Shortly after the rioting in Paris’ banlieues at the end of last year, French President Jacques Chirac addressed the nation on TV and diagnosed France as suffering from une profonde malaise. The rioting was merely a symptom of the general feeling of unease and discomfort so rife in France, a feeling of despair and helplessness with the present coupled with gloomy predictions about the future.
My prognosis is that Israel will enter a similar state following the ceasefire (which, barring last-minute surprises, is expected to begin tomorrow).
Despite some gains on the ground and on the diplomatic front, the general feeling here is that Israel lost this war. The government is perceived as being too hesitant and indecisive; it took too long to approve the ground offensive, only to backtrack a mere 24 hours after the green light was finally given. The IDF is perceived as a rusty and bulky war machine, ill-equipped to deal with a nimble and determined enemy such as the Hezbollah and unable to reduce, let alone eliminate, the daily bombardment of Israeli cities. Stories are beginning to appear in the media about unavailable equipment to the reservist soldiers and about neglect of thousands of northern residents stranded in shelters. In the last two days, government officials and army generals were busy making veiled but obvious comments to the media about who’s fault it all is, no doubt in preparation for the post-war investigation committees.
Israel entered this war with almost optimum conditions: the enemy did not expect it, the public was solidly behind it and, at least initially, the world did not cry foul. And yet, through a series of miscalculations and a misplaced sense of hubris, it finds itself a month later picking up the pieces and trying to salvage what can still be salvaged of its deterrence and reputation. The repercussions are obvious: heads are going to roll, the government will not live out its term and our enemies will make most of their victory.
An inevitable profound malaise will permeate all walks of life in Israel as the countdown to the next war will begin.