Sunday, August 20, 2006

Thank you, Hezbollah!

Why for haven's sake would we have to thank Hezbollah? For almost 200 Israelis killed? For 23 billion NIS damages to the Israeli economy? Well, obviously that is not what I had in mind... We have to thank Hezbollah for a wake-up call, which may have been delivered at the very last moment.

I really don't want to join here the tired old criticism of every decision any government has ever taken. Israelis love to criticize, and they always know everything best. Every cab driver had a better plan for this war, every journalist knew from day one that we are not going to win, bla, bla, bla. Sickening.

Side track: All this bitching in the media reminds me of a totally unrelated story. A few years ago, at the height of the second Intifada, the quality control people of the public water company "Mekorot" discovered a milky pollution in water pipeline connecting the center of Israel with the Sea of Galilee, Israel's only fresh water reservoir. Not being able to identify the chemical fast enough, and not knowing exactly how far the stuff had traveled in the system already, they decided to close the valves near the end of the pipeline and flush the whole line with clean water. This meant thousands and thousands of cubic meters of scarce water literally went down the tube. Shortly afterwards it was discovered that the chemical was a relatively harmless fertilizer, which was sucked into the water system by a defect reflow protection valve on somebody's agricultural watering system. The Mekorot managers were almost lynched for wasting so much water and creating a public panic. Of course, at that time more than ever, there were very good reasons to assume that terrorist could poison the water. Therefore, in the absence of any solid data on the pollutant, the Mekorot managers took the gutsy decision to dump all that water and alert the public. Had it been a terrorist act, they'd come out the saviors of maybe thousands of people. Since it was not, everybody and their grandmother knew better and criticized them for their decision. This is Israel, you can never do anything without somebody claiming in public he or she could have done better. I have to admit, it is tiring at times.

Back to the Hezbollah. Having talked to reserve soldiers returning from Lebanon, I come to the following picture. No, we did not loose this war, Hezbollah has been hit hard and it will take them some time to lick their wounds and recover from the blow. Iran will have to spend a lot of money to replenish Hezbollah's stock piles, money they would need to buy equipment for their dangerous nuclear program, maybe. Na, I guess they'd rather save a little on education....

But we also didn't win this war. Although the threat was known and the IDF trained ever since we left Lebanon for this possibility, when the war broke out nothing worked as planned. Olmert, Halutz and Peretz ignored all the existing planning and reinvented the war as it unfolded. Instead of an immediate massive call-up of well trained and prepared reserves, and an overwhelming blow with boots on the ground and vastly superior fire power all over the South within a couple of days, Halutz went about it with the motto "let the airforce win this war", while Olmert, Peretz and Livni were worried more about European public opinion than our soldiers lifes. We were able to watch on TV bloody battles being fought about a single house in some Lebanese village, when a single artillery shell could have finished the job in a second and with zero casualties on our side. There were quite a few attempts to win a war like this with surgical strikes delivered from the air in the last 20 years or so, and none of them have been engraved as great success stories in military history - it just doesn't work. Only when this approach failed also here in front of a horrified Israeli public, did the leadership finally allow the "green" generals to operate according to established principles of ground war. They got two days to make up for the blunders of one wasted month. And so Hezbollah got away, limping and bleeding, but alive and encouraged, Israel can be beaten! being their message to all our enemies.

A gigantic opportunity to deliver a devastating blow to Hezbollah and friends has been missed. With a rare consensus among the Israelis regarding the justification for this war and it's goals, with extremely high motivation all through the IDF, only a mediocre result has been achieved. No, it is not a devastating loss, there are gains on the ground as well as in the political arena, but altogether everybody understands that one day we will have to go back and do it all over again. Already now the UN resolution regarding the demilitarization south of the Litani as well as the weapons embargo are being broken every single day, with nobody in the UN giving a damn, as usual. So at some point the whole mess will flare up again, no doubt about it.

Nevertheless, imagine the extend of the disaster if all of this had happened a few years later, with Hezbollah having added hundreds of Iranian long range missiles to its arsenal, further improved the fortified infrastructure in the South and maybe even added non-conventional war heads to their missiles. Not only would we have seen many more Israeli casualties, also the chance of this leading to a direct war with Syria and maybe even Iran would have been much higher.

Now, that we narrowly avoided a bigger disaster, we will surely be prepared much better next time, right? Well, maybe. If the self cleaning mechanism of the Israeli democracy finally starts to kick in, if incompetent military and political leaders are finally forced ONCE to take responsibility for their failures and if a minimum level of ethics and professionalism is restored to the ranks of Israeli leadership, in that case we will be prepared.

Israelis, wake up! Incompetence, corruption and other unethical conduct of our leadership must not be tolerated any longer. Has there ever been a country where the prime minister, the president and several ministers are under police investigation for misconduct at the same time? Ever? One?

Hezbollah is our crystal ball to see the future. If things don't change around here, the next time around we won't get away with just a bloody nose.

So, thank you Hezbollah!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What it all boils down to....

Found this one on Flickr. It is too good and too true to be missed, so here is the pic instead of my usual links. Don't know who is the author, so I apologize for the copyright violation right away.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"The War with Israel Is Over" - A Letter to the Palestinians from an Australian Arab

Youssef Ibrahim's letter was all over the internet. If you have seen it, forgive me, I needed to include this here for the sake of completeness. There are some sane voices in the Arab camp. Not many, but they do exist. This one is a must read if you haven't done so already (click the title).

Secular/Rational Lebanese, where are you?

One of these days I suddenly remembered one of my many plane trips to Europe, some ten years ago, that time from Tel Aviv via Athens to Frankfurt. During the last leg I was sitting in the middle section of the coach, trying to work. In the back a party was going on. People were changing seats all the time, loud discussions from row to row, distribution of home made food, blocked aisles, annoyed flight attendants, a picture not uncommon in flights in this corner of the world...

I was too far away to understand anything, but there was no doubt in my mind that those were fellow Israelis on their way to some organized vacation in Europe, also taking advantage of the cheap connection via Athens. Since it was just impossible to work I got up after a while to check out the home made food (try that one on an United Airlines flight...). Once I came closer I realized that the people were speaking Arabic, not Hebrew. I was puzzled, because they were not looking like Israeli Arabs, actually they were not looking like Arabs at all, at least not to me being a newcomer to the region at the time. I sat down in the vicinity and observed the happy crowd. It became clear after a while that this was a couple going to honeymoon, and some of their friends or relatives (ever thought of taking your buddies along with you on your honeymoon...?). I closed in and asked one of the happy people where they are from and what is going on. It turned out that the wedding party was from Beirut. A Lebanese group behaving exactly the same way Israelis would behave in a similar setting.

I also recall stories from Israeli soldiers who had been to Beirut in the first war, making friends despite their status as enemies, and feeling pretty much at home. Most of them are just like us, they said.

Well, I guess that is true for the secular Lebanese, for the Christians and some of the moderate Moslems. It is certainly not true for those fanatics which sacrifice their children in order to give shelter and international legitimacy to the Hezbollah terrorists bombarding Israeli cities.

Still, with all that is going on now, I wonder where are the voices of those Lebanese people, with whom we could make peace so easily. I would love to travel one day to Beirut, which was once called the Paris of the Middle East, sit in a cafe and have a croissant with some Lebanese friends. Is this so far fetched?

It didn't seem to be back then.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What an American-Arab Intellectual Thinks About Islam

Wafe Sultan, an Arab-American (or American Arab, which way would she prefer?) psychologist gave a short but very exciting interview on Al Jazeera. This is a must see for everybody trying to figure out what the heck is going on in the Middle East (click on the title).

I would like to thank Mrs. Sultan for her frank words, and I wish her that she will stay alive long enough to hopefully witness some changes for the better. Her reaching pension age would be one of those changes in the today's Islamic culture the future of all of us depends on.

Open letter to S. Faramarzi / Associated Press

Dear Mrs. Faramarzi,

I'd like to express first that although a certain anti-Israeli bias is visible in your work, to my opinion it is still within the limits of what one can expect from a professional journalist. This gives me a glimmer of hope that you may find some value in my following comment.

You keep repeating the statement that Israel started the current fighting as a response to Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, which is indeed the common opinion outside of Israel. This is a superficial and extremely misleading interpretation of the events.

If the public opinion outside Israel is shaped by such a totally wrong understanding, a peaceful solution to the current crisis, and indeed to the Middle East problem overall, will only move further out of reach. I believe that we both share the wish to avoid such a bleak future.

What is usually omitted from interpretations of Israel's motivation for the current fighting are the events since the withdrawal from Lebanon, and even more so since the withdrawal from Gaza.

In both cases the withdrawal to an internationally recognized border has not increased the security of Israel's citizens. In the North Hezbollah has pledged to "liberate" the so-called Sheba Farms, a meaningless shred of dirt, the future of which could easily have been settled in a wider regional peace agreement with Lebanon and Syria. However this provided the justification for a massive military build-up right at Israel's border fence, regular cross-border raids, and worst of all, occasional bombardment of Israeli townships and villages with Katjusha rockets, bluntly targeting the civilian population.

The same picture emerged after the withdrawal from Gaza. Instead of providing the critics in Israel with proof that the formula "Land for Peace" works, Hamas and other organizations proved to the Israeli public that loss of control means loss of security. In the months from the withdrawal and widely applauded razing of the Israeli settlements to the day the hostilities in the North broke out, Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip absorbed over 600 Qassam rocket attacks.

Hezbollah crossed the border to ambush an Israeli patrol, initially killing 3 soldiers and abducting 2 more. At the same time a barrage of mortars and Katjushas was fired into Israel, wounding several civilians. Those Katjushas, being numbers 601-751 of missiles fired at Israeli civilians recently, triggered the Israeli response.

What we are now witnessing is the final collapse of the ailing "Land for Peace" doctrine and the forced return to a doctrine of "Deterrence First". Misrepresenting the Israeli response as a maniac's head rush over two miserable soldiers could well be the last nail in the coffin of hope for peace.

(Formalities omitted from the original letter sent directly to AP)