|To Failure's Credit
|Sunday, August 13,
...there is the
danger the IDF will want to restore its lost
honor on the backs of the helpless Palestinians.
It didn't work in Bint Jbail, so we'll show them
predictable) news: Israel is going to come out of this
war with the lower hand. The good (and surprising) news:
This ringing failure could spell good tidings. If Israel
had won the battles in an easy, sweeping victory of the
kind Israelis prayed so much for, it would have caused
enormous damage to Israel's security policies. Another
slam-bam win would have brought disaster upon us.
Drugged with power, drunk with victory, we would have
been tempted to implement our success in other arenas.
Dangerous fire would have threatened the entire region
and nobody knows what might have resulted.
On the other hand, the failure in this little war might
teach us an important lesson for the future, and maybe
influence us to change our ways and language, the
language we speak to our neighbors with violence and
force. The axiom that "Israel cannot allow itself a
defeat on the battlefield" has already been exposed as a
nonsensical cliche: Failure might not only help Israel
greatly but, as a bonus, it might teach the Americans
the important lesson that there is no point in pushing
Israel into military adventures.
Since 1948's war, Israel has only achieved one sweeping
military victory on its own, in the Six-Day War. There
is no way of imagining an easier and sweeter victory.
Israel's "deterrent capability" was restored - and in a
big way - in a manner that was supposed to guarantee its
security for many years. And what happened? Only six
years went by and the most difficult war in Israeli
history, the Yom Kippur War, took place. Hardly
deterrence. On the contrary, the defeat in 1967 only
pushed the Arab armies to try to restore their lost
honor and they managed to do so in a very short time.
Against an arrogant, complacent Israel enjoying the
rotten fruits of that dizzying victory, the Syrian and
Egyptian armies chalked up considerable achievements,
and Israel understood the limits of its power. Maybe
now, this war will also bring us back down to reality,
where military force is only military force, and cannot
guarantee everything. After all, we are constantly
scoring "victories" and "achievements" against the
Palestinians. And what comes of them? Deterrence? Have
the Palestinians given up their dreams to be free people
in their own country?
The IDF's failure against Hezbollah is not a fateful
defeat. Israel killed and absorbed casualties, but its
existence or any part of its territory were not
endangered for a moment. Our favorite phrase, "an
existential war" is nothing more than another expression
of the ridiculous pathos of this war, which from the
start was a cursed war of choice.
Hezbollah did not capture territory from Israel and its
defeat is tolerable even though it could have easily
been avoided if we had not undertaken our foolish
Lebanese adventure. It is not difficult to imagine what
would have happened if Hezbollah had been defeated
within a few days from the air, as promised from the
start by the bragging of the heads of the IDF. The
success would have made us insane. The U.S. would have
pushed us into a military clash with Syria and, drunk
with victory, we might have been tempted. Iran might
have been next. At the same time we would have dealt
with the Palestinians: What went so easily in Lebanon,
we would have been convinced, would be easily
implemented from Jenin to Rafah. The result would have
been an attempt to solve the Palestinian problem at its
root by pounding, erasing, bombing and shelling.
Maybe all that won't happen now because we have
discovered first-hand that the IDF's power is much more
limited than we thought and were told. Our deterrent
capacity might now work in the opposite direction.
Israel, hopefully, will think twice before going into
another dangerous military adventure. That is comforting
news. On the other hand, it is true that there is the
danger the IDF will want to restore its lost honor on
the backs of the helpless Palestinians. It didn't work
in Bint Jbail, so we'll show them in Nablus.
However, if we internalize the concept whereby what does
not work by force will not work with more force, this
war could bring us to the negotiating table. Seared by
failure, maybe the IDF will be less enthusiastic to rush
into battle. It is possible the political echelon will
now understand that the response to the dangers facing
Israel is not to be found in using more and more force;
that the real response to the legitimate and just
demands of the Palestinians is not another dozen
Operation Defensive Shields, but in respecting their
rights; that the real response to the Syrian threat is
returning the Golan to its rightful owners, without
delay; and that the response to the Iranian danger is
dulling the hatred toward us in the Arab and Muslim
If indeed the war ends as it is ending, maybe more
Israelis will ask themselves what we are killing and
being killed for, what did we pound and get pounded for,
and maybe they will understand that it was once again
all for naught. Maybe the achievement of this war will
be that the failure will be seared deeply into the
consciousness, and Israel will take a new route, less
violent and less bullying, because of the failure. In
1967, Ephraim Kishon wrote, "sorry we won." This time it
is almost possible to say, it's good we did not win.