Meir and Olmert


By Michael J. Totten

JERUSALEM Israeli reserve soldiers have joined civilians in the push to oust Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after the inconclusive war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hundreds, perhaps as many as a thousand, marched to Mount Herzl, where Israel’s deceased former leaders are buried, and addressed Olmert while standing over the grave of Golda Meir.

Moshe Muskal, the father of fallen soldier Refanel Muskal who was killed in Lebanon and one of the organizers of the protest movement that was established following the war, said that they chose to march to Golda's tomb so that "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will learn from her (since she resigned following the Yom Kippur War). The disapproval of the public, that is currently so rampant in the country, will shamefully dismiss him following his failure."

I, too, visited Mount Herzl with Yaacov Lozowick, archivist at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and author of Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel’s Wars.

“There’s no such thing in the Jewish tradition of having a protest in a cemetery,” he told me. “They had this demonstration on Friday. And as far as I know, it was people from the left and the right together.”

Arab tyrants and terrorists have set an absurdly low bar for themselves when it comes to defining victory in a war. Simple survival is good enough for most of them. Saddam Hussein claims he “won” the 1991 Gulf War that ousted him from Kuwait because he lived fight (and lose) again. The Egyptian government built a gigantic war memorial to the “victory” against Israel in 1973, even though they lost, because they managed to surprise the Israelis and had a few tactical victories before later losing decisively. Hassan Nasrallah boasted that he, too, won the war against Israel before later admitting that he never would have started the war if he knew how it would turn out.

The Israeli definition of victory could not be more different. Israelis are, perhaps, the world’s premier perfectionists on this question. Anything less than an instant and overwhelming victory to them is a horror. This comes from the fact that if they ever decisively lose a war against eliminationist enemies, the country might cease to exist.

Lozowick explained what this means for Olmert.

“Golda Meir was the first Israeli prime minister that got thrown out,” he told me. “She got thrown out because of the 1973 war. I wouldn’t say she was a scapegoat, because if she’s prime minister she’s not a scapegoat. But the trauma of the 1973 war so so deep because for the first time we had a war that we didn’t really win. By the time it was over there was a decisive military victory. But it wasn’t a resoundingly decisive military victory. Which in retrospect was good because it enabled [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat to say I didn’t lose and now we can make peace. So history works in strange ways.

“There are parallels between what’s going on right now, but what’s going on right now is nowhere near as traumatic as that. That was a major major trauma. And it took six months. She won an election. The war was in October, there was an election at the end of December, she won that election. But the pent-up anger was building and by May 1974 she had to resign. She is remembered by American Jewry until today as This is Golda! Because she was American and they like her. But Israelis have ranked her near the bottom of the list of prime ministers.

“So they came and demonstrated here, calling upon Olmert to do what she had done. She got up and left. And Olmert is sticking to his job. And they said to Olmert: We didn’t like Golda. But she gets our respect for at least having picked up and left. If you don’t pick up and leave, you’re going to be even more mud than Golda.”

I asked him how many people attended the protest. It was just up some steps from his office.

“A thousand or so,” he said. “It was a Friday afternoon. Nobody knew about it in advance. This whole movement is being invented as it goes.”