager bravado statement. Will the veil covering Israeli eyes fall away? Will new, enlightened leaders, seek a just political solution to their problems? More probably, we will just witness a Masada reenactment.
Running south, they will keep shouting, “Masada won’t fall for a second time,” deep into the dusty Desert of Oblivion.