Jerusalem Magazine
August 16, 2006 Cease-fire Day 3
The Lebanese government has said it would send a force to Southern Lebanon within the next few days but that force would not disarm Hezbollah. An agreement was apparently reached between Hezbollah and the government allowing Hezbollah to essentially remain intact, rebuild, and remain in power.
Israel’s spokesmen have said that this is an invitation to another round of fighting, the only question is when.  So far the promised international force that is to take up positions in Southern Lebanon have said they won’t appear until Hezbollah is disarmed. The Israeli army has said they’ll stay in place until the force arrives. Many analysts have said that by Israeli troops remaining in the area they become targets for Hezbollah fighters.
Hezbollah has meanwhile promised each person who has lost a house $10,000 in rent for the next year, as well as free furniture and appliances. Hezbollah also runs a huge construction company and is stepping in to refurbish damaged homes, and rebuild destroyed homes. These are all functions that the Lebanese government should be fulfilling. The fact that Lebanon has not disarmed Hezbollah, nor provided social services to the population means that Hezbollah has so far staged a quiet coup.
Israel is looking at the situation with concern, but in the interim the cease-fire is holding. Israelis, who had evacuated their homes for bomb shelters or to safe harbor in the south of the country, are now returning in droves. The country is digging out of the mess left by the rockets, a mess both physical and psychological.
Too much attention is being put on the insignificant aspects of the war and those who handled it. The radio and press were filled with stories of Chief of Staff Dan Halutz’s sale of all his stocks three hours before the war broke out. An investigation has been launched into who leaked the information.
Given that Halutz is a veteran Israeli warrior, former head of the Israeli Air Force, and reportedly a genius it is unlikely that one phone call to his stockbroker would have taken his attention from the management of the war. He is supposed to be a man accustomed to multi-tasking.  One phone call wouldn’t have thrown off his concentration. In any case he was a better pilot than an investor: following his sale his investments all increased in value as the Israeli stock market continued to rise during the war.
The long knives are out. Politicians as expected are staking out their territory in preparations for a move to topple the government and call new elections.  Most veteran analysts think this at a time when they should better be focused on helping rebuild the shattered north, resettling those displaced persons, and prepare for the next round in the battles rather than fighting for some political advantage.
One of those mentioned as a new leader, emerging from retirement, is Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister. Barak has been conspicuously absent all during the fighting, making only rare appearances on foreign TV stations. Many blame Barak for the current mess because of his hasty withdrawal from Lebanon in 2,000, allowing Hezbollah to fill in the vacuum left by the IDF. Others expect Barak to have ample evidence why he is now the best person to run the Labor Party and why he didn’t make any mistakes in 2,000.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who lost to Barak in the 1999 elections, also thinks his time has come, again. Netanyahu has made many appearances lately, in a statesman-like fashion, hinting that if he’d been in power these disastrous rocket attacks wouldn’t have happened.
However economist point out that the massive cuts in the military budget, sometimes to the extent of canceling training for reserve soldiers, canceling the upgrading of the Merkava tanks with anti-tank missile systems, and canceling the order of the vaunted Nautilus anti-Katyusha rocket system were more the cause for the current problems than Barak’s order for the IDF to withdraw from Lebanon.
It was Netanyahu, as Finance Minister under Ariel Sharon who was responsible for these budget cuts. He also brought in Stanley Fisher, the American businessman and economist, to run the Bank of Israel. Fisher and Netanyahu saw eye to eye on the budget cuts, and Fisher advised Netanyahu even before Fisher made Aliya, moved to Israel, and took over his position at the Bank.
Some pundits mused that Fisher may have been the architect of the successful economic policies that balances Israel’s budget and put Israel on firm economic footing, but at the cost of ignoring the existential threats to Israel from her sworn enemies.
These and other facts will all be brought out, battered like a rug beaten on a clothesline, until all the dirt is floating in the air.
August 16, 2006 Cease-fire Day