I had a call from a good friend in Tel Aviv earlier today. He was feeling depressed about the war in Gaza. Though he is (still) out of range of those Hamas rockets, he was very uneasy.
We discussed this post, which I had already started. He made a big point about the part that President Barack Obama will play –will have to play. Israel can’t settle this themselves, my Tel Aviv friend says….
Now, back to my post:
[I know that there are a few reasonable people in the middle, but I’m going to take my cue from The Media and address the vociferous extremes first. Note to the reasonables: Bear with me. I’ll get to you.]
SOME QUESTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS:
Who’s side are you on? Oh, come on –you have to be on one side or other. Who’s side are you on? Israel, right or wrong? Or, Hamas –the “I’m for anything that hurts Israel, hurts Jews” crowd?
Sadly, a familiar and pathetic formulation. I’m fed up with it; I was fed up with it the last time, and the time before that.
Now that we have changed the face of America –if only for a few minutes (who knows how it will turn out here?) But we have been given at least a glimpse of possibility, and of hope. Our U.S. nation is deep in turmoil, on many fronts, and yet we face the turmoil with something of a sense that with our new leadership (–utterly unlike with our current “Decider”–) and all our best efforts in support, we can overcome. Will overcome. OK, Must overcome.
How about you, Israel? How about you, Hamas?
Death. Justification. Arrogance.
Remember those kid fights? He hit me first. Yes –but you are a big boy, you are much stronger. You have a responsibility. You should know better.
But –what if the big boy is also stupid? Or arrogant? Or a bully?
[The Sportscaster takes over: As of now the score of this futile game is Israel: 342 and Hamas:4. Israel is really ahead at this point, and I can’t see Hamas catching up. I mean, only 4 dead! Come on, Hamas, is that the best you can do.
But –you know, Hamas can still win this. Hamas can still pull this game out. I know –call me crazy…..
But remember the last outing….2006, the war in Lebanon, against Hizbullah? Who won that war?
You know, the funny thing is, I can’t even remember the score for the 2006 big game. But I’m pretty sure that the Israelis killed more civilians (oh, sure, Hizbullah-guys too) but civilians, kids, UN soldiers….
Yes, Israel sure ran up a huge score in that one. But, look –they still lost. (An unwise war. Is there ever a wise one?)
Hizbullah still came out ahead –funny how that happens even when you don’t score as many goals as the other guys.
And Israel –as soon as they got back in the clubhouse, my God, the blame, the recrimination, the backstabbing, the denouncements, the shame, the disgust, the assault on all the usual scapegoats, the “fire that damn coach’s ass” excoriation,–for a war that “All Israel” supported at the beginning
The Game begins when The War ends. And Hizbullah went on to victory.
(By the way, a question: Is it really that hard for people to speak their minds in Israel?)
Israel, this excess is shameful. And you say you did everything to avoid killing “innocent” Palestinians. How do you know? (Is Hamas wearing “guilty” uniforms to distinguish them?) It is shameful that you don’t allow proper care to get to the thousands you have injured. (Just like George Bush who killed and injured countless innocent Iraqis.)
We’ve heard the rationalizations: You are really going to show Hamas; you are really going to teach them a lesson. And the lesson is? Don’t mess with Israel. (Wasn’t that the same lesson Israel had in mind 1n 2006 –the game against Hizbullah?)
The 2006 war, the mistake: So now Israel wants to restore what it regards as its “don’t mess with us” reputation with the Arab States. Solution: lets have a 2008 war against Hamas; let’s get all upset, very-very-very-very upset at Hamas for their few rockets and the 4 deaths that they scored, and –driven by our 2006 failure against Hizbullah– let’s go all out.
So –it’s not REALLY about the Hamas rockets and the four dead Israelis. This war, this killing, is about Israel’s BIG Mistake in 2006!
It just goes to show –when it comes to exorcizing the demons of your own failure, you’ve got to keep washing those Lady MacBeth “out-out-damn-spot” hands.
As if that isn’t an explosive enough formula for disaster, I’ve just had an excellent idea: Hey, everybody, let’s have an election in Israel, so that everybody can flash their “not soft on Hamas” war-credentials and outdo all the other candidates. We are very familiar with that one here: Mr. Bush won re-election in 2004 with his “not-soft-on-terrorism” pitch. And what a screw-up that turned out to be.
So –in the grand scheme of things– how are we to regard Israel’s way,-way-over-the-top excessive killing and destruction to date. I mean –what brought it on?
What do you think? Was it because of:
1. Hamas’s paltry attack and 4 dead. Sure it’s outrageous, but it’s four, not four hundred: all the Israeli-spokes-people right now, are transparently overselling the threat, even to a point of derision. If you will permit me an irony, it reminds me of the Yiddish Proverb, “Sometimes a bit of bad luck comes in handy.”
2. The incredible failure of the 2006 war –both in conception and execution. Or–
3. The I’m-tougher-than-you pressure on all the candidates in the upcoming Israeli elections.
So, Israel, are we going to get Bibi Netanyahu –Mr. Neocon– as the next Big Cheese? That should be great for Israel and for the overall Middle East situation. How are Bibi’s Risk Management skills these days?
How about an Israeli Barack Obama?
OK, I shouldn’t be too hard on you –look how long it took us over here. We invented the Hardassed NeoCon –why, there were several running in our election here in November itching to Bomb-Bomb-Bomb…Iran. Rudy Giuliani thought Iran should be bombed “as soon as possible” –maybe not even wait for the election.
You all heard George Bush’s vows for Middle East peace a year ago –they sounded pathetic at the time –why did he wait so long?– and turned out to be so. George Bush, Friend of Israel, –the Man who could not show his face at his own Convention in August.
Well, George is gone now.
Now we –and you– have Barack Obama.
In the course of the campaign, he displayed many qualities that appealed to us. And he won over quite a few Republicans who thought they were utterly opposed to him. (When he talks,…such relief!: he doesn’t hurt my head the Dubya always did). He even suggested to us that hope might again put in an appearance. We have warmed to the very idea of hope here already –I bet hope would play well in Israel too (at least, that’s what I hear from my Israeli friends.)
The Barack quality that appeals to me most is what the New York Times labelled his “ruthless pragmatism”.
We’re going to need his Ruthless Pragmatism –we’re going to need it at home, we’re going to need it around the world. And we are especially going to need it in the Middle -East.
A word to the wise: Remember, they said about Bill Clinton that he should have squeezed Arafat more; that we might have had an agreement if Bill had slapped Yassir around a bit more?
So now comes a season of Ruthless Pragmatism; a season of Hope; a season of Tough Love.
Will Barack turn out to be a True Friend of Israel?
Better: Will Barack turn out to be a True Friend of The Middle East? A True Friend of Peace!