Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

One political crisis and a side of resignations, please.

The interim Winograd report - a kind of "public enquiry" into last summer's second lebanon war - was released and the tremors caused by this political earthquake are still being felt. Leaks and the interim report itself (the full report is expected out in the summer) indicated that although not asked to resign, PM Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz would be heavily criticized for their inept handling of the 34 day conflict. True to form both recieved harsh criticism. The report highlighted the PM's failures to criticize the military's planning, his failure to set realistic goals, the Defense minister's inexperience in handling military conflict (for a country where everyone goes to the army it is particulalry noteworthy that Peretz had no military experience), and the governments mistakes in calling up reserve duty troops (which appearently was not demanded by the military). All in all it was a resounding "F". The war was essentially commanded by the Head of the Joint Chiefs - Dan Halutz (the first ever Air Force officer in this position) and the report criticizes his reliance on air power and reluctance to go in on the ground until too late (Dan Halutz already resigned a few months ago). The PM responded by saying "lessons have been learned" and that he intends to "quickly implement all of the reports suggestions" (just how Mr. PM do you intend to that now that the war is over?)

Many politicians in Israel are calling on the PM (and his government) to resign. Even his foriegn minister Tzipi Livni is rumored to make a statement to this effect today. Of course Olmert and Peretz emphasize the fact that Winograd didnt explicitely ask for their heads to roll. But on the day the report came out Olmert's approval rating was: 0%. Today, 40% of the public want new elections, 70% want the resignation of their leader. The feeling is that Israel's deterent was weakend by the war which achieved little. In reallity Hezbollah will probably think twice about striking Israel again and UNIFIL (the inpotent yet visible UN force deployed in south lebanon) is more or less trying to ensure a Hezbollah free zone in southern lebannon. I think the people of lebanon dont feel like they won this war: with around 1000 people killed and 7000 buildings destroyed (versus around 150 israels killed and 3000 rockets hitting northern israel of which a small fraction caused real damage) Hezbollah is weaker in lebannon. In fact their attempt at forcing the democratically elected government in Lebanon to fall via general strikes and protest, has failed as PM Sinora holds on to power. A paradoxical state of affairs: Hezbollah is weaker in the eyes of lebanese people who i think felt hijacked by last years war, but stronger in the eyes of islamic militias and the israeli public.

So what will happen politically in Israel? As more and more senior MK's resign from the govenrment and call for the heads of the PM and DM, momentum will most likely force Olmert from power. If an election is held today, Likud (Netanyahus party) will most likely sweep to power as the left wing voters bloc is frustrated with their party's leaders. No one really knows if the old guard can cling on to power for that much longer and when (if ever) Olmert will fall on his sword. In today's world there is no longer honor in resignations. Politicians would rather pervert themselves than own up to the public's feeling. My feeling is that its not a question of "if" but a question of "when" and an answer of "soon".


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