An atmosphere of surrealism surrounds us. We are in the midst of a bitter conflict. There is carnage in the north and daily heartbreaking IDF casualties. We are depressed because despite bombastic proclamations of victory we know that this war is not going well.
Yet in the regions where rockets are not falling, beyond the notable absence of and concern for young men who have been called up as reservists and an inclination to obsessively follow news bulletins, on the surface life goes on as normal. The coffee shops, restaurants and entertainment outlets are as busy as ever.
All of us are deeply involved. Personally, because we all have family and friends battling the barbarians in the north, and collectively, because we realize that if Hezbollah win this conflict, it will have disastrous repercussions on our future.
Today we are more united than at any time since the Yom Kippur war. That is why aside from one awful political remark about convergence that we would like to expunge from our memory, we have set aside all political differences. We also agree that even if a total knockout blow is unfeasible, irrespective of the price, we must be perceived as defeating the Hezbollah. We are determined to make our enemies understand we are reverting to deterrence and that any future attacks on our sovereignty will incur a tough response.
Even prominent "Peace Now" leaders endorse this conflict as a just war. Amram Mitzne, the decorated officer who launched the anti-government revolt during the former divisive Lebanese war, called for a full scale assault as did the Four Mothers who paved the way for the Ehud Barak debacle when he handed over Lebanon to Hezbollah. Even Haaretz published an editorial calling on the government and the IDF to be decisive and snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Such a newborn consensus suggests that we might be undergoing a major metamorphosis.
Yet we also have serious concerns about the performance and apparent failures of our political and military leadership.
How could they stand by and allow this build up for over six years without preemptive action? Did our leaders not realize that that these 12,000 rockets would ultimately be directed against us? Having experienced Hezbollah incursions, were there no military contingency plans for dealing with a total confrontation? Was the IDF in a state of readiness? These and many other issues trouble us but they must be set aside for the duration of the war.
However, our Prime Minister would be well advised to cease proclaiming or spinning premature victories. Likewise, he should restrict his public announcements to decisions rather than undermining confidence by publicly articulating his doubts and fears.
Our Prime Minister must also introduce some order to his War Cabinet. Ministers who leak details of internal differences, debate over policy options and engage in unseemly brawls over war strategies to the media should be summarily dismissed. Pompous politicians, unable to restrain themselves from conveying their personal opinions as to how military campaigns must be run, should be told to shut up.
Despite the complexities involved, we pray that the government will now stop prevaricating and get the job done. We realize that whereas air power is crucial, Hezbollah has deeply embedded itself in civilian locations. Therefore, unless we are willing to employ carpet bombing techniques like those employed by the allies in Afghanistan, which would make existing Lebanese civilian casualties pale into insignificance, air power alone will not succeed in eradicating Hezbollah.
But neither can we endure a lengthy war of attrition in which civilians in the north are forced to remain cowering in shelters. I am unable to judge whether the full scale land invasion should have been initiated at the outset. But, I am profoundly distressed with the media allegations that the land invasion was delayed due to the hesitation and indecisiveness of our leaders.
Of course we are painfully aware that a full scale land war may result in increased casualties. But the prime objective of an army must be to defend its citizens and win battles even at the cost of more bloodshed. Besides, in the long run such an approach may even save lives.
Nor can we delude ourselves by placing false hopes on an international force that may already be stillborn or on UNIFIL which has turned a blind eye and even been accused of collaborating with Hezbollah. And to even contemplate relying on the Lebanese army which Hezbollah would either dominate or totally absorb can only be regarded as a sick joke.
The Europeans continue to demonize us. Their double standards have now reached obscene levels. We are castigated for defending ourselves from unprovoked attacks targeting our civilians with missiles packed with ball bearings designed to shred human flesh. We are even accused of war crimes when we inadvertently kill civilians resident in areas from which rocket attacks are launched. Yet no other country in the world would have matched our restraint. It is therefore high time to stop apologizing for "civilian" casualties in Lebanon and point out that the Hezbollah utilization of human shields is a recognized war crime, whereas the Geneva Conventions specifically state that civilian casualties located in military areas are not the responsibility of the attacking force.
In fact it is time to review the level of our restraint. When IDF spokesmen say that our military casualties would be minimized if they were not so sensitive to civilians, they are in effect saying that Lebanese human shields have a higher priority than Israelis.
Having said that, we take great pride in the courage and determination displayed by the IDF. They are facing fanatical zealots trained in Iran, equipped with sophisticated high tech weaponry, who had six years to construct underground tunnels and bunkers in the midst of civilian infrastructures.
Nasrallah clearly states that his objective is to destroy the "cancerous" Jewish entity which is a "cobweb" ready to collapse. He alleges that unlike "soft" Jews, the Jihadists are willing to sacrifice their lives to achieve their objectives and that the withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza are proof of their success. We must demonstrate that Nasrallah has completely underestimated the determination we can display when confronted by foes seeking to destroy us. The outcome of this battle therefore has important implications for our future, not to mention the global battle against Islamic fundamentalism.
Ehud Olmert must take advantage of the unique and unprecedented support we enjoy from President Bush who, until now, has resisted enormous pressures to forsake us. The Prime Minister must now determine a real plan and provide every encouragement to the IDF to eradicate Hezbollah from Southern Lebanon and bring about their demilitarization. Failure will destroy our credibility with our allies, undermine our special relationship with the Americans, and worst of all, encourage the Jihadists to initiate future - probably more lethal - efforts to bring about our destruction.
Prime Minister Olmert – if you act now, despite the great sacrifices confronting us, you carry the support of a united nation! We can still achieve our primary objectives – but tomorrow could be too late.
The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel Relations Committee of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs and is a veteran international Jewish leader. firstname.lastname@example.org