To lead the nation in a war to victory was just too much for them. Too heavy a burden for their narrow shoulders. That trio - Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Tzipi Livni - asked and received a mandate to lead the people of Israel, promising to take our fate into our own hands and unilaterally establish Israel's borders by evacuating Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria, and turn Israel into a country "in which it will be a pleasure to live." We do not know and probably will never know if they would have been up to that task, but we now know they are not fit to govern Israel in these trying times.
They had a few days of glory when they still believed that the IAF's bombing of Lebanon would make short shrift of Hezbollah and bring us victory without pain. But as the war they so grossly mismanaged wore on, as northern Israel received its daily dose of 150-200 rockets, the Galilee was destroyed and burned to the ground, over a million Israelis sat in shelters or abandoned their homes and both civilian and military casualties mounted - gradually the air went out of them. Here and there, they still let off some bellicose declarations, but they started looking for an exit - how to extricate themselves from the turn of events they were obviously incapable of managing. They grasped for straws, and what better straw than the United Nations Security Council. No need to score a military victory over Hezbollah. Let the UN declare a cease-fire, and Olmert, Peretz, and Livni can simply declare victory, whether you believe it or not.
An almost audible sigh of relief could be heard from the Prime Minister's Office as the negotiations that were supposed to lead to a cease-fire began at the UN. The appropriate rhetoric has already started flying. So what if the whole world sees this diplomatic arrangement - which Israel agreed to while it was still receiving a daily dose of Hezbollah rockets - as a defeat suffered by Israel at the hands of a few thousand Hezbollah fighters? So what if nobody believes that an "emboldened" UNIFIL force will disarm Hezbollah, and that Hezbollah with thousands of rockets still in its arsenal and truly emboldened by this month's success against the mighty Israel Defense Forces, will now become a partner for peace? Does a cease-fire that will avoid further casualties among the IDF's soldiers not outweigh these concerns over future events?
Many politicians are notorious for preferring short-term considerations over a long-term view. Examples abound of the dangers of such myopic policies. From Munich in Europe of 1938 that set the stage for World War II, to Oslo in 1993 which brought Arafat and his cohorts from Tunis here, to the disengagement from Gush Katif last year that brought Hamas to power, and Barak's hasty withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, which sowed the seeds of the latest intifada and is the root cause of the current war - the rotten fruits of that withdrawal we have been reaping this past month.
The long-term implications of an Israeli agreement to a UN brokered cease-fire at this time are obvious. Israel's enemies, and they are many, will conclude that Israel does not have the stamina for an extended encounter with terrorism. You do not need tanks and aircraft to defeat Israel - a few thousand rockets are enough. Katyushas today and Qassams tomorrow. Don't let Olmert, Peretz and Livni fool you: These rockets will keep coming after Israel is seen as not only punished but also defeated in this month-long war.
"Yesterday is dead and tomorrow's out of sight," Dean Martin used to sing. Olmert may be humming this song as he agrees to the UN cease-fire resolution, and Peretz and Livni can sing the refrain "let the devil take tomorrow." But tomorrow will come much sooner than they expect. And it will find Israel with nothing left of its deterrent capability that used to keep its enemies at bay. The war, which according to our leaders was supposed to restore Israel's deterrent posture, has within one month succeeded in destroying it. That message will not be lost on Hamas, the Syrians and the Iranians, and possibly even some of our Arab neighbors who for many years had forsworn belligerence against Israel.
The task facing Israel now is to restore its deterrent posture and prepare for the attacks that are sure to come. But not with this leadership. They have exhausted whatever little credit they had when they were voted into office.