Is­raeli re­servists want Olmert to step down

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Joshua Mit­nick

JERUSALEM — Is­raeli re­servists, fresh from fight­ing in south­ern Le­banon, on Aug. 21 de­manded that Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter EhudOlmert re­sign over what they de­scribe as the de­ba­cle of the month­long war with Hezbol­lah.

The calls of the re­servists will make it more dif­fi­cult for Mr. Olmert’s Cabi­net to avoid ap­point­ing a for­mal “state com­mis­sion of in­quiry,” pan­els that helped bring downt­wopromi­nent Is­raeli lead­ers in the past 33 years.

Re­servists told of in­suf­fi­cient pro­vi­sions, of hav­ing no wa­ter in the sum­mer heat and be­ing forced to drink from can­teens of dead Hezbol­lah guer­ril­las, short­ages of com­bat equip­ment and in­de­ci­sive or­ders.

One group of about 200 from the re­servist In­fantry Brigade 8101 gath­ered in front of Mr. Olmert’s of­fice af­ter a protest march through the city.

“When a CEO fails, they usu­ally fire him.Therewere big mis­takes— mis­takes that even the sim­ple sol­dier could see,” said Yossi Avigur. “They didn’t give us the tools to win, and they didn’t give us the mo­men­tum to win.”

The sol­diers also called for the res­ig­na­tion of De­fense Min­is­ter Amir Peretz and Army Chief of Staff Dan Ha­lutz.

The protests were am­pli­fied in an open let­ter to the gov­ern­ment by a sep­a­rate unit of re­servists, who also called for a panel of in­quiry.

The let­ter ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of get­ting cold feet dur­ing the war,an­ditcharged po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­ers with in­de­ci­sive­ness.

“The feel­ing that all of the ech­e­lons aboveuswere­plagued­with­un­pre­pared­ness and lack of se­ri­ous­ness [. . .] leads us to the ques­tion: Why have we been called up?” said the let­ter.

“The cri­sis of con­fi­dence be­tween our­selves as sol­diers and the up­per po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary strata will only be solved by an in­de­pen­dent panel.”

Re­servists, the back­bone of Is­rael’s mil­i­tary, carry huge moral author­ity in Is­raeli so­ci­ety. They are­most­lyy­oung pro­fes­sion­als with fam­i­lies who spend one month a year on ac­tive ser­vice.

Af­ter be­ing called up to fight in Le­banon, the re­servists view the crit­i­cism be­ing lev­eled at the Olmert gov­ern­ment as tran­scend­ing par­ti­san pol­i­tics.

“They are not per­ceived as protest­ing against the war for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, but what they saw in the field,” said SamLehman Wilzig, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at Bar Ilan Univer­sity.

“They are viewed as salt-of-theearth, pil­lar-of-so­ci­ety kind of peo­ple. Th­ese are not peo­ple mouthing off as a com­men­ta­tor or a kib­itzer on the side­line.”

The protests strike an es­pe­cially deep chord among older Is­raelis, who re­call a demon­stra­tion by one lone re­servist af­ter the 1973 Yom Kip­pur War that helped prod the gov­ern­ment to set up a panel of in­quiry.

The panel’s find­ings led to the res­ig­na­tion of then-Prime Min­is­ter Golda Meir.

In 1982, a state com­mis­sion of in­quiry found then-De­fense Min­is­ter Ariel Sharon neg­li­gent in the first Le­banese war and rec­om­mended he be barred from the po­si­tion. Mr. Sharon re­signed.

In the streets of Jerusalem on Aug. 21, re­servists car­ry­ing Is­raeli flags and wear­ing base­ball-style caps with the in­signia of their unit re­counted how their or­ders were changed sev­eral times within hours.

Nick­namedthe“Alexan­droni bat­tal­ion,” the sol­diers, who spent two weeks in Le­banon, said they were forced to loot Le­banese stores and houses to get food.

The sol­diers said Is­rael doesn’t need a com­mis­sion of in­quiry, be­cause the war’s mis­man­age­ment is clear.

“If a den­tist sees a rot­ten tooth, he doesn’t put in a fill­ing, he does a root canal,” said Roni Zvi­gen­heim, an or­ga­nizer of the march.

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