There are consequences to losing a war, or being perceived not to have won. Israel's ability to win wars has been based on its capacity to pound its many enemies into submission whenever they have dared attack. Depending on how you count them, Israel has been the target of at least four wars started by one or more of her neighbors, as well as numerous terrorist attacks. It had won all of them until 2006.
Last summer, in response to repeated guerrilla assaults by Hezbollah-or Party of God-a militant Lebanese Shia political party, Israel invaded Lebanon, but failed to drive out the terrorist organization, or free two captured Israeli soldiers. A committee, appointed to study why Israeli forces were not victorious, blamed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Hezbollah quickly regrouped and has restocked its armaments. Israel's new ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor, tells me there could be another war by this summer, probably launched from terrorist positions in Gaza, Lebanon, and possibly Syria. Meridor says that while Hezbollah is bad, Hamas, the largest and most influential Palestinian militant group, which is entrenched in Gaza, is even worse.
Polls in Israel show Olmert's approval numbers are worse than those of President Bush. More than 60 percent of Israelis want Olmert (above right) to resign. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (above left) is three times as popular as any potential rival.
Last week, Netanyahu delivered a powerful speech to Israel's Parliament in which he said, "The state of Israel needs better leadership. . . . Peace can never be achieved by unilateral steps. . . . The time for a reassessment of our policy has come. We should look at the situation without any illusion and restore to the state of Israel its might, deterrent power, and above all our self-respect.'
When Israelis feel threatened they have always looked to the right, and this time they appear eager to again turn rightward. It's a good bet that Olmert's days are numbered and Netanyahu's return as prime minister is drawing near.
-© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.