Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Olmert's Truth

By Uri Avnery

"The truth, according to the Prime Minister's testimony before the Inquiry Commission headed by Judge Vinograd that was leaked to the media yesterday, is that this was not a spontaneous reaction to the capture of the two soldiers, but a war planned a long time ago. We said so right from the start......

But Ehud Olmert's mistake was even bigger. He was convinced that the United States would give him a blessing for the road and allow him to roam in Lebanon at will. But American interests, too, had changed.

In Lebanon, the government of Fuad Siniora has succeeded in uniting all pro-American forces. They have loyally carried out all of Washington's orders, have driven out the Syrians and have supported the investigation of Rafiq Hariri's murder, which is to provide the Americans with a pretext for a massive strike against Syria.

According to Olmert's leaks, Condoleezza Rice called him just after the outbreak of the war and conveyed to him the up-to-date American orders : it was indeed desired that Israel should deal a crushing blow to Hizbullah, the enemies of Siniora, but it was absolutely forbidden to do anything that would hurt Siniora, such as bombing Lebanese infrastructure outside Hizbullah's territory.

That emasculated the General Staff's plans. The main idea had been that if the civilian population in Lebanon was hurt sufficiently, it would put pressure on the government to act decisively against Hizbullah, enough to liquidate the organization or, at least, to disarm it. It is very doubtful whether this strategy would have succeeded if it had been carried out, but because of the American intervention it was not carried out......

THE INTERVENTION of Condoleezza Rice in the conduct of the war is interesting also in another respect. It sheds light on a question that has been engaging the experts for some time now: in the relationship between the United States and Israel, do American interests override Israeli, or is it the other way round?

This discussion came to a head when the American professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, published their research paper, according to which Israel imposes on the United States a policy that is contrary to the American national interest. The conclusion upset many who believe the opposite: that Israel is but a small wheel in the imperial American machine. (I permitted myself to argue that both versions are right: the American dog wags its Israeli tail, and the Israeli tail wags the American dog.)

When Condoleezza Rice encouraged Israel to go to war but vetoed an essential part of the war plan, it seems that she proved the two professors wrong. True, Olmert got American permission for his war, which served American interests (the elimination of Hizbullah, which opposed the pro-American Siniora government, though it officially belonged to it), but only with severe limitations (in order not to hurt the Siniora government).

THE SAME principle is now operating on the Syrian front......"

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