An Open Letter to Prime Minister Olmert: The Plight of Nahariya One Year After the Lebanon War

Categories: Israel
By Yigal Tzachor

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

A year has passed since we initiated the Second Lebanon War, twenty four years after the First Lebanon War. Both wars were futile, fanning the flames of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leaving our region once again a bloodied battlefield.

More than once, we were close to reaching agreements on a possible solution for freeing the region from this vicious circle. There were the London Agreement in 1987 and the Oslo Accords. We came so close to reaching an agreement at Camp David II and in Taba. Failure to realize these agreements incited two intifadas and the Lebanon Wars. The blame falls on both the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government. The outcome is also shared—a continued cycle of terror and counterattack that results in the loss of innocent lives on both sides.

Mr. Prime Minister, I was in Nahariya this week. A year ago, this picturesque seaside town which, if set in Europe, might be a worldwide tourist attraction, was mercilessly bombed with hundreds of rockets. At the conference I attended, under the auspices of the Berl Katznelson Fund, we met with residents at the famous Penguin Restaurant and talked to them about their feelings a year after the war. (ED: For background of the role of the Penguin Restaurant during the summer 2006, click here.)

The residents of Nahariya asked me to convey to you their pain. During this past year, neither you, Mr. Prime Minister, nor any of your ministers nor their subordinates has met with them to hear about their fear, distress and anxiety, or to try to resolve even one of their many problems that resulted from the war.

This week in Nahariya, we met residents who love their town. Many stayed throughout the bombings. They did so not because they had nowhere else to go, but because they recognized the need to stick together at a difficult time. We met modest people who do not ask for much. All they want is personal safety and economic security. They would like their town to prosper, with enough work for all its residents. This is simple enough, if the tourists return to enjoy the town’s many attractions. The constant talk in Jerusalem about a “heated” summer on the “northern front” and the danger of an actual war breaking out is not helping Nahariya, to say the least.

If indeed the defense forces are preparing for war, why are the citizens left exposed, as they were in the Second Lebanon War, without proper shelters or the most elementary means of protection? The Winograd Commission has not even completed its work and already a new commission should be appointed to investigate the failure of the Government to provide appropriate solutions to the residents of the North after the war.

It is time to emerge from your bunker in Jerusalem, to tour Israel and to listen to the residents of the North; to embrace them, to applaud them for filling a national mission, and to help them to live a dignified, secure life.

About Yigal Tzachor

Yigal Tzahor is Chairman of the World Labor Zionist Movement and Manager of the Ideological-Educational Center at the Berl Katzenelson Foundation in Israel.
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