The day is a most painful one in Israel, mixed with emotion at best, with Hizbullah having successfully divided the nation, those supporting the prisoner exchange deal and those opposed.
We are all relieved that for the bereaved families there is closure, but from a national interest point of view, we are compelled to view a much greater picture.
We must acknowledge the failures in the hope of learning from them, in the hope of avoiding a repeat situation of the tragedy that has befallen the Regev and Goldwasser families. We must be painfully aware of the ongoing pain and anxieties that have become the lives of the members of the Shalit family, and we must try to place ourselves in the dark lonely tunnel that has become Gilad Shalit’s reality for more than the past two years. We must view the blunder in the Ron Arad case, that chas v’sholom have sealed his fate after 22 years.
On this day, we are compelled to take a meaningful look at the events leading up to the prisoner exchange deal.
On July 12, 2006, in a successful cross-border military offensive, well-armed Hizbullah fighters fired on an IDF border patrol, leading to the apprehension of two soldiers, Eldad Regev HY”D and Ehud Goldwasser HY”D. Fortunately, the terrorists were unaware of the others in the area, preventing the abduction of additional IDF personnel.
Here we see the first failure, the unilateral IDF retreat from the former Lebanese security zone in May 2000, ordered by then prime minister, Ehud Barak, who ordered IDF troops to run under the cover of darkness, sending a clear message to Hizbullah, that Israel is unable to endure the ongoing aggression and military offensives, now willing to retreat and endure its losses. Barak laid the groundwork, bringing Hizbullah to our northern border, eliminating the buffer zone, permitting Nasrallah’s troops to begin laying the infrastructure for the next war, permitting terrorist to operate along our border with impunity.
The next failure points to Shaul Mofaz. During his tenure as defense minister he turned a blind eye to mounting reports of increased Hizbullah surveillance of Israel’s northern border operations. Reports were documented, at times accompanied by film footage from IDF reservists, that terrorists were seen by soldiers serving on the Israeli side of the border documenting movements, taking pictures and film footage, slowly learning the operation of IDF troops along the Lebanese border. Mofaz, wishing to avoid a conflict in the north, buried the reports, made light of them, and even managed to be replaced as defense minister before the war erupted.
On that fateful day in July, Amir Peretz, a former Histadrut National Labor Federation chief was serving in the nation’s most senior defense post, not as a result of his magnificent qualifications, but more the result of his bargaining and negotiating know-how, having compelled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to bestow the senior cabinet post upon him. Peretz admitted that he preferred the finance portfolio, which Olmert saved for one of his cronies, Avraham Hirschson, who today is on trial for embezzling millions of dollars, but this is not the forum to address his trial.
Realizing he had no other alternative [if he wanted one of the three top cabinet positions], Peretz accepted the defense post, knowing full-well he lacked the qualifications for the job. He was not a combat officer, and had no experience in running an army, yet alone making decisions impacting the defense and the security of the nation.
Under Peretz was then-IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, a former IAF chief, a seasoned fighter pilot and air force commander, but lacking any infantry experience whatsoever. His appointment was a precedent-setting event, having become the first IDF chief of staff who did not come from the ranks of the army, but from the ranks of the air force. He was appointed by Shaul Mofaz, who turned a deaf ear to the warnings of his General Staff, with his most senior generals insisting an air force commander is not suited for the post. This is the second failure we must acknowledge that points directly to Shaul Mofaz, who is seeking the Kadima Party nomination, hoping to become Israel’s next prime minister.
Immediately following the abduction of Regev and Goldwasser, Halutz, backed by Peretz and Olmert gave the order to send tanks into southern Lebanon to bring them home. They fell directly into Hizbullah’s trap, leading to the deaths of additional soldiers, all meeting a fiery death as their tanks were blown apart by the barbaric enemy.
The events led to the launching of the Second Lebanon War, which was run by the incompetent trio, Olmert, Peretz and Halutz. Since that time, two of the three have been ousted. Today, unfortunately, were remain in the hands of Olmert, who is emerging as not only unsuited and incompetent, but perhaps as the most corrupt politician in Israel’s history.
The decision was made to pull Deputy Chief of Staff Major-General Gabi Ashkenazi out of retirement, a seasoned decorated combat soldier, the very same one who Mofaz turned down as chief of staff, opting to instate Halutz instead.
Ashkenazi by all accounts has since done a marvelous job rehabilitating the IDF, and unfortunately, intelligence officials agree, he will have an opportunity to prove it, perhaps on two fronts, Gaza and Lebanon. This is not to say we have forgotten about Iran and Syria, and the vulnerability of our Homefront.
Once again, we turn to Olmert and his cabinet, and we see the failures, ministers who are too moved by the painful cries of family members to place the national interest at the forefront of their decision-making abilities.
For two years, the government did not see fit to call on IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier-General Avichai Ronsky to declare the soldiers dead. Once given the task, a few weeks ago, the chief rabbi did not even grasp the mantle of leadership and release a declaration, but preferred to avoid controversy, announcing he would be holding off on his declaration until after the fact. Once again, people in leadership positions in lieu of true leaders.
Finally, despite the opposition of the experts, military intelligence, the ISA (Israel Security Agency – Shin Bet), the Mossad, the prime minister led his cabinet by the hand and persuaded each minister, one-by-one, to look into the eyes of the pained family and vote in favor of the deal. Yes, as President Peres so eloquently stated, “my hand will tremble” when signing Samir Kuntar’s pardon, but sign he did.
For reasons that remain a mystery at present, the same concern exhibited for the Regev and Goldwasser families seems to be absent regarding the parents of Gilad Shalit. Shalit, an IDF corporal, was taken captive by Hamas terrorists in a Kerem Shalom offensive on June 25, 2006. He is believed held in Gaza but no one has seen him since and quite honestly, we do not know – for if we did, Sayeret Matkal or another commando force would surely have been sent to extricate him from the chains of bondage.
These facts point to the major failure of the entire operation, the inability of the intelligence community to gather sufficient information to locate the whereabouts of Shalit, who according to unconfirmed reports from Gaza is being moved every 2-3 days to avoid Israel pinning down his location.
Intelligence officials pleaded with Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to hold off on the Gaza ceasefire, explaining it must include Shalit’s release, or at the very least, credible information concerning his status. Others used their powers of logic and persuasion to compel Olmert to deal with Shalit first, since there are credible signs that he is still alive, while Regev and Goldwasser were presumed dead, but to no avail.
The virtual ceasefire is now 29 days old, and there is no ceasefire and no information on Shalit. Opponents to today’s prisoner exchange warned that the release of Samir Kuntar for dead bodies will serve to encourage additional abductions as well as significantly raise the price for Shalit’s return.
For now, Hamas has learned from Hizbullah, and terrorist officials have informed Israel they are not ready to resume talks in Cairo towards Shalit’s release, explaining they require time to think things over. It is safe to assume that now; Marwan Barghouti will top the Hamas prisoner release list, the convicted Fatah Tanzim faction leader who is serving five life sentences for his fatal acts of terror. Regretfully, he too will be released, for after today, there is no other option, but we pray it will be a timely move, to bring Gilad Shalit home alive.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court and the cabinet, whom remain deaf to the cries of the Shalits, also did not hear the pained voices of the Shachar family, the policeman murdered by Samir Kuntar, or perhaps Prof. Bacharach, whose son Ohad was murdered by terrorists, warning that the release of the master terrorist will only serve to increase attacks against Israel while destroying what little remains of the nation’s deterrence abilities.
Despite the growing number of people in the know who warned Samir Kuntar may not be released in return for dead bodies, we now know the outcome.
And what becomes of Ron Arad?
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)