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Jewish World Review
August 28, 2006
/ 4 Elul, 5766
Time for Olmert to go: Citizenry right to want a new PM,but it's a dangerous call
Richard Z. Chesnoff
The fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah is holding more or less. But full-scale political war has broken out in Israel. Before it's over, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, an able politician with little military background but a well-earned reputation for arrogance, his inexperienced defense minister, Amir Peretz, and his army chief of staff, Dan Halutz, could find themselves out of their jobs.
A recent poll in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper shows 63% want Olmert to go. Peretz appears even more vulnerable, with 74% calling for his resignation, while 54% want Halutz to resign.
While Olmert deserves to be run out of office, it is a dangerous time for internal jousting in the Knesset. There are also few viable or worthy candidates to succeed Olmert. His chief rival, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was hardly a major success in the job.
Even graffiti on an air raid shelter in northern Israel shouts the citizenry's discontent: "ARIK WAKE UP, OLMERT'S IN A COMA!"
"Arik," of course, is Israel's stroke-stricken ex-premier, Ariel Sharon the once-decisive military genius. His successor, Olmert, is accused by many Israelis of having hesitated and mismanaged the recent war in Lebanon.
There's no doubt the Israel Defense Forces dealt a heavy blow to Iran's Lebanese-based stooge army, Hezbollah.
Israelis are right when they say air and sea bombardments weren't enough to rout the terrorists, and Olmert's hesitation before sending in massive Israeli ground forces could have proved disastrous.
Angered and confused, a growing number of Israelis now demand an official state investigation into the way the war was waged. Some Israelis charge Israel's legendary army especially its reserve forces, which provided a full 50% of the troops who fought in Lebanon and suffered a high percentage of the casualties was often badly led and poorly supplied.
"It was a catastrophe," says reserve officer Jack Silverman, part of a small group of reservists who have set up a protest camp outside the Knesset, Israel's parliament, demanding the resignation of Olmert & Co. Other reservists say they were sent into battle missing pieces of equipment and with so little food and water that "we had to break into grocery stores."
The postwar debate coincides with a flurry of nasty political scandals. Labor Party luminary Haim Ramon has been forced to resign his post as justice minister over charges he forced his attentions on a young female soldier. And Israel's President Moshe Katzav is facing charges he not only sexually harassed two women on his office staff, but also sold pardons charges he vehemently denies.
Even Olmert is under investigation over his purchase of a property in Jerusalem that some allege was underpriced in return for political favors. Not a pretty picture.
Israeli political crises have a tradition of fizzling out. But the ceasefire itself may be in trouble. The idea was to establish a 15,000-strong United Nations force in southern Lebanon to oversee both the ceasefire and, theoretically at least, the disarmament of Iranian-supplied Hezbollah by the Lebanese Army. The whole idea was concocted by the French, eager as always to reclaim their long-lost diplomatic glory. Paris first volunteered to lead the force, then began backpedaling faster than an out-of-control biker on a steep Tour de France hill.
Now the French have agreed to send some 2,000 troops. But before the French and others arrive, fighting could break out again. There's also Israel's second front in Gaza. And there is the ever-growing threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon hanging over the Jewish state.
"We're at the forefront of the battle between the free world and suicidal Islamic extremism," says the Jerusalem Post's savvy editor David Horovitz. "The past weeks have shown we weren't battle-ready. ... We have to find out what went wrong and what has to be done to get it right."
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The Arrogance of the French
This book will open your eyes!
Why do the French hate America? Richard Chesnoff has figured it out and informs us with entertaining clarity.
France sucks, but this book doesn't.
Michael Barone, Co-author, The Almanac of American Politics
Americans-and the French-will learn a lot from this book.
Clifford D. May, President, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Richard Z. Chesnoff insightfully-and entertainingly-explores America's most dysfunctional relationship with America's least reliable ally.
Sales help fund JWR.
JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a contributing correspondent at US News & World Report, a columnist at the NY Daily News and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Demoracies. A two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club Award and a recipient of the National Press Club Award, he was formerly executive editor of Newsweek International. His latest book, is "The Arrogance of the French: Why They Can't Stand Us & Why The Feeling Is Mutual". (Click on cover above to purchase. Sales help fund JWR. )
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© 2005, Richard Z. Chesnoff