I took part in a blogger conference call with former Chief of Staff Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon yesterday, sponsored by OneJerusalem. I am not completely sure, but judging from the bloggers who asked questions I seem to be one of the few Israeli bloggers who took part. I would like to write about what he said from the perspective of someone who has lived in Israel for 15 years.
First of all, Yaalon confirmed a number of things that those of us in Israel know in our hearts - but that some Americans don't really understand - living as they do so far away.
The Soldiers in the Field Performed Well - Mismanagement from the Top is Reason For War's Failures
I live in a yishuv where fifteen percent of the married men fought up north. This does not count the additional large numbers of young men (19-22) from where I live who took part. So I know a lot of people personally - and I have heard the stories of screw-ups like everyone else. In most, if not all, of these stories - the problems that occurred were from vague or contradictory orders, and logistical problems that were not the fault of the soldier's themselves. They fought bravely and well. Those in America who are wondering "what happened to the tough IDF soldier?" can rest easy - he still exists. (Want to see a video of the fighting - real time? I saw this on Andrew Sullivan http://switch248-01.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ClipMediaID=209947&ak=63628786 )
Moshe Yaalon said that the failures of the war can be directly attributed to mismanagement by both the senior level in the IDF and by the government. He said that the intelligence that they had before the war was completely accurate - the IDF and the government knew about Hizballah's build-up in southern Lebanon, they knew about both the short and long range missiles, and that the only surprise is that Hizballah had one long range missile called the C802.
Yaalon also went on to say that the spin doctors are dominating the decision making process here in Israel, and have been for at least ten years. This has affected policy - not only in regards to Lebanon but in regards to Judea and Samaria. He said that the politicians and the media have manipulated and deceived the Israeli public into believing that we have to take the initiative and disengage from the Palestinians, by withdrawing from territory. Yaalon himself warned that this would only encourage the terrorists to fight more, and that they would see our retreat as a victory for themselves. Those of us who fought against the disengagement plan warned about the same things - but we were ignored.
When asked by a blogger if the word "corruption" should be used instead of mismanagement, Boogie made a quip that in order to talk about the corruption in Israel we would need a whole other conference call - and that he was more afraid of the corruption in Israel than he was of the Iranians.
Overview of the Region - The Need for Clarity and Patience, and Reasons to Hope
Moshe Yaalon gave an excellent overview of the current security situation in the Middle East, and spoke about the need to clarify the problems - both by us here in Israel, and in the west in general. He said that the current problems are conflicts that have different roots than those of the past. Whereas the past wars that Israel has fought have been against nationalistic Arabs, our current conflict is based on Islamic fascism which started with the Iranian revolution in 1979. This threat is of course not just against Israel but on all western countries in the world. The radical Islamic fascism has as its goal the defeat of western culture, and that there is no room for compromise.
In order to fight this we need to use all of the means available - political, educational, and military means. Yaalon believes that there are moderate Muslims - he says that he has met some personally, and that they should be encouraged and empowered as much as possible. They do not have enough power now, though, and we must take action militarily, because letting the Iranians have nuclear weapons is the worst option.
Specifically speaking, he outlined what should be done in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Lebanon, and in Syria/Iran. There should be more agressive action in Gaza now, so that it does not turn into a southern Lebanon. The current status quo in Judea and Samaria is fine. Yaalon said that as long as the IDF has mobility everywhere in Judea and Samaria, we can get the terrorists and eliminate them in Jenin and Schem (Nablus) before they get to Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. He was also confident that we can keep this up indefinitely - and pointed out that Hizballah had wanted the Palestinian terrorists to carry out suicide bombings while the war was raging in the north, and that the IDF was successful in foiling at least 9 attempts.
In terms of Lebanon and the possibility of a round two with Hizballah, Yaalon reasoned that it depends on one thing only - Hizballah's ability to re-arm itself. If we manage to prevent that, another round of fighting will not happen. The main problem of course is Iran and its facilitator, Syria. A huge problem with the UN resolution 1701 is that neither Iran or Syria is mentioned. They did not have to pay a price at all for this current conflict.
What links all of the current conflicts so far is the change from the conventional way of war to what he calls the sub-conventional way. We are not fighting a conventional army but a terrorist army, that deliberately targets civilians. Yaalon says that we are fighting this way because Israel has so far been successful in every conventional war that is has fought.
We need to realize that this will be a very long term fight - because we not only have to "cut the weeds, but also the roots". Our only option is to show firm determination in dealing with it - and that both Israel and the west has to wake up to the extent of the problem.
Boogie Yaalon is optimistic though, both in terms of the global fight against terror and about the health and future of Israel. He said that we are a thriving democracy that will be able to deal with our government's failures. We are a strong and enduring people who showed fortitude in dealing with the war, and we are already repairing the damage done. Our economy is strong and our people are resilient.
I was very encouraged and pleased to hear from him - and join many others who hope that when the next elections come around, Moshe Yaalon will be on the ticket somewhere.
For other takes on this conference call, see Atlasshrugs, Bokertov Boulder, Jewish Current Issues, and TelChaiNation