Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Found: A General with Honor 

Gen. Udi Adam the senior field commander in the recent war in Lebanon has resigned. We will have more to say on this later, but finally, we have found a public persona in Israel with some honor. Will this cause a trickle up effect? I doubt it, but the the Israeli political scene works incrementally. One small step at a time.

The calls, though have begun:

From the Left: Following GOC Northern Command Udi Adam's announcement of his planned resignation, MK Ami Ayalon (Labor) called Wednesday for Defense Minister Amir Peretz to do the same.

From the Center: Following Adam's announcement, Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer called on Halutz to resign.

"I respect and salute Adam's decision. He knew when to accept responsibility and I hope the Chief of Staff speak out soon and take responsibility as well," Ben-Eliezer said.

From the Right: MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said Adam's decision to resign expresses "integrity, self respect and the ability to accept responsibility" and called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Peretz and Halutz to follow in Adam's footsteps.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Looking Ahead 

I was in a small trading room in Israel a bit before the market was set to close when the one trader with a TV on his computer screen told us that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. CNN was convinced this was an accident although we in this very Israeli trading room knew better and advised our clients to sell, sell, sell. Israelis know terror when it taps you on your shoulder so when it hits you in the face it’s a 'no brainer'.

But ideology usually trumps common sense so when the second plane hit the second tower and the CNN anchorwoman stated, without irony and in all seriousness "what are the chances that two planes would crash" into the buildings one after the other? - we could do nothing but look at each other and laugh.

We sat on the 26th floor of what was then the tallest building in Israel – the Shalom Tower and wondered if we were next. As we finished the trading day and we knew of three definite terror planes, a possible fourth and maybe numerous others, we knew that at best, uncertainty was the order of the day.

Those of us with children called home to make sure they were inside. There was no knowing how well coordinated these terrorists were. It was certainly reasonable to assume that the Palestinians might also be planning an attack in coordination and sympathy with al-Qaeda. Not with the same boldness, of course, but sending terrorists to playgrounds and schools, restaurants and cafes was old hat for the Palestinian terror groups.

Here we are, five years hence and in the middle of a world war that is sure to last another decade or two (WWIII according to most, WWIV according to Norman Podhoretz). WWI lasted five years, costing Europe (and to a lesser extent America) millions of soldiers lost in brutal charges from and to rat infested trenches ordered by mean-spirited generals on both sides of the divide. WWII was the war that finished off whatever European culture and morality remained from the previous war as soldiers fought for ideals while Jews and others were murdered for no national interest whatsoever.

And the Cold War, or WWIII was fought by proxies on both sides until the façade that was Communism finally came tumbling down, not ending history but allowing liberty and freedom to be the yardstick against which all would be measured.

Now, we are in midst of yet another war. Israel and the Jews have "returned to history" and in exchange we need to fight a two-front war for survival. One front is against the Arab-Islamic world and their desire to return the sliver of land called Israel to dar al-Islam. The second front in the war is against parts of the West itself. While Christian anti-Semitism has waned, the anti-Christian version has taken hold of the universities, bureaucracies and press-rooms of the West. It is no small irony, that the first anti-Christian anti-Semites were the Nazis - the one group that the entire West agrees is evil.

Although I am optimistic that this war, too will turn out with the right side as victors. But, after the holocaust, "surviving" is no longer enough for the Jews. We can't afford to "just survive" again. So, one question nags at me as I look to the future battles that are sure to be fought - what will be the fate of Israel and the Jewish people when this war ends?

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Grasping at Straws? 

PM Ehud Olmert is trying yet another tactic to buy off the Left. First he tried the 'give back the Golan to Syria' route, but that didn't work, now he is trying to revive the "roadmap".

His desperation shows clearly in this quote (Hebrew) from Ma'ariv: "We need to formulate a new understanding that will lead to a diplomatic process as quickly as possible" (empahsis mine). Quick enough to make an end run around a popular move to dump him?

After hearing Yossi Sarid at last night's anti-government rally I find it hard to believe that the Left will sell their souls to the devil once again. Unless of course, this was meant to panic the Right into saving his government. I wish I could say that the Israeli Right has learned its lesson about supporting cheats and liars, but after reading the weekend papers, I am not so sure.

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"I will not go back to those gas chambers ..." 

Bibi, speaking at NUY (courtesy of the blog of blogs, Instapundit).

"Repel the lies. I will not go back to those gas chambers. Not those physical ones, not those of the poisoned wells and slanders."

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Negotiating 101 

For two nights this week (Tuesday and Wednesday) Israel TV Channel 10 has broadcast propaganda films by the Lebanese and Hezbollah regarding both the capture and murder of IDF soldiers six years ago and the long-time MIA, Ron Arad. The films portrayed the professionalism of the Hezbollah military wing and showed its leader, Hassan Nasrallah in a most humane light as a man who deals with the international diplomacy with the same professionalism as he deals with the military side.

It was a difficult decision on whether to watch the films or not. On the one hand, many of us did not want to reward the terrorist propaganda machine with high ratings and on the other hand we wanted as much information as possible on both Ron Arad and the operations against Israel and the capture and murder of IDF soldiers. In the end, the voyeuristic impulse in too many of us forced us to painfully watch the Hezbollah "heroes" and the Jewish "victims".

We constantly ask ourselves how we have reached a point where we can't bring our soldiers home. How is it that we have not been able to get information, let alone locate and liberate Ron Arad? These are difficult questions without real answers. Sometimes it seems that we are still caught up in the myths that Israeli special forces such as Sayeret Matkal and Shayetet or the Mossad can do. Sometimes are we caught up in the myth that what we say – for example that we don't ever leave our soldiers in the field – is what we do.

As we re-examine those myths we realize that sometimes there are things we just can't do. Sayeret Matkal and the Mossad can't always do what they want to do, because some things are just not possible to do. Often we have to rely on the incompetence of our enemies – such as the Ugandans in Entebbe, 1976 – but recently they have not been willing to cooperate.

After watching those films though and after witnessing the recent war in Lebanon one thing does come to mind– the utter inability of our diplomatic efforts to articulate, let alone to attain any of our national goals. Each time we think that we have accomplished something on the diplomatic front, the Arabs seem to out-maneuver us. It seems that nearly everything we have done since the peace treaty with Egypt has put us in a worse diplomatic situation. True enough we have better relations with India and even Turkey than we had 40 years ago. But when we look around at what others demand of us and what we demand of them it is clear as day that we don't operate in the international diplomatic world under the same standards that others operate, namely – to further the national interests of the country. If generals are often accused of fighting the last war, our diplomats seem to be negotiating the last deal.

We here have (rightfully) blamed Tzippi Livni for the failures to include even a minimal obligatory paragraph about the POW's but she is really just following the incompetence of nearly all of her predecessors. It should come as no shock to us. We appoint foreign ministers so as to appease their personal sensibilities (see David Levi, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Silvan Shalom and now Tzippi Livni) and have almost no high level career foreign service officers to speak of. This is where the left has certainly been correct in the arguments over the last few years – we don't take diplomacy serious enough. Prime Ministers not only don't appoint competent foreign ministers, most of the negotiating seems to be done by the personal lawyers of the PM! The only exception is when a general (a general!) is appointed to lead negotiations that have almost no military aspect to them.

We desperately need to learn the lessons of international diplomacy. It is not enough to be "respected" by their foreign peers (as Shimon Peres allegedly is). We need people who can articulate our interests and fight for them around the negotiating table as hard as our soldiers do in the field.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ultimatum Time 

Its time for an ultimatum. No, not Israel's ultimatum for the return of its POW's.

Now Lebanon is giving Israel an ultimatum to end the blockade. But Israel is in a much stronger position now than before the war, in a "fantasy" position according to Olmert.

I guess the Lebanese don't understand our great deterrent with Olmert-Livni-Peretz in command.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, said Wednesday afternoon that Lebanon would break Israel's air and naval blockade if the cordon was not called off within 48 hours.

"We will wait out the time frame (given) by Koffi Annan, 48 hours, and if the situation is solved, we will thank him . If not - the Lebanese government will take the necessary steps and break the blockade," Salloukh said.

NOTE: Who said that no one in Israel's government listens to anyone?

Right here:

Israel will lift its sea and air blockade of Lebanon on Thursday evening, the government announced Wednesday.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Numbered Days 

In professional sports there is no greater sign that a struggling manager or coach is in trouble than when the owner gives him a 'vote of confidence'. In politics, when a sitting prime minister insists "I will be prime minister for four years and even longer" you know his days are numbered.

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Monday, September 04, 2006


This quite depressing paragraph is from an Ha'aertz editorial. The essay deals with the prisoners and supports an exchange of prisoners. One can agree or disagree at this point with that position, but the devastating paragraph quoted below makes one wonder how much longer we can continue like this.

In normal times, one would rely on Israel's government to act wisely and responsibly to gain the release of the soldiers held in Lebanon, as well of Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped to the Gaza Strip. However, these are not normal days. There is a serious lack of confidence in the government, and even its supporters fear that it is now more focused on public relations than on making and implementing policy. Concern for the soldiers' well-being has also intensified because of the failed handling of the Ron Arad case, which taught the families that anyone who does not pressure the government is ignored. It is this sad conclusion that led thousands of protesters to Rabin Square last week.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Wanted: A General with Honor 

Is the political protest dieing out or about to start afresh? The rally last night in support of the three Israeli POW's will end up being worthless if it does not get translated into political action. Everyone is trying to be "civil" in the various protest movements so as not to be seen as wanting to blame individuals. But this is politics and individuals must take responsibility for their actions. And if they don't take responsibility the citizenry must force them to. And if the citizenry doesn't force them to then all they have left is the kitsch and sentimentality of the tears that come with singing third rate songs when ideas and action is what is necessary.

If all the citizenry can manage to do is to cry over sentimental songs and are not willing to take the next step and lay the blame where it belongs then it can't expect anything to happen and it deserves the incompetence and corruption that it gets. Ze'ev Schiff in Ha'aretz wonders why there is no pressure on Hezbollah to release the prisoners even though that was one of the prime objectives of the war. Many of us have wondered aloud not only why a POW exchange (we took some 20-30 Hezbollah fighters prisoner in the war) was not part of the agreement but why even the minimal Red Cross visits were not even part of the agreement.

Politicians will not take risks unless they feel the pressure of being thrown out of office. Olmert, as we and others have stated is counting on two things to keep him in power – the fear of Bibi and the painting of the protest movement orange and the fear of the MK's (of all the parties) of facing the voters. The first is mere spin, since if this was an "orange" protest there would be tens of thousands of protesters on the streets. The left has not been able to organize a mass gathering since Rabin was assassinated. The smart move is to leave the leadership and the mouthpieces to the left an the organizing to the right. But that would require too much common sense.

What will it take to get things moving? It is clear that Olmert, Peretz, Livni and Halutz have no self-respect and hope to ride the whole thing out. It is just as clear that not one minister in the current government will resign on principal and give up the power that is his raison d'etre.

But maybe, just maybe, an honorable general from the current General Staff will state his own "mea culpa", resign and force those above him to hide in embarrassment. Some general, (Stern? Yadlin? Gantz? Eisenkott?) will have to stand up, admit some fault in this war and also state un-categorically that he cannot serve in good confidence under the current leadership.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Inquiring Minds 

Prince Ehud tries to make fools of us all. Instead of appointing a committee with real investigative powers he wants a whitewash. Three seperate investigations when one comprehensive one is necessary. This is on surprise. Mr. "I'm responsible" has not taken responsibility for one thing in his short, but not short enough, administration. We saw it at Amona, we saw it when he appointed and kept Amir Peretz, we saw it when he lied to the people at the start of the war and again during it, we saw it when he didn't fire Halutz for failure of leadership in the stock sale scandal. We see it again.

Ha'aretz legal affairs analyst Ze'ev Segal:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has pulled out of his hat committees without any real foundation, lacking in public trust, just like hot balloons. Even were these to do their job properly, they would not win the confidence of the public, no matter what their findings might be.

The prime minister, who has a legal background, is well aware of the differences between the various types of investigations. He balked at a government decision on establishing a state commission of inquiry, largely because its members would be appointed by the president of the Supreme Court and it would be headed by a retired senior justice. The public would have attached great significance to its conclusions.

He also balked at an investigation committee established by the government according to law, which would have been headed by a retired senior judge and which would have had concrete investigative authority like a state commission of inquiry.

The Olmert lab instead created all kinds of "home-made" committees of an internal nature, with members who come even from outside the system. Even if such committees were granted some type of investigative powers, the government's control of the appointment of their members and of the publication of their reports makes the probe a national farce.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Cup Levels 

Even Amir Peretz's media handler's have lost it:

Defense minister refers to criticism against himself, defense establishment, says 'we must see cup as half full in terms of war in Lebanon. There were battles which soldiers emerged from as heroes and there will be many awards'

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1973 vs. 2006 

Ari Shavit, again:
In 1973, the IDF emerged from the war with chief of staff David Elazar and Major Generals Yitzhak Hofi, Yisrael Tal and Arik Sharon threatening both Cairo and Damascus. In the end of the summer of 2006, the IDF is emerging from the fighting with the head of Northern Command Udi Adam, Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz not even posing a threat to the Al-Khiam ridge.

In the fall of 1973, the Israeli leadership consisted of Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Abba Eban, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. At the end of the summer of 2006, in Israel's leadership are Tal Zilberstein and Shula Zaken. In the fall of 1973, Israel was a powerful state that erred, was battered and got back on its feet. At the end of the summer of 2006, Israel is a country whose vital organs are rotting, afflicted by a corrupting virus.

This is the reason for which one must rush, at this very moment, over to the protesters at the Rose Garden in Jerusalem. Not because Ehud Olmert must go. He will go in any case. And not because Halutz must take responsibility. He will take responsibility, whether he likes it or not. We must rush to the protest at the Rose Garden because that is where Israel is beginning to deal with itself. That is where truthful people are beginning to tell the truth to a nation that forgot what the taste of truth is all about.

Today's agenda must concern one thing: Israel's power. There will be no peace and there will be no end to the occupation without restoring Israel's power. There will be no enlightenment and no free society without renewing Israel's power. Without renewing Israel's power there will be no start-ups here and no clubs. There won't even be a bubble.

However, renewal of Israel's power cannot take place without ethics and without truth. Without modesty and without substance. Without restoring faith and a sense of responsibility. Therefore, the Prime Minister and Chief of Staff of Arrogance must both go. Not only because they have been wrong all the way. Not only because they have been wrong, have been deceptive and have cooked up a disaster. But because getting rid of both will distance us from the distorted values that both of them represent. Separation from both of them will detach us from the evil spirit that tricked us for years.

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Searching for Clean Gene 

It is really fascinating how no matter the corruption, no matter the incompetence, ideology trumps all. For all the cries of ethics in government, the left (and not just the left, but they are in the forefront now) are not willing to rid the country of corruption and incompetence if it brings a "right wing" government in its place. Their motto should be, "my ideology, crooked or not".

The McCarthyism that has been used on the right in recent years is clear for all readers of the Israeli press to see, but it has reached absurd proportions in the protest movement(s) forming against the government. According to this Ha'aretz news report, some protesters feel that the most serious problem the reservists face "is the attempt to drag them to the right. If the right wing is able to use the protest to bring down the government, it will set back settlement evacuation for years. The reservists understand the danger of a rightist bear-hug and are trying to keep their distance."

Even the Movement for Quality Government who is a leading player in the protest movement is not interested in the resignation of the government but only in a commission of inquiry.

Even in these times, the irrational obsession with "settlement evacuation" seems to trump all else.

We in Israel always seem to be arguing and negotiating with ourselves and tend to ignore the world around us. Although the protest includes people of all political shades many of the leaders of the various movements such as Peace Now are trying to prevent the protests from working by branding it as a right-wing or "orange" protest.

There were times when people (Rabin, for example) resigned for lesser things than screwing up the military, diplomatic and civil aspects of a war – but now, even the "clean politics" protesters don't seem to care.

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Twice Ransomed 

According to Time magazine, the two Fox News reporters were kidnapped in order to make it harder for Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, to be released.

Palestinian security sources close to the negotiators told TIME that the two Fox Newsmen — reporter Steve Centanni, 60, from Washington, D.C., and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36 — were kidnapped from Gaza to embarrass Haniyeh's government. The militants, who earlier identified themselves as members of the previously unknown Holy Jihad Brigades, were enraged with fellow Hamas militants because they too had joined in the daring capture on June 25th of Corp. Shalit, in which Palestinian gunmen tunneled under a wall and attacked an Israeli army post. But according to these security sources, the militant groups fell out after Hamas' military wing took control of Shalit and elbowed the other co-conspirators aside.

In revenge, these militants, who belong to a splinter group of the late Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, struck back by seizing the two journalists, these sources said.

Haniyeh was able to secure the journalists' freedom, but at a high price: he has agreed to give these armed extremists a role in deciding the fate of the Israeli soldier, these sources said.

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