No Price Tag for 'Responsibility'
How can Ehud Olmert get away with proclaiming that "the responsibility for what happened (in the Lebanon War fiasco) is all mine" and not resigning?
Something strange has happened to the concept of responsibility in Israel. In Israel, when a leader says he is accountable for a failure, he expects to be lauded as a 'responsible' leader without paying the price for his blunder.
The roots of the strange immunity enjoyed by some of Israel's leaders can be traced to the security ethos that has developed in Israel, starting from the pre-State Palmach days. The new, pre-State Israelis attempted to develop a culture based on the future -- while negating the past.
The Second Aliyah Jews who came to settle the Land of Israel expected their children -- the first generation of sabras -- to be free of any trace of the Jewishness that they associated with the European Diaspora. They practically worshipped the new generation. Every young kibbutznik who bravely attacked and defeated his enemy was proof that the experiment had worked. The Second Aliyah had successfully created a new strain of humanity -- formed on the ruins of the Jewish nation -- the New Israeli.
Israel's security culture has created a failing and atrophied security establishment. The main reason for its colossal failure is its ethos. Capability is not relevant. The only thing that really matters is that the person in question serves the ethos. If you happen to be a brigade commander with sunglasses who seems to be in control of the situation, then you add substance to the theory of the New Israeli and all your failures will be forgiven. It makes no difference what you have actually done in the army. What really counts is what rank you have achieved and in which elite unit you have served.
Being a kibbutznik has traditionally been a ticket into the elite Matkal commando unit. Fighters in the Matkal unit are card-carrying New Israelis who are revered by Israeli society. These are the people who naturally assume leadership of the country. It is o.k. if they fail time and again. It is fine for them to flee the battlefield and evade fire contact with the enemy, just like Yitzchak Rabin. And like Ehud Barak, they may disappear with an entire battalion during the Yom Kippur War, evade responsibility for the battle of Sultan Yaakob in the First Lebanon War, ignore the dying soldier Madhat Yousouf in Joseph's Tomb, abandon the soldiers of the Southern Lebanese Army, bring Hadera into range of the Hizbollah rockets and flee Tze'ilim -- and all will be forgiven. As long as they come from the right place, served in the right unit and perpetuate the right ethos. Even Winograd will not dare to ask who exactly it was that brought much of northern Israel into missile range or why it is that Israel had to (unsuccessfully) re-capture the Lebanese towns that it had fled.
What does all of this have to do with Olmert's responsibility?
The 'New Israeli" ethos is upheld by Israel's security ethos. The security ethos has created a distorted culture that measures people by the positions that they have achieved -- and not by their accomplishments. The person most responsible for bringing this warped culture from the defense establishment into the political field is Yitzchak Rabin. In an attempt to ram Oslo down the public's throat, Prime Minister ("I am responsible!") Rabin insisted on assuming the position of Defense Minister. From that position, he enlisted the security ethos to help him actualize the Oslo values collapse.
At first, the army high command refused to give Rabin the backing that he needed to perpetrate his hallucinatory scheme. But the officer from the right family, the right kibbutz and the right commando unit was finally found. When he joined Israel's Oslo negotiating team, he propelled Israel's betrayal of the Land of Israel and Zionist values straight into the warm embrace of the security ethos. His name was Uzi Dayan. (Dayan is just an archetype. We have not forgotten Amnon Lipkin Shahak, Oren Shachor and others).
Since then, Oslo has never stopped. It explodes in our faces time and again, but we don't understand how it is that nobody has taken responsibility. After all, we warned them! Even worse, those responsible for Oslo continually progress in the system. They become prime minister, president, media stars, respected academicians and fellows in all sorts of strange institutes for democracy and centers for peace.
Responsibility is an impossible concept in the Kafka-esque reality that has evolved here. Just imagine what would happen if Olmert would tell the real truth: "I wanted to assure my place in the pantheon of the New Israelis. To do that, I had to get rid of Biblical Israel and the settlers who insist on living their vibrant, connected-to-history Judaism at the expense of the New Israeli myth. So I went to war to create momentum for the Convergence plan. But it turns out that the entire New Israeli theory has exploded in our faces. So I am taking responsibility and resigning." A statement like that from Olmert would signal the complete collapse of the hundred-years-old house of cards that the New Israelis have built here. It is not an option. So the entire Left and the media join forces to preserve Olmert. And the Winograd Committee follows suit, asking only how the debacle occurred -- never why.
Now that everything is clear, Olmert can sink back into his padded chair -- and 'take responsibility.'