Eli Yishai, Israel’s Interior Minister, claims the IDF failed in the Second Lebanon war in 2006.
However, unlike other critics, who judge victory or defeat by military or political criteria, he has decided to add God to the equation. He recently made a speech in which he stated that the IDF failed to win because the soldiers were not religious enough. Among his more outrageous statements were the following gems:
- ” In the 6 Day War (1967) every Jew, and every Jew that went into battle, raised their eyes to the creator”
- “….What will save the Jewish People is study of the Torah.”
Of course, the general response was a mixture of disbelief and anger. Realising that he had made a a bad political mistake, he sought to retract the remarks, falling back on the familiar claim of being misquoted and alleging that the words were taken out of context – despite the fact that the speech had been recorded.
It is self-evident that his assertions are not supported by the demographic reality. Around 30% of the population classify themselves as secular or atheist. Allowing for the Haredim and Arabs who, for different reasons, do not serve in the IDF, that percentage is considerably higher for serving soldiers.
But the issue I really want to address is his assumption, and that of many other people, that Israel actually lost this war. Whilst it may not have won as resoundingly as most would have hoped, the result was a far cry from defeat. Wars are never perfect; mistakes are made in the heat of battle and the “fog of war” leads to many errors. But this is always in retrospect, and the memory of the failures fades in time.
In this case, it is simply not true that Israel was defeated – with or without God’s help.
Famous commentator, Charles Krauthammer, referring to Nasrallah’s admission that he would not have captured the Israeli soldiers had he foreseen the outcome, wrote: ” ….Hezbollah may have won the propaganda war, but on the ground it lost. Badly.”
Professor Brendan Simms of Cambridge University said: “Hezbollah have suffered a setback (but are too clever to admit it) and the Israelis have scored a long-term success (but are too narrow-minded to realise it.)
Journalist Michael Totten wrote: ” Hezbollah lost, and Hezbollah knows it.” He further stated that Nasrallah’s boasting played well to the Arab world, but the Lebanese people knew that it was just empty rhetoric.
Lebanon paid a heavy price for Nasrallah’s misjudgment. Thousands killed or injured; huge destruction of roads, bridges, power stations and the International airport, amounting to at least $5.0 billion (22% of GDP) and a massive loss in tourism and economic growth.
And, as the saying goes. “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” meaning that for more than 5 years the border with Lebanon has been relatively quiet. Of course, the next war is just a question of time, and for sure it will be much more brutal than the last one. One can only hope that Israel has learned the necessary lessons and will be prepared, and willing, to do what must be done to achieve as big a victory as the world will permit.
If all of Israel’s previous wars had been subjected to the same media scrutiny and criticism as the Second Lebanon War, they would not be remembered in the glowing terms that they are today. Time dims the negative aspects, and highlights the positive. For better or worse, we live in a different world than we did. Starting with the Vietnam war, and continuing through almost every war since then, the Western powers, especially the USA and Israel, are no longer permitted the luxury of winning absolutely.
Had the same morality and media pressure been applied to the Second World War, England and the Allied Powers, would not have prevailed. Imagine “carpet bombing”cities in the enlightened 21st century! And Hiroshima and Nagasaki? A cynic might ask “where was God then?”
Perhaps Mr Yishai has the answer!
Andyboy – Telling it as it is
- Hezbollah Leader’s Rare Appearance Showcases Defiance (nytimes.com)
- Rabbi Ovadia Yosef – from his mouth to God’s ears! (andyboy1.com)
- Israel’s Yishai apologizes for saying soldiers do not have faith (jta.org)