A reckoning in Israel

The Washington Times reports that some Israeli reservists, having just returned from fighting in Lebanon, are demanding that Prime Minister Olmert resign because of his handling of the war. The reservists are complaining about insufficient provisions, including no water (some were forced to drink from canteens of dead Hezbollah guerrillas), shortages of combat equipment, and indecisive orders. One group of about 200 from a particular reservist infantry brigade gathered in front of Mr. Olmert’s office after a protest march through the city. The soldiers are also calling for the resignation of Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.

Reservists constitute the core of the Israeli armed forces and, as such, command the utmost respect of the society that depends on them for survival. The Times notes that a demonstration by a single reservist after the 1973 Yom Kippur War helped lead to a government panel of inquiry. The panel’s findings led to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Golda Meir.

This time it’s not clear that the government rates a panel of inquiry. The protesting soldiers take the position that Israel doesn’t need one because the war’s mismanagement is clear.

Olmert’s defense is that previous governments are to blame for not taking the Hezbollah threat seriously and preparing accordingly. Perhaps Olmert will point to campaign speeches in which he warned of the problem (in between promising to give more land away). In any case, Olmert cannot shift the blame for the indecisive start-again, stop-again approach he took once the shooting started.

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