by Wes Pruden

The wonderful folks at Hezbollah, currently the hottest brand in international terrorism, are learning to appreciate Rodney Dangerfield. They don’t get no respect, neither.

Some of the more astute Palestinians, knee-deep in rubble, are beginning to look for someone close at hand to blame for the catastrophe of war. Blaming the Jews is always easy, but the words eventually lie bitter and stale on the tongue. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, whose seizure of two Israeli soldiers ignited the fighting six weeks ago, now concedes that if he had to do it all over again, this time he might not do it all over himself.

“We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that an operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.”

Hindsight in the rubble always alters passions. The sheik’s remarkable admission echoes Premier Tojo’s sentiments in August 1945: “Whose idea was it to bomb Pearl Harbor? Not mine. I always thought it was a lousy idea.” Or Hitler, to Eva Braun on his wedding night in the bunker: “I told Joe Goebbels and Himmler and old fat Herman that marching into Poland was a loony idea, but nobody ever listens to me.”

The Arabs have an insatiable appetite for their own 80-proof home brew, but the sheen on Hezbollah’s “victory” is fading swiftly as the ordinary Lebanese looks around him and sees for himself what happened to Allah’s little acre. The sheik was a hero throughout Arabia for taunting Israel and living to tell about it, but comes the dawn of the morning after and he’s about to pay for it with an industrial-strength hangover.

Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of Israel, similarly concedes his own mistakes in the conduct of the war in Lebanon. “We did not always achieve the aims we hoped for,” he told a conference of Israeli mayors in Haifa, which was battered by hundreds of Katyusha rockets over the course of the fighting. “Not everything worked properly. There were problems and failures. There is real, honest criticism from the heart of reserve soldiers, of citizens … I hear them and I respect them and what they have to say. There are some things they are right in, and some things that I disagree with.”

The difference is he agreed to appoint a government commission to identify what went wrong, and named a former chief of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, to conduct the inquiry. He rejected the idea of a “state inquiry,” which would be presided over by an independent judge with authority to compel testimony with subpoenas. Such a state inquiry would paralyze the government just when it must make hard choices about what to do about Iran.

There’s precedent for a government commission, rather than a state inquiry. The government examined what went wrong after the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The Israelis have never had trouble whipping three Arab armies at a time, but the surprise on Yom Kippur cost unacceptable casualties.

Mr. Olmert is under the gun himself, both literally and figuratively, with his popularity sinking into a neighborhood that George W. Bush would recognize. One poll suggests that 74 percent of his countrymen are unhappy with his leadership; 63 percent say he ought to resign. Nevertheless, he is pressing on to ready the Israeli public for a confrontation with Iran. “We have to be prepared for the threat of Iran and its president who hates Israel,” he told the mayors. “We don’t have the luxury to spend years of investigations that has nothing to do with learning lessons and preparing for the future.”

This willingness to examine and criticize is never matched by the Palestinians. “… If this war makes anything clear,” Shelby Steele observes in the Wall Street Journal, “it is that Israel can do nothing to appease the Muslim animus against her. … Standing today in the rubble of Lebanon, having not taken a single inch of Israeli territory, Hezbollah claims a galvanizing victory.”

The long-suffering Palestinians deserve better and could by now be well on their way to statehood with the blessings of Israel and the West. But the radical Islam on the ascendency in Arabia is determined to send its children to die in the defense of the 12th century. “You love life,” one of the terrorists in Madrid taunted the West, “and we love death.” What choice do the enemies of such terrorists have but to oblige?

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