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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