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The Army Wants Action: The great fiasco
Ran HaCohen, The Electronic Intifada, 16 July 2006
Just two weeks after the tragedy of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, history repeated itself on the Lebanese border, this time as farce. Hezbollah, the Middle East's most sophisticated guerilla, managed to capture two Israeli soldiers into Lebanon. Once again it took the Israeli army almost an hour to figure out that two of its troops were missing. The soldiers must have been already "far, far away," as the charismatic Hassan Nasrallah said contemptuously, when the army took the odd decision to send a tank into Lebanon to get them. Just 70 meters north of the border fence, the Merkava - "one of the most protected tanks in the world" - drove over a powerful bomb and was completely destroyed. All four crew members were killed instantly. It then took the army more than 12 hours to extricate the wreck and recover the bodies, under heavy fire in which yet another soldier was killed, bringing the total number of Israeli casualties in the incident to eight. The strongest army in the Middle East seems unable to protect its own soldiers, let alone Israel's citizens. A sane state would send its talented chief of staff home; Israel, instead, sent him to wreak havoc in Lebanon.
From Lebanon to the Wall
This was just one in a long series of humiliations for Israel's military. In summer 2000 it had to admit its defeat in Lebanon and withdraw from its southern part, which even Ben Gurion had considered a desirable "natural border"of the Jewish state. The Second Intifada, initiated by PM Ehud Barak just a few months after that withdrawal, was intended, among other things, to reconcile the army by giving it a fresh playground. The reoccupation of the entire West Bank in the bloody days of 2002 - "Operation Defense Shield" - looked like a happy return to the good old days of the military as the nation's pride. With former generals Barak, Sharon, Ben Eliezer, and Mofaz playing musical chairs with the seats of prime minister and/or minister of defense, the military enjoyed unlimited resources and political power.