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Three Years Later – Dan Haloutz and Lebanon II

Sunday July 12, marked the third anniversary of the beginning of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. For a lot of people, especially those who lost loved ones in the 34 day conflict in which 121 Israeli soldiers and 44 civilians lost their lives, the day was marked by reflections and sad recollections of the event, which had begun following the Hezbollah led attack on an Israeli army patrol along Israel’s northern border in which several soldiers were killed and two were taken captive. The remains of the two taken captive, Eldad Regev and Udi Goldwasser were later returned in two black coffins, more than two years later.

Dan HaloutzOn this day, one particular individual, former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, still appears to stand by the decisions he made during the war, and does not regret his actions during the conflict – actions that have been criticized by many since then.

“The government’s decision to take action (against the Hezbollah) was correct and justified” Halutz said, when interviewed by media reporters. “Sometimes these decisions must be made, even if they are not popular”, he continued. He did finish the interview by saying that the decisions were made by “a leader who was willing to accept responsibility for the outcome of those decisions – that is what leadership is all about”.

Since then, Halutz has left active duty and entered private life as a salesman of high line BMW automobiles for Kamor Motors, Israel’s main importer of the German higher priced auto line. In fact, Halutz appears to have done so well in his new profession that he was recently appointed CEO of Kamor Motors, and is reported to have received around 5% of the company’s stock, worth an estimated $1.99 million. Not bad for only being about two and a half years in the car business. And it doesn’t stop there, as he was also appointed as Chairman of the Board of Starling Advanced Communications; a start-up company jointly owned by Raphael, Elbit and Nochi Dankner’s IDB group, where he earns an estimated $7,500 a month.

Halutz even went so far as to say that if he were in the same position as he was in on July 12, 2006, he would make the same recommendations as he did then to the Defense Minister (you know who he was – that guy who was photographed trying to look through a pair of binoculars on which the lens caps were still on).

On top of all this, let’s not forget Halutz’s military pension, which considering his rank and length of military service must be an amount that a lot of corporate executives would like to be living on.

The war not only caused a considerable amount of damage in Israel, as well as incapacitating and uprooting at least a million Israelis. It also did considerable damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure as well as killing more than 1,000 civilians.

A number of Israeli officers who served under Halutz were not so upbeat in their opinions concerning the conflict, including outgoing Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Moshe Kaplansky; who noted a number of failures related to the war, particularly the decision to call up the reserves only in the last days of the conflict. He also said that IDF budget cuts and concentrating against fighting terrorism led to a state of being unprepared when the war broke out.

Miki Goldwasser Remembers Her Son Udi

Ehud GoldwasserAs we once again remember the more than 22 thousand soldiers and civilians who have been killed in wars and acts of terror, we living in Israel cannot help but wonder how women such as Miki Goldwasser, the mother of Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser, can go from being in a state of sad remembering to one of joy when Yom Hazikaron (Soldiers Remembrance Day) changes in just 24 hours to the festivities of Israel Independence day, Yom Haatzmaut.

Ehud Goldwasser, together with another soldier, Eldad Regev were kidnapped on July 12, 2006 by the Hezbollah along the border with Lebanon. For two agonizing years, their exact fate had been unknown (at least to their loved ones) until their bodies were finally returned to Israel in two black boxes on July 16, 2008, virtually 2 years after their Humvee jeep had been attacked by enemy fire. Along with Udi’s wife Karnit, his mother Miki had waged a relentless campaign to have him returned to his family, only to have him come home as another fallen soldier.

Miki was recently interviewed by the Jerusalem Post reporter Ruthie Blum Liebowitz, during which time she talked about her son and what kind of person he had been during his short life of only 31 years. She recalled how he had become so much in love with life, and with his country and his wife, with whom he had planned to raise a family following their graduation from university (they were both graduate students at the Technion when the Lebanon II war broke out). She spoke about Udi’s childhood and how, from a very early age, he had decided that he could live nowhere else but in Israel.

Udi’s love of life was shown many times during his life, both at home, in school, in the army, and especially with Karnit, the love of his life, and childhood sweetheart. Although Udi had lived abroad with his parents from time to time (his father Shlomo was a merchant marine ship captain). Udi knew that he could live his life only in the country he loved. Miki recalled how her son had once told her that even though it was comfortable living in places like South Africa, he could only fulfill himself by living in Israel. He went with Karnit for more than nine years before they finally married, and were only together as husband and wife for 10 months before that fateful day in July, 2006.

Both Miki and Sholmo have been active in the recent campaign to free still captive soldier Gilad Shalit; and they have been regular visitors to the Shalit home in Moshav Mitzpeh Hilla in the Western Galilee. They understand what Noam and Aviva Shalit, Gilad’s parents, are going through. And she is even more determined to perpetuate Udi’s memory by helping other families whose sons have also fallen for the country they loved. This is just one example of the brave young men and women who dedicate themselves to their country; and to their parents – ones like Miki and Shlomo Goldwasser.

Time to Shift Gears

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is preparing to leave office very soon, while on the other side of the border, Gilad Shalit is “celebrating” 1,000 days in captivity this month. It’s time to step up the efforts for Gilad’s release.

Noam and Aviva Shalit, Gilad’s parents, are moving to Jerusalem today, in order to reside inside a protest tent in front of Olmert’s residence. They will remain there until Olmert leaves office, or until Gilad’s return.

Gilad and Noam Shalit

They believe Olmert’s last days in office is a window of opportunity to finally seal the prisoner exchange deal. Gilad was captured on Olmert’s watch, and therefore it is his responsibility to resolve the matter before Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition takes the reigns.

The parents of kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whose bodies were returned to Israel via a prisoner exchange deal, are joining the Shalit family in Jerusalem, in a joint effort to increase public pressure and awareness.

Shas chairman, Eli Yishai, uttered a remarkably patronizing statement this morning, which I believe precisely captures the government’s stance on Gilad’s captivity: If the protest tent assuages the feelings of the Schalit family, it is a positive thing.

Dear Mr. Yishai, the matter on hand isn’t “assuaging” the Shalit family or the public opinion; it’s releasing Gilad!

Do not forget Gilad

Since Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev had been lay to rest, the topic of Gilad Shalit has largely disappeared from the media. As cynical as it may sound, Gilad’s parents don’t manage to draw enough attention or to foster enough sympathy as did Karnit, Ehud’s widow.

Despite the overwhelming support the Israeli public had for the “deal” with Hezbollah, it was still controversial, and it has made the public reluctant to release more prisoners in the near future. And on top of this all, Olmert’s resignation and the scuffles of his successors will continue to draw our attention for at least another month. So Gilad’s pleas are now placed on the back burner, and I find it very disturbing.

I urge everyone in the Israeli public and the Israeli media to keep this issue at the top of our national concerns and at the top of the headlines. The time to free Gilad is NOW.

Gilad Schalit Day 286 – Pair Of Glasses

Gilad Shalit Ynet Picture
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped 286 days ago today. Together with Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev (269 days), the guys are missing and we wait for their return. Read more about them here.
I read today that Gilad Shalit received his reading glasses. The glasses were sent to him 2 months ago by his father Noam, and he reportedly received them 2 weeks ago through Egyptian mediators. It took almost 2 months to get him a pair of reading glasses. I guess the Palestinians just don’t get it…

The Palestinians are tired of this whole hostage “thing” though and that is supposedly the good news. In a recent visit of the Chancellor of Germany, Angela apparently was mostly talking about Shalit and gave little attention to the Palestinian political issue to the extent that made the Palestinian very “disappointed”. She also didn’t hide her disappointment from Abu Mazen’s impotence and lack of ability in the Shalit kidnapping. I am sure that the Palestinians would like to get this whole “messy kidnapping thing” out of the way, after all, its difficult to be taken seriously as an actual law biding country when you go around kidnapping soldiers. Look at Iran, the spiritual and ideological leader, the sponsor, even he had to return the British hostages.

Lebanon Front Now Open for Business

Israel back in LebanonThis morning 2 soldiers were kidnapped on the northern border and so far there are 11 wounded. There is now fighting on two fronts and we are glued to the news again. There is no doubt that this was expected. Announcements in previous days calling for the kidnapping of additional soldiers by Islamic groups now prove to be the course of action in our region.

The army is chasing down the captors and an operation is underway to destroy key bridges and infrastructure in the hope of returning the soldier. People are looking at Olmert and Peretz the new prime minister and Defense Minister. This is a test for them as well and they need to balance the gut impulse and the fanatic voices in government that call for an immediate escalation and war on both fronts. On the other hand this is the Middle East. That means that when someone comes at you and tries to push you around you stomp them immediately and with conviction. This is a test for the new government and the leadership. The army is willing and more then able. It’s now time to settle the score.

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Ynet News reports:

Under massive fire in a coordinated attack, Hezbollah kidnaps two IDF soldiers, demands prisoner release in exchange for troops. Israel confirms two soldiers missing. IDF strikes targets in south Lebanon, conducts ground search in bid to locate troops.

“In accordance with the obligations the Hezbollah movement has taken on itself to release the prisoners and detainees, the movement managed to capture two soldiers on the border with occupied Palestine. The two were taken to a safe place,” the Lebanese organization declared in a statement aired on its television station al-Manar.

See the Video here

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