I listened to the speeches made by Ehud Olmert and Bibi Netanyahu to the Knesset this afternoon. I was underwhelmed by Olmert's speech, and pleasantly surprised at Netanyahu's.
Olmert said the usual blah -blah - thanking the soldiers and the home front, and mentioned those in the north specifically. He took personal responsibility for going to war as "part of my job as Prime Minister". I found this a bit puzzling. He then outlined the goals that the government had set for itself a month ago when going to war, and he tried to show how today's ceasefire agreement includes these goals. Didn't wash - for a number of reasons. One, the agreement does not mention the kidnapped soldiers at all - and Olmert's appointing of a special envoy to negotiate for their release does not make up for this. Two, he is depending on this piece of paper to implement what has been written before in previous agreements (1559), but has not been done in reality. How is this agreement any different? He didn't answer. He made some vague statements about how the international community will be responsible. We all know that if "everyone" is responsible, then noone is. He addressed the nation's disappointment by saying that we have to have patience, and that the terror war has been around for a long time and will be around for a long time. Not a very satisfying answer.
Bibi Netanyahu was expected to withhold sharp criticism of the government's decisions - but he managed to do it anyway, albeit it in a more elegant way than most opposition leaders. He also started with the usual blah-blah but he specifically mentioned the people in the south who have suffered with the Kassams - something that Olmert forgot to do. Netanyahu then made some very clear points - that will do well for him in the next election.
He stated that we should learn three points from the current situation. One, that the idea of unilateral moves was wrong and should be thrown out - because it is interpreted as weakness by our enemies. He said clearly that the way we left Lebanon in 2000 was the direct cause of our current war. Two, he said that Nasralla taught everyone that our fight with the Arabs is not about pieces of land but about our very existence. We withdrew to the internationally recognized border and it did not prevent him from attacking us. We left Gaza, and this did not prevent Hamas from attacking us. His third point is that this war has taught us the importance of treaties with other countries - and that these treaties are based on common values, common interests, and based on strength. He said that noone makes a treaty with a weak entity - and that our goal now is to strengthen ourselves as much as possible.
He also pointed out sharply that since the government did not complete the goals that it had set out for itself we were headed for another round of fighting - and that we should take advantage of this time wisely.
The Speaker of the Knesset, Dalia Itzik, spoke briefly before both Olmert and Netanyahu, and she called for the government to form an emergency coalition government (instead of the more narrow government that we have now). I agree with her completely - we cannot pretend that this war is over and go about our business as usual. The mistakes made have to be corrected, and quickly, and the best way to do that is with national unity.