Israeli reservists protest, call for resignationsPosted 8/23/2006 11:11
By Yaakov Katz, Special for USA TODAY
JERUSALEM — Hundreds of Israeli army reservists set up a tent city outside the prime minister's office Wednesday to protest what they consider poor management of the war in Lebanon.
Protesters held signs calling for the resignations of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the military's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz.
Israel went to war in Lebanon against the Hezbollah guerrillas on July 12 after the abduction of two Israeli army reservists. The war ended Aug. 14 with a United Nations-brokered cease-fire.
In the aftermath, some reservists have complained that Israel lost 118 soldiers, and Hezbollah is still functioning, its leadership intact.
Daniel Damboritz, a 28-year-old paratrooper reservist, says troops thought their objectives were uncertain. "Everything was chaotic," Damboritz says. "Missions that we received were changed constantly, and we found ourselves sometimes with orders that were unclear."
Ephraim Kam, deputy head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv and a former colonel in military intelligence, agrees. "The military brass kept on changing the orders to the soldiers, in some cases several times a day," he says. "This led to the major loss of life."
Olmert acknowledged "failings and shortcomings" in an emotional speech to the Israeli parliament last week. He promised a thorough examination of how the war was conducted.
On Monday, though, he said, "I won't play this game, the game of beating ourselves up."
Some critics are demanding a broad state inquiry. Peretz has set up a commission to investigate the military's management of the war. Olmert says he is considering supporting a state inquiry.
"There is no doubt that there were many mistakes," Kam says.
Some emergency warehouses were empty or stocked with unusable equipment, and reservists lacked proper training in Hezbollah style warfare, he says.
Brig. Gen. Danny Van Buren, chief reservist officer, says, "There is no doubt that we will need to invest more resources in equipment and training for reservists."
Kam says Israel underestimated Hezbollah. For example, he says, the military was unaware that Hezbollah had created an extensive system of underground bunkers where guerrilla fighters hid during Israeli airstrikes.
"There was an expectation that the war would end sooner and that Israel would be more successful," Kam says. "That didn't happen, partially because the enemy was underestimated." Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, called the outcome of the war a "defeat for Israel" that requires Olmert's resignation.
"The loss of the war has reversed Israel's deterrent posture, which took close to 60 years to build," Arens says. "This government needs to go, since the major responsibility lies in the government, which gave the wrong orders to the military."
He says Israel should not have waited to launch a ground offensive. "There was wishful thinking that Hezbollah could be finished from the air," Arens says. "The major mistake was that a ground offensive was not launched the second day of the war, and in the meantime a quarter of the country was destroyed."
David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, says the war did not end in defeat of Israel. "The aim was to achieve diplomatic goals that we hope very much will be achieved through Resolution 1701."
U.N. Resolution 1701 requires the Lebanese army to take control of southern Lebanon and enforce an arms embargo on Hezbollah with the help of international forces.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Apparently, the soldiers do not think they won the war since their primary goal for going to war, which was to free the the 2 soldiers
abducted by Hezbollah was not attained.
Yet they lost 118 soldiers, and has the repuation of their as a strategic, tactical, efficient and ethical fighting force bruised.