Israeli reservists want Olmert to step down
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.