Monday, October 09, 2006


Every time I find another link from the article, I see another part of the series, with some quotes and pictures of the Rappeports. Here's the third one that I saw:

Mideast conflict: Picking up the pieces
Israelis left with tough questions
Was conflict justified? Was army prepared?
Gordon Trowbridge / Detroit News Washington Bureau
About this seriesHundreds of Metro Detroit residents lost homes, businesses and loved ones in the bloody 34-day conflict between Israel and Lebanon that ended in August. This week, reporters and photographers from The News have explored the impact of the conflict on the two countries and on Metro Detroiters here and abroad.
SAFED, Israel -- The bomb shelters were locked. The army's commanders couldn't decide where to send troops. And despite massive aerial bombing, a ground invasion and heavy casualties, the Israeli military failed to stop the rain of rockets coming from southern Lebanon.
For Israelis, the monthlong war against Hezbollah has brought a host of doubts about the nation's political and military leadership. This is a nation unaccustomed to ambiguous endings to its wars, and the answers to those doubts are likely to play an enormous role in guiding Israel's future course.
"There's a feeling that something is wrong," said Laurie Rappeport, who grew up in Oak Park before moving to Israel two decades ago. "We have to be prepared to look at it. We need to be ready to open some deep wounds.
"How could we be so wrong, so unprepared?"
Uri Bar-Joseph, a political scientist at Haifa University, puts the national consensus this way: "Israel was not ready for war."
That's about as harsh an accusation as can be made in a nation forged by war.
Over 34 days this July and August, Israel suffered a stunning Hezbollah raid and the kidnap of two soldiers, the impact of nearly 4,000 Hezbollah rockets, and 157 deaths, most of them military. With Israeli forces withdrawn from southern Lebanon and a U.N. peacekeeping force now in place, Israelis now must face difficult questions:
Did Ehud Olmert, a rare Israeli prime minister without a general's experience, blunder in responding to the cross-border raid by Hezbollah that sparked this summer's war?
Was the military -- perhaps Israel's most respected institution -- ready for war and competently led?
Should previous governments have acted more aggressively against Hezbollah as the militant Islamic group built its arsenal of rockets in south Lebanon?
Why were so many communities in the north so badly prepared to care for citizens when those rockets began falling?
Most support response to Hezbollah
One decision few Israelis question: attacking Hezbollah. Public opinion polls show Israelis overwhelmingly supported the choice to go on the offensive after Hezbollah's mid-July raid, in which several Israeli soldiers were killed and two kidnapped.
"There was very broad popular support for the war -- it's the first time since 1973 (the last full-scale Arab-Israeli war) when the government enjoyed such support," said Bar-Joseph, an expert on Israeli public opinion.
"I haven't heard anybody who questions whether we should have responded," said Rappeport. The question, she said, is whether the political and military authorities were prepared.
Rappeport works in Safed for Livnot U'Lehibanot, an organization that brings North American Jews to Israel for education and to help public-service projects. During the war, those volunteers were busy helping with tasks such as supplying bomb shelters -- a task many Israelis believe local and national officials failed to take on. There also was widespread criticism of government performance in evacuating the poor and elderly from northern towns under fire from Hezbollah.
Was military underprepared?
The military, too, has come under scrutiny. In Israeli society, the armed forces hold a place similar to that of the U.S. military during World War II -- an institution in which virtually all citizens play some role, even in support, and which is held in esteem reserved for national saviors.
But many now question, Bar-Joseph said, whether a military that has spent the last decade on police-style missions in the refugee camps of the Palestinian territories was prepared for the well-trained fighters of Hezbollah's militia.
"That's not good preparation, and we felt the results in this war," he said.
It's an especially poignant question for Rappeport, whose oldest son, Avishai, is an infantryman in the Israeli's Golani Brigade, one of the country's most decorated units.
Avishai Rappeport's unit was in Gaza -- searching for a fellow soldier abducted by the Palestinian militant group Hamas -- when rockets began falling in the north. Within days, the brigade was on the Lebanese border, and soon across it.
"When you go into Gaza, you have this feeling that nothing is going to happen," said the 20-year-old. "Lebanon is different. Lebanon is scary. You just want to go in with (a squad of) 20 people and get out with 20 people."
Military's weaknesses showed
Despite a punishing aerial bombing campaign and the occupation of much of southern Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces were unable to end Hezbollah's rocket attacks. While Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has proclaimed -- with some embellishment -- that Hezbollah defeated the vaunted Israeli military, Israelis were not encouraged.
"To have gone in and fought and not win in a strong way makes everything more dangerous," said Avraham Heller, a Petoskey native who lives now in Safed. The presence of a UN peacekeeping force now moving into southern Lebanon gives little comfort to Heller, who calls previous UN involvement "a disaster for us."
Despite the unease in the Israeli public, Bar-Joseph said he expects few changes, at least right away. Commissions set up to investigate parts of the war effort may not unearth much, and Olmert has shown few signs of changing his policies or management style -- leaving many Israelis wistfully remembering past leaders.
"Perhaps if we had a leader like David Ben Gurion," Israel's first prime minister, he said, "we would have done better."

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