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ERETZ SURVEY - August 25, 2006

 

The Frying Pan and the Fire

 The Wohl Rose Garden is one of the most beautiful parks in Jerusalem. Through its center runs a stream, emanating from a small spring and ending in a duck-filled pond surrounded by a Japanese garden. Chess tables, statues, an obelisk, a rose-bed maze, and rosebuds of every shape and color are hidden in the park. The view to the east from the garden is magnificent - the Nahalaot quarter and the Valley of the Cross.

The garden is surrounded by the national symbols of Israel. The Knesset is on its southern side and the Supreme Court on its northern side. The two buildings are connected by a straight promenade that runs through the garden. The offices of the prime minister, the Treasury, the Ministry of the Interior, the Bank of Israel, and the Foreign Ministry line the western side of the park. Due to their proximity to the buildings housing the Israeli establishment, the garden's green meadows are a choice site for Israeli demonstrators; the garden often hosts tent cities of protesters, tables for petition signing, and banners and placards.

Two demonstrations are camped out in the garden today. Opposite the prime minister's office is a group of army reservists, just released from active duty in Lebanon, and representatives of the families of soldiers killed in action. They are demanding the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz.

The second demonstration is 200 meters away, at the entrance to the Supreme Court. The protesters have chosen to camp out in a little square called Agranat Square. It is named after the supreme court justice who headed the investigation after the Yom Kippur War in 1973 that brought about the resignation of Prime Minister Golda Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and IDF Chief of Staff David Elazar. The second demonstration, made up of reservists from the IDF paratroop unit, is demanding the establishment of a committee of inquiry into the events of the Second Lebanese War, as this latest battle is being called.

Both demonstrations are growing. More and more Israelis are coming by, joining in, bringing supplies, and adding their names to the petitions. Many of the visitors sign both petitions.

From his office, Olmert can see both demonstrations. Each day that passes, they get stronger and more visible. Media coverage is growing and the public's attention is beginning to focus on them. Every day that passes, as more and more information about what happened in the war is being exposed, the anger in Israel increases. Olmert's options seem to be narrowing down to selecting the path proposed by one of the two demonstrations. He could have fired Peretz and Halutz right after the war, but now this would be a futile endeavor. His best option today is to appoint a committee of inquiry. The public will demand that the committee be headed by retiring Chief Justice Aharon Barak.  Barak, who will want to leave a lasting legacy for his term in office, will probably give the government no slack, and the committee will probably have dire  recommendations regarding Olmert, Peretz and Halutz. Agranat was Barak's mentor.

As Friday turned into Shabbat, and the two demonstration encampments sat down for the Shabbat meal, the slim figure of Moti Ashkenazi, accompanied by his two sons, made his way between the camps.  Let's get one million signatures on the petitions, he explained at the two encampments. "Petition-signing tents are springing up all over the country," Ashkenazi explained. "The time has come to set a goal." One million Israelis is a number that cannot be ignored.

Ashkenazi knows the power of public demonstration. After the Yom Kippur War, after he was released from reserve duty, he camped out, alone, opposite the Knesset, demanding the creation of a committee of inquiry. For days he stood there on his own. And then, more and more Israelis joined him - until the demonstration was so big that Meir was forced to create the Agranat Committee that brought about her resignation.

"Deja vu?" I asked Ashkenazi. "No,"he answered. "From time to time the stables have to be cleaned and cleared out - so that new forces, new hope, and new vision can set in." Thirty-three years have passed since the Yom Kippur War - the time has come again to set things right.

PREVIOUS  SURVEYS

Borders and Frontiers

Disturbing Facts

War on the Lebanese Border

Changing the Rules

The Shiite-Sunni Genii

Hizbullah - In Proportion

The Hush of Determination

Finance Ministry Versus North 

Back to the Basics

Acute Stomachache

Time to Pounce

Netanyahu's Comeback

Olmert Has to Go

Goverment V. The People

Back to Normal?

Survival of Israel at Stake


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