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Sunday, May 21, 2006

In need of an intervention

The withdrawal from Gaza this past year was a calculated gamble.  The government gambled that if we would just give the Palestinians a little bit more land... and a few confidence building gestures... they would finally stop trying to kill us and get on with the business of creating their long-awaited state. 

Now this morning it seems that due either to luck or divine intervention (you make the call), the government's gamble just barely avoided causing an unspeakable tragedy:

A Kassam rocket crashed through the roof of an Israeli elementary school in Sderot and exploded in the middle of a classroom.  The children who had been in this classroom only moments before... and who were scheduled to return in a few moment's time... were in the school's synagogue reciting their morning prayers when the latest olive branch from the Palestinians came drifting down from the heavens.

During the run-up to disengagement from Gaza one of the most frequent arguments I heard from friends who were pro-disengagement was that it was "necessary to remove these few small communities from the midst of a hostile Arab population in order to establish defensible borders and to take Israeli soldiers and civilians out of harms way".

OK, let's review, shall we?:

    • Arab population of Gaza more or less hostile since disengagement?
    • Newly established border provides more or less protection to Israeli civilians and soldiers?

The crazy thing is that our government's sole strategy to stopping the missiles has been to shell open fields in Gaza each time a rocket is fired... even though the rate of rocket fire has increased - not decreased - since we began doing so. 

In addition, the government has declared that the addition of longer range/more accurate Ketyushas to the Kassam barrages is not an escalation on the part of the Palestinians.  That's just crazy talk!  Of course the introduction of more accurate stuff that falls further into Israel and makes bigger 'booms' is an escalation.  You don't need to work in the intelligence field to understand this!

Why is it that the Israeli government, whose strong suit has never been the ability to think strategically (meaning being able to plan more than 15 minutes into the future) ... is completely unaware that it has lost its legendary ability to think tactically (meaning being able to extricate itself from a jam in which most normal countries wouldn't be caught in the first place!)? 

Do the missiles actually have to start falling on the Gush Dan (greater Tel Aviv) region or the flight paths to and from Ben Gurion Airport before the government will admit that just maybe... they may have placed a bad bet last summer and given the PA too much credit?

Will this Israeli government's gamble actually have to include the unthinkable 'pay-off' of a schoolyard lawn drafted into emergency service as a makeshift morgue before the country is sufficiently outraged to demand a different strategy to this 'game'?  Will the little bodies need to be stacked up like chips on green felt before a sensible Israeli politician realizes the magnitude of the loss???

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have much of a stomach for gambling.  In fact my stockbroker politely calls me 'risk averse' when what he's really thinking is 'scaredy-cat'.  But I know enough about gambling to know that with the exception of a gambling addict, nobody walks into a casino without a clear sense of how much they can afford to lose before it will be time to get up from the table and walk away.

So let's forget about whether or not the disengagement from Gaza was necessary... there's no turning back the clock.  It was a gamble... perhaps a necessary one... but a gamble none-the-less. 

However, watching what has happened in the aftermath of disengagement, I've come to the conclusion that my country is being led by a bunch of folks with a serious gambling addiction... a bunch of very sick men and women who honestly don't know how to scoop up what (if anything) they have left in front of them and get up from the table.

219_65

Posted by David Bogner on May 21, 2006 | Permalink

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I never saw the disengagement of the Jewish towns from Gaza as a way to appease Palestinians, but rather as an economic and psychological necessity. Keeping the settlements there was taking too much of a toll on Israel, and so it was in OUR best interests to leave, whatever may or may not have resulted among the Palestinian mindset afterward. The disengagement was Israel's way of saying, in essence "you guys smell, and we can't stand dealing with you anymore, and so we're leaving."

I supported the disengagement, insofar as, all things considered, I believed, and still believe, that having tiny civilian Jewish communities among such a huge and hostile Arab population made no sense on any level.

But I was always confused about the military disengagement. They didn't HAVE to go hand in hand. We could have dismantled the settlements, as difficult emotionally as that is, and still kept a military presence in Gaza to maintain a strong fist around would-be terrorists.

In any case, I don't see the "convergence" plan as having the same reasoning behind it as the disengagement. If the disengagement was saying "you smell, so we're outta here," the convergence plan is saying "we want to be a democracy, but we don't want so many of you Arabs to be part of it, so we're making ourselves geographically smaller in order to have the kind of society we want."

That's not a gamble. I don't think ANYONE has the illusion that a "convergence" would make the Arabs like Israel any better. The point is that Israel doesn't care what they think anymore; we're creating the kind of Jewish State we want, and to hell with the Palestinians and whatever they think about it.

That's why there are people on the Left who don't want Israel to leave the West Bank under a unilateral plan, even though in theory it looks like just the type of thing the Left would want. Their ideal is a negotiated plan; for Israel to say "to hell with you, we'll do what we want and whatever works best for us" is NOT a gesture of peace. It's a gesture of being sick and tired of trying anything else. It's also a gesture of trying to head of the demographic problems that are looming large ahead.

That's not necessarily smart, but it's not a "gamble" of some sort. No one hopes that convergence would lead to peace; we all know it won't.

Posted by: Sarah | May 21, 2006 3:23:56 PM

Sarah... I'm gonna do you a favor and respond before the vultures descend:

"Keeping the settlements there was taking too much of a toll on Israel"

OK, what 'toll' existed last year that is no longer being paid? Have we gained any savings in the cost of securing our borders? Have we reduced the danger to our citizens? Have we reduced the number of citizens that are actually in daily danger? Have we done anything more than cut off our nose to spite our face?

"...having tiny civilian Jewish communities among such a huge and hostile Arab population made no sense on any level"

This is the reality on the ground whether you look at Gush Katif, Gush Etzion or All of Israel. The question is how far are you willing to pull back your defensive lines before you have nowhere else to go (and the rest of the world tells you to just close up shop because that little strip of land you have surrounding Tel Aviv is no longer defensible)?

No Sarah, whether one was for or against disengagement last summer... the situation today must be weighed on its own merits, not on a rationale that has since been discredited by facts on the ground.

It may seem the noble thing to take the high ground, turn the other cheek and walk away from a belligerent drunk. But there are some people in the world who are just too dangerous to turn ones back on... and the Palestinians (and by this I mean the ones with the guns, rockets and bombs... the democratically elected officials) have proven repeatedly that they will take any action... other than direct massive confrontation... as an indication of weakness and an invitation to further attacks.

I hope that knowing me as well as you do, you realize how much these words cost me to type.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 21, 2006 3:54:52 PM

I cried when the images of the disengagement started coming in. I wrote posts that it would make Israel less secure even though I don't have a military background. Just looking at the maps and knowing the range of the missles would show that more of Israel would now be a target. There were already reports before the disengagement that the terrorists were already making plans to smuggle the rockets into the West Bank, that more terrorists were already coming into Gaza.

The only benefit I saw from the disengagement is that for a brief moment the rest of the world actually supported Israel.

The plan of convergence does have the Left howling because of what you stated, Israel is making it's own borders. But at what cost to the Nation?

Before the last elections, I was actually praying that someone with the heart of Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, or Moshe Dayan be eleceted. Instead, Olmert was elected.

Where are the lion-hearted?

Posted by: seawitch | May 21, 2006 5:01:16 PM

David,

I am one of the people who thought that the disengagement was a calculated risk that was worth taking.

At the time it seemed like there was a big risk, but a respectable upside to it. A chance to say to the world "look we are removing excuses for terrorist attacks and trying to help push things along a path for peace.

And in my mind I always assumed that terrorist attacks would be repaid with a very strong reprisal.

But it appears that I was quite wrong. I don't see that it has done anything other than give the message that violence offers rewards.

It is disappointing to feel so wrong. That may sound trite coming from 10k away, but...

Posted by: Jack | May 21, 2006 8:46:02 PM

Yup. Yup. Yup.

Reality keeps nudging all of us to the right inch by inch. That I call myself a conservative, and you do not yet, simply means that I am 4 inches to your right, but as events continue to unfold, that won't matter. During the cold war I was for bilateral nuclear disarmament. I was for Oslo. Now I'd be first in line to sign the "Turn Iran into a glowing white Pyrex dish" petition, and I silently pray that all my tax dollars go to pay for aircraft carriers.

We are all learning, and the lessons are painful, but those who do not budge when the data contradict their ideology, they have no excuse anymore.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | May 21, 2006 9:00:37 PM

This is heart-breaking. Is the government developing some kind of a back up plan to protect the civilians from the rockets? If the situation gets any worse, are they planning to bring the troops back in?

Posted by: Irina | May 21, 2006 10:09:02 PM

I agree that disengagement was a gamble, one which I supported. But despite the missiles falling on Israel, it may be too early to tell whether it was worthwhile. Not being in Gaza may yet prove a boon to Israel, independent of Israel's response to missile attacks. The real issue is not whether we disengage, but rather whether we understand that emphatic responses to terror rockets are warranted no matter where on the political spectrum we fall.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | May 21, 2006 10:29:58 PM

It wasn't much of a gamble.

It was quite obvious that if we left Gaza then we wouldn't have an unnecessary 1 million or so violent, fanatical, and unemployed Arabs living within OUR borders.

And that is a big deal (believe it or not).

The benefits are starting to show, and will become accepted facts (even to you) soon enough.

Posted by: Seth | May 22, 2006 12:05:31 AM

Thanks for the post. It was read with interest ...

Posted by: Seattle | May 22, 2006 3:02:28 AM

I can never fully understand the stength and courage of Israelis who live everyday with terrorism. I am a Zionist through and through and always hope one day that Israel will be able to live in peace with the Palestinians.

That said, I do believe that Israel is moving in the right direction. Israel's disengagement and unilateral go-it-alone strategy has put Hamas and the PA in stark contrast. The world is finally seeing how ineffective and radical Hamas is. The world is finally seeing that Hamas will risk it's future and the Palestinians future to continue to want Israel destroyed.

It just isn't working anymore. They are not a shadowy terrorist group, but a terrorist group that has been elected to run a country and they can't.

For the first time Palestinians are blaming each other instead of Israel. Maybe just maybe accountibility and responsibility for themselves is starting to become apparent.

Let's hope.

Posted by: Akira Ohiso | May 22, 2006 5:54:43 AM

I don't think today's Pearls Before Swine could be any more appopriate:

http://news.yahoo.com/comics/060522/cx_pearls_umedia/20062205

Posted by: Dave | May 22, 2006 7:16:43 AM

David, the politicians that we have now are not thinking about what is right and good for the country - they are thinking about what is good for them personally. And with the media so left wing, the courts so left wing, and the Israeli people brainwashed into thinking that the terror is the fault of the settlers, it is just too easy to follow the left's agenda. The simple fact is is that it is much easier to get elected and have the courts ignore your financial indiscretions if you toe the line. And that is what they do. What we desperately need is a person of sterling character, that the Israeli people respect, and who can weather the onslaught of the media bias against the right.

Posted by: westbankmama | May 22, 2006 8:41:18 AM

First of all, I like the clever gambling analogy. (She says, before slamming down a Devil's Advocate)

It may well seem pointless that we uprooted our citizens, caused them great pain and misery and destroyed their communities, when the Qassams get scarily closer, and crucially, for the Palestinian residents of the strip, very little has changed.

But while we continue to control their airspace, borders and passports, etc, we are not yet in a position to determine how effective a real disengagement could be. And clearly, that would be a gamble our government could never actually take. And so "We gave them Gaza and they hate us more than ever" will be chalked up with our other skewed narratives of late. ("We offered them 90% of the West Bank and Arafat turned us down flat" is my personal favourite from our side. Don't even start me on theirs.)

I suspect that even if our government did leave the table clutching whatever chips we still "hold", the situation would still seem entirely lose-lose from all angles.

Cheery stuff!

Posted by: PP | May 22, 2006 1:50:38 PM

David; The problem is that the Israeli government convinced many people that after the Disengagement, there would be a serious Israeli response to any terror attack.

However, anyone who understands the mindset of the Oslo-politicians (or those who followed in their footsteps) clearly knows that serious retaliation is NEVER an option.

Israel will only seriously (emphatically?) retaliate if G-d forbid there is a mega-terror attack against Israel.

Its very sad that so many good people believed the Oslo-speak of Israeli politicians.

I don't blame them (the good people, not the Oslo politicians), but it's about time they realize that any additional retreat is going to cost us dearly.

Lastly: Concerning the Purple Parrot's comment. If it's too early to see if the Disengagement is a success because we control Gaza's airspace, yet you readily admit that abandoning contol is not an option any government can take -- then what future do you see?

Posted by: Jameel @ The Muqata | May 22, 2006 2:37:11 PM

At the time of the disengagement, a friend of mine had a theory.
To wit: Sharon is thinking like a general. Lure all your enemies into one general location (Gaza), get all your people out of the way, and wait for your enemies to do something dumb, like sending a missile into Israel. Then you can smash them all in one place, without having to worry about world condemnation, or about reprisals against settlers. Not an entirely bad plan, I said, if it's true. But in whom did General Sharon confide his wonderful plan? What if the guy dies tomorrow? Then any future Israeli governments will assume that missile attacks should result in, er, more disengagements. Good point, said my friend. Let's hope nothing happens to Sharon for the next couple of years. Go know.

Posted by: psachya | May 22, 2006 4:59:26 PM

Seawitch... Don't get me started about Moshe Dayan. Golda and Ben Gurion had their good and bad points but I have yet to find a redeeming quality in Dayan.

Jack... No, I enjoy you being wrong no matter where you are. Especially about baseball. :-)

Doctor Bean... Unfortunately while you and I seem to be drifting right there are en equal number of people who are drifting left... leaving a huge chasm in the middle.

Irina... Great questions. I'm sad to say nobody here is asking or answering them.

Jordan... I promise you that if your children were going to school in Sderot instead of Teaneck you would not be satisfied with a 'wait and see if it all works out' approach.

Seth... What benefits are you referring to? And can I assume that the 'even to you' crack was intended to imply I am not open to new evidence? If so, I suggest you take a stroll through the flip flops I've done over the past couple of years here on this journal.

Seattle... Happy you enjoyed it.

Akira... I don't think the min-civil war will distract them from their goal of killing Israelis... but I would be delighted to email you in a few months and tell you how wrong I was.

Dave... Yes, perfect.

Westbankmama... You know anyone like that (on either side of the political spectrum)?

PP... I was going to ask you a simple question, but Jameel beat me to it. Not trying to be snarky here... I think it's a fair question.

Jameel... More frightening than the fact that so many Israelis now understand that promises to retaliate to attacks are just so much bluff is the number of Palestinians who now understand it.

Psachya... Unfortunately I don't think Sharon had any such plans. He had already started soft-peddling his responses to attacks in deference to US requests to show restraint.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 22, 2006 11:21:09 PM

To answer you and Jameel- it clearly isn't an option we can take YET, but I think I'm within my rights and my sanity to hope that it will not always be the case- although I think we have a long, long way to go yet. I know that this sentence may elicit some snorts from your readership, but I'm in a better position than many to tentatively declare that many Palestinians want to live peacefully, alongside Israel. And that has to count for something.

Coming from a grassroots (as opposed to military/strategic) background, I cannot offer any immediate solutions, no. Nor do I claim to. But by the same token, I don't see how the "Self-defence" steps being perpetuated by the current government (those targeted assasinations, for example) are helping. I am in agreement with David about how we don't seem to be playing things very well: We are sending out mixed messages to ourselves, to the Palestinians, to the world. And as long as we continue to do this, and as long as the situation remains so very blurry and undefined, it looks pretty darn bleak.

Meanwhile, I would suggest praying as the immediate plan: Maybe Moshiach will have a better strategy?

Posted by: PP | May 23, 2006 12:21:47 AM

PP... "I know that this sentence may elicit some snorts from your readership" I think 'my readership' has proven to be quite diverse in their political opinions. In fact you are far from a lone voice of sanity from the left. :-)

However, when you say (quite correctly) that "many Palestinians want to live peacefully, alongside Israel"... you are forgetting that none of these are in decision making positions. At least a few years ago one could plausibly say that a portion of the Palestinian leadership wants to peacefully coexist with Israel but are being stymied by a few terrorists. But now the democratically elected government of the Palestinians openly calls for a destruction of Israel and facilitates anyone who wants to help make that a reality.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 23, 2006 8:29:58 AM

jameel is correct.
sharon, our stategist prime minister cleared gaza of israelis in preparation for a major war.

what went wrong is that he's no longer leading, olmert is wandering, and the war is looming on the horizon.

other than that, everything seems to be right on schedule.
:-)
Dry Bones
Israel's Political Comic Strip Since 1973

Posted by: yaakov kirschen | May 23, 2006 4:29:29 PM

Yaakov Kirschen... Wandering! Now there's a word I hadn't considered before. It is strangely apt, though. It isn't as though he is headed anywhere in a purposeful manner. Instead he seems to be like a timid party guest wandering around a cocktail party attended by a diverse and influential, group of movers and shakers. His banter seems to depend largely on who he is talking to at any particular moment... and the next morning whatever he will have said will be lost in a fog of regret.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 23, 2006 6:26:39 PM

So it appears that the real result of the Gaza policy was "them over there firing freely at us over here."

Posted by: Russell | May 24, 2006 10:42:49 AM

Russell... No, as far as I am aware, the Gaza withdrawal has not resulted in anybody 'firing freely' at anyone in Eastern Pennsylvania. ;-) But yeah, I understood what you meant and the answer is yes... at least so far.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 24, 2006 12:33:19 PM

David

OK, what 'toll' existed last year that is no longer being paid? Have we gained any savings in the cost of securing our borders? Have we reduced the danger to our citizens? Have we reduced the number of citizens that are actually in daily danger? Have we done anything more than cut off our nose to spite our face?

How many Israelis were killed in or around Gaza since the disengagement?

Jameel & westbankmama*

No serious response? We've been plastering Gaza with artillery in return for Qassam fire. And as far as the world is concerned, they aren't really protesting that.

That's a situation no-one would have dreamed about prior to the disengagement.


More generally, I'm in agreement with Sarah here. Whether the Palestinians were appeased or not really ahs nothing to do with the disengagement - instead, it's a start in determining our own borders and population without regard for what they think.

*this response is germane to both your posts

Posted by: Eyal | May 24, 2006 7:33:23 PM

Eyal... "How many Israelis were killed in or around Gaza since the disengagement?" You can't use bad aim (theirs) or luck (ours) in a rational statistical argument that a policy is working or not. The important figure is not the number of deaths/injuries, but rather the number of attacks.

As to your response to Jameel and Westbankmama (if I may interject myself), We've been deliberately firing [extremely expensive] artillery shells into open fields as our 'serious response'. Obviously this is done so as to avoid the inevitable collateral damage involved in attacking the civilian population centers where the terrorists spend most of their time and do most of their preparations for the attacks. The Kassam (and now katyusha) crews spend mere moments in these open fields and are long gone by the time the artillery shells come raining down. All this does is prevent sustained multiple missile firings in a short space of time, but does nothing to deter the attacks. As to what the rest of the world has or hasn't said about our 'response'... this is a non-starter for any rational policy maker. But since you brought it up, the very fact that almost nobody in the US or Europe has protested the shelling is probably the best indication that it is ineffectual. If we were actually killing some of the bad guys or even hampering their freedom of movement (as with the targeted assassinations) there would be a universal outcry.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 25, 2006 11:38:20 AM

You're missing my point. It's true that we've had a run of luck. But the disengagement removed all the options Gaza's Palestinians had for attacking Israelis except for crappy and inaccurate weapons.

As for the world response - note we've killed quite a few civilians recently, but the response has been decidedly muted.

Posted by: Eyal | May 25, 2006 10:02:34 PM

David,

I have decided that your post deserves a longer response than this format allows. You are cordially invited to:

http://simplyjews.blogspot.com/2006/05/gambling-or-paying-old-debts_26.html

(I know I shall be beaten for this one, so it is posted on Friday on purpose - to let some heads to cool off).

Posted by: SnoopyTheGoon | May 26, 2006 10:34:35 AM

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