Thursday, August 28, 2014

August 28


ha-Bibi, this ceasefire IS different from all other ceasefires

Sitting in Florida with a busted air conditioner, waiting for the repairman, I can’t help but scratch my hot head and wonder why Israelis are so hot under their collars that they drove Bibi's approval rating down from 90’s to 30’s.

Bibi did exactly what he set out to do. Not destroy Hamas. Not crush Hamas. He certainly knew he couldn't change them. He set out to weaken Hamas, yet leave them intact for the après-final-final-final-ceasefire talks. Otherwise he would have to take over the Strip so bigger crazies won’t show up, or leave the place 100% in the none-too-reliable hands of Abbas. Keeping a balance between Fatah and Hamas was always Bibi’s stated goal, from day one. Look back.

Bibi’s end strategy in this war echoes and perhaps channels the last Lebanon war - which Israel also thinks it lost because Hezbollah re-armed, and remained in government. But Nasrallah said a few years ago, well after the war, that if he had calculated how much damage was going to be done to Lebanon he would not have engaged the Israelis like that. Who knows what Hezbollah is thinking, but they did not jump in with Hamas this summer. They did not invite IDF planes back into Lebanon. Sara's base in the north was capable and ready, but kept flying south while Hezbollah kept its fight in someone else’s backyard - let Syria pay for the clean up after a Middle Eastern style play date.

If August is hot and gloomy in Israel, perhaps it is because the country always mourns war and especially the death of children. It hurt when the southerners were told to come back too soon.

But if Israelis think their army didn't get the job done – it did. Bibi did not get stuck inside Gaza, nor lose soldiers by the hundreds (by the tens, sadly). The Iron Dome and shelters protected most (but not all, sadly) civilians. Troops destroyed 32 tunnels, Hamas’ surprise weapon. No mass attacks will come on Rosh haShana this year, now just weeks away.

Yet somehow the talk from here seems gloomy, as if this war was lost.

Did Israel break Hamas? Yes. How? By displaying a country-wide unity that was breathtaking in its wholeness. Especially for Israel! If you want a sign that the war is truly over, just look at how Israel is back to finger pointing. And whining. Shame. It was a wonderful oasis for awhile. It made being there during the war an odd privilege, a seat in the front row of history in the making, and of a great people making it. Their message rang out loud and clear: Israel is here to stay.

Did Hamas surrender? Yes, although optics are deceiving because when Hamas loses Gazans shoot in the air to celebrate, killing another 19-year-old and wounding another 49. Hey, put it on Israel's tab. And don’t forget to photograph smiling kids with war paint on their faces and rifles in their hands. Don't Gazans know rifles shot by 9-year-olds can really kill? Oh, I forgot, Hamas can't read the American news, it cut its main electric line during the war it started. No internet.

Win or lose, Israel cries after a war. Its toughest soldiers cry. So much bereavement. But they fight. They have to. And Bibi beat Hamas despite the latter's twisted, willing acceptance of death.

Bibi won by playing a crescendo, coming on stronger after every doomed ceasefire. First, the IDF displayed that the Iron Dome defense system protected against even barrages of rockets. Then the country proved willing to wait in shelters until the all clear. When the defenses held Bibi played on, slowly, using troops just to destroy the tunnels. Then, he reported Hamas’ plot to overthrow Abbas. Then, the IDF began to kill leaders, perhaps with intelligence from a pissed off Abbas (better than a smug one). Then the IDF mustered the will to kill any family members at home with the legendary Deif. And then the IDF targeted more leaders. Until the game changer, the piece de resistance. The IAF took down a nice building, made of glass, with 24-hour-doormen, right inside Gaza City. Where several rich Gazans lived, doctors and lawyers unlucky enough to have bought a condo in the same building as Hamas’ targeted money guy, Mohammed al-Ghoul. Like
Ra’s al-Gul - Arabic for head of the demon, and the very, very bad guy from DC Comics, and Batman’s Dark Knight. In cartoons and in movies, as in reality, when the wealthy take the hit, the game shifts.

Fighting on would have cost Hamas everything. In Bibi they found a leader who wasn't stopped by the world in 50 days, who wasn't rushed to recklessness, who wouldn't negotiate from his position of strength, and who kept playing a steady crescendo. Slow enough for the world to absorb without exploding against Israel. Steady enough that I think Bibi gets to stop here, a final ceasefire. Hamas will be in the negotiations, and Israeli troops will stay happily out of Gaza. Very happily, Eric says.

I understand that after almost a dozen ceasefires, Israelis must ask, why is this ceasefire different from all (almost a dozen) other ceasefires? Bibi has shown that Israel will not let Hamas defeat it from next door anytime soon. Without the too-bold military moves of other earlier wars. In 1973 Israel pushed past Sinai all the way into Africa before halting 101 km from Cairo, and in the same war marched into Syria, 35 km from Damascus. In 1982 the IDF landed itself at the gates of Beirut. But Israel wound up back home anyway, the clear military victor with nothing permanent to show for the harder work done and the higher price paid. And if Israelis feel they are missing a clear victory here, what they really seem to want is an assurance of prolonged quiet. But no script seems exempt from change in this region, especially lately. What I want from Operation Protective Edge is a better airing on the world stage, and an understanding, an admittance, that Hamas is Isis, and Isis is Hamas. Bibi worked harder on getting out this message than he did at war. Bibi tweeted photos of Isis and Hamas conducting eerily similar be-headings, side by side, until pressed to take it off as too gruesome, which points out how hard it is for people to absorb such hard-line radicalism in a Rorschach. Even after September 11. Even after James Foley's beheading. Bibi still had to remove the tweet.

When will countries like the US, Europe, China, Australia and India finally see that Israel is a full-fledged democracy standing on the front line of a new, radical threat? (New to the West and East, not to Israel.) Now the changes in the region are so rapid and drastic it must be hard even for Israelis to keep track of what is swirling in the countries around them. And they have front row seats. For a show that wants to go global.

Global! The million dollar (now worth less than four million shekels) question is not whether Bibi beat Hamas, but whether his international performance sufficed. Last year he sang on and on in English about the extreme danger of a nuclear Iran, and though he is right, the world didn't take up the cry. He is now crooning until purple about Isis and Hamas being the same Sunni radical movement with aspirations to turn the world toward Sharia law, and though hard evidence is mounting, the world still thinks this preposterous and refuses to take it up. Even with Muslims amassing and screaming at full throttle throughout Europe and getting more organized by the month in America.

So I get that Israelis are fully fed up, and want already to know if it is this time, or next time, or the time after that before Israel’s side will be truly heard. Since 1948 there has been a stubborn decision to side against Israel, notably by the press. (An Insider's Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth)

But alone or with allies, squawking or united, heard or misunderstood, Israelis knows how to hold down the fort. The Jewish nation rocks. And Israel is here to stay.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18

Hot spot: place where violence is a form of communication. Iraq. Gaza. Ferguson, Missouri.

The US knows chaos is bad; we sent in the National Guard. Looting is not covered under free speech.

In Gaza the National Guard and looters are one: Hamas. An Israeli video of Gazan parents holding up babies to sacrifice for the cause of making Israel a ‘temporary chapter in history’ makes you ask yourself if that is what they want for their children, or if it is what they say because a green Hamas flag flies over their white house, lucky it is not ISIS black?

The current ceasefire expires today at midnight, 5pm EST. It is depressing, because we have been here before. Hamas has had plenty of time to come about to reconciliation and I think the wheel will come up rockets. Again. Israeli news says the Israeli Defense Force, like the National Guard, will restore order within its borders, which means putting a stop to Hamas. In other words, Israelis are going in again, and they will still play by Geneva Convention rules. Egypt will support them. The UN will not. The UK will dither; surveys show Brits want Israel to win, just without firing any real bullets. Hey, me too. Especially me. Americans in the US will dither too: Why can’t we all just get along? Like in Ferguson, Missouri.

Apparently Ferguson isn't fulfilling the American Dream of kids getting educated, then employed. It’s what we expect from our country. It's what we demand of and model for our kids. Michael Brown’s mother said she battled with him to stay in high school and go on to college, and that it wasn’t easy. No rough circumstances in Ferguson can justify lawlessness, just as no grievances in Gaza allow for ceasefire breaches, human shields, and rockets fired purposefully onto neighboring civilians.

Order. Then dialog. Then solutions. Israel and Hamas are on that brink again today, facing each other across opposite edges of a pool. Do they jump in and meet as neighbors? I think Hamas will harbor military control, and again shoot rockets over the divide while keeping Gazan civilians, including children, inside areas of fire, for an excuse to yell genocide. What kind of Dream is that?

Dream Radical Islam: ISIS, Hamas. Both are neighbors of Israel.

The West watches from afar, convinced that the crazy, hot-headed conflict will burn itself out. It takes two to tango, and the West refuses. Not interested. And who would blame them? Only the Radical Islam Dreamers have stated they plan to be global, and play soon in an arena near the rest of us.

Back to the pool, and our upcoming litmus test of peace: Hamas at 5pm EST jumps in next to Israel, and agrees to use aid not for rockets, but for Gazans to build a better life.

It takes two to tango. It also takes two to have peace.

Or, if your partner is Radical Islam, a strong pair of rose-colored glasses. Which we wear, because they feel so much better than the increasingly clearer alternative of violence, or Sharia. Can't we all just get along, agree to wear 3D glasses and keep the violence on IMAX screens? I vote for virtual war, like the Brits. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15


US universities are justifiably coming under ‘fire’ for old-fashioned, outdated curricula that is not in touch with today’s corporate needs. For one thing, today’s students need to know how to launch and enhance web sites and keep them as edgy as a buzz feed.

Today’s Israeli college students should – seriously – consider a semester of study in Gaza. The people there are masters at getting out the message. They called the world's attention to a piece of land dwarfed by a country itself the size of New Jersey. Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, could likewise back up street shooting and shooting off its mouth with shooting off smuggled rockets, but Trentonites just don’t seem to have that level of commitment.

Getting the message out accomplished, Gaza could further teach the counter-art of keeping inconvenient truths inside. For example, that medical help is readily available in both Israel and in Egypt. That Egypt's Rafah crossing is open to Gazans, one at a time, every day. Any more quickly, Egypt and Israel both agree, is quite simply an intolerable security risk. So if there is a 'siege' on Gaza, it is a siege with a sieve; it leaks.

But information doesn't get leaked. No videos of rifle-toting 5-year-olds. No RPG’s peeking out from under burkas in the closet, or  U-pipes under the sink. No bombs seen lobbed at trucks filled with goods at Kerem Shalom crossing waiting for entry into Gaza (that particular strategy is a civilian abuse I don’t even get). Videos of all these exist, but they are have not gone viral. Message out, garbage in. A skill set a corporation could get behind!

In Herzliya last week I attended an open house of a young university because I wanted to see the curriculum of a school without baggage. The dean emphasized that students learn to create video both because the Internet is built for streaming and because seeing is the best route to believing. To convincing. To persuading. I hereby propose a semester of study in Gaza for students to learn what can be accomplished with a portable Geo-vision camera and a strong point of view.

Press victories aside, Gaza is stubbornly beginning to swing back toward reality, toward its people. Already headlines suggest a prolonged ceasefire even if no agreement. Israel absorbed over 3,000 rockets and retaliated for each, imagine the hits Gaza took in turn. Meshaal in Qatar might not care, but his voice is finally getting drowned out by the wails of women who want their burka closets back. And their five-year-olds. 

Israelis lost (even as they won) too. Here in Manhattan they touchingly poured out the 64 names of fallen soldiers onto a shop window (has anyone come across it?). 

Hearts on both sides absorbed loss and sacrifice and now must stretch still deeper and wider, enough to make room for optimism, hope, and the future. They must expand. And they must be patient.

It needs time, as a quiet future requires silencing extremists like Riad Natzer. Hamas' West Bank head was arrested on May 27 and is now on trial in Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post, which featured the picture below, for staging terror cells to be ready for the day he ordered coordinated kidnapping and suicide attacks on many parts of Israel at once. 

Hamas supporters reenact kidnapping of Israeli soldiers Photo: REUTERS

Kind of like a one-two punch: combine civilian kidnappings like Hamas in Gaza purportedly planned for the Jewish New Year next month using tunnels into Israel, with suicide attacks like at Passover in 2002 at the Park Hotel in Netanya (killed 30, seriously injured 20). This was before the arrival of croissants, and before the walls had to be built between Israel and its neighbors.

Hopefully a friendly flow of neighboring Arabs and Israelis could resume for rebuilding businesses. Like the greenhouse enterprise in Gaza that Hamas destroyed the day Israel pulled out. Say what you will, capitalism is better than militarism. If Wall Street bleeds you, it's only money. And money is on offer to the Gaza Strip for investment by many wealthy wolves, such as Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel. Not only for basic needs after years of Hamas neglect and abuse, culminating in a striking war, but also for unlocking the potential; the Gaza Strip is a wide open field day for investors. College semesters teaching corporate branding are barely the tip in the Strip.

Agreements aside, a good war ending would mean Israelis can resume spending leisure shekels in Gaza, and Gazans can work again in Israel or in Egypt. Or in revived Gaza. All sides were better off before Hamas; they hopefully wind up much better off after.

The wider region's future also got a bit brighter when the US supported minority Yazidis stranded by ISIS. Obama sent in 20 green berets on foot to look around. They found not 40,000 but nonetheless 5,000 stranded, in much better shape than thought, but still stranded. CBS News online reported, "The team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mount Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, airstrikes on (ISIS) targets, the efforts of the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters) and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby on Wednesday.

And in part because this region sure knows how to sell an image. Semester abroad anyone?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14


We’ve gone from ceasing fire at 5pm to a full 5 days. Israel pushed it further than the usual 72 hours to get past Shabbat. Indeed this is becoming routine, what John Oliver called on his show “deja boom.”

What is holding up an accord? The Jerusalem Post blames it on Meshaal, and it is easy to believe that he doesn’t want to introduce himself at dinner parties in his safe host country of Qatar as ex-chief-in-exile. Meshall in Qatar doesn’t skip dessert when Gazan rockets fire, or when Israel retaliates. Appalling.

Meshaal needs a game changer agreement that allows him to stay in power even though Hamas lost the war. The other parties need nothing. For Egypt status quo means Rafah stays closed. Egypt doesn’t need to trade with Hamas but wouldn’t mind, since Hamas likely won’t spread Jihad in Egypt now that Al-Sisi is in charge. “Pinpoint strikes to avoid civilian deaths” is as much in his vocabulary as ISIS can say “let's get the stranded civilians off the mountainside.” It is a tough neighborhood, as Netanyahu says.

Abbas can also stay silent. In fact the less said the better. He has only to gain. Regain, rather, as Hamas stole authority from him in the first place, so this is just desserts. He should lick his lips quietly as he thinks about all the cream he will skim from the rehabilitation money that is about to flow in.

Arabs allegiances shift like the sand except so far for Jordan, who kept its ambassador in place. Jordan’s existence is more fragile than Israel’s. Jordan has Isis on one border, Abbas/Hamas on the other. They more trust Israel’s protective air force to take its side, in honor of the Jordan-Israel peace agreement. Arabs are as faithful in their politiques as … the French.

Israel can stay quiet too, really, although it wants quiet the easy way, by agreement, rather than by force, ie bombing until Hamas cries uncle. Ugly? Yes. For the Israelis that don't want to act like this. What about the world? Won't it cry genocide? Already done. Even by Jordan! Even by the UN!!

Ah, the impartial UN. You could asked George Clooney’s fiancée. She was prematurely named, a first ever, and refuted the call, her reluctance based on the committee’s bias, in her view. Biased? The UN? You can hear for yourself in just the first 4 minutes of this video from October 2012 featuring lead UN investigator: William Schabas.  

In just 4 minutes I laughed out loud twice. First, the introducer pronounced his name, well, “Shabbas” as in Good Shabbas - notice how quickly he was pushed to correct it. Ha! Another, funny-not-ha-ha moment was Schabas used the word genocide to speak about Israel, and later noted the word was first coined in English in 1944 by – you guessed it – a Jew. You can’t make this stuff up. And you probably can’t rely on Mr. anti-shabbas to untangle this knot.

Can the US untangle the knot? First let us see how our soldiers fight ‘fair’ against ISIS. We're back in Iraq. Talk about ‘deja boom’. Obama seems to be trying to distance himself from this, which can’t be fun for our troops to hear.  US presidents make international as well as domestic decisions, as inconvenient as this may be for a grass roots president, and this is either a ‘just’ war, as Operation Protective Edge is perceived to be within Israel, or it’s wrong. Obama must commit.

And so must we all.  As Eric prepares to spend his weekend guarding Ashqelon rather than at home, I thank him, and all who support Israel. As Shabbas - and Schabas - draw near, I find it easy to take a stand with Israel and with the US stopping ISIS. Both are doing the world’s dirty work. Again. And again I will try to keep my nose away from the UN-fair, fishy smell emanating from First Avenue and the 40’s.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13


Latest ceasefire expires tonight at 5pm New York time, which is midnight in Jerusalem, the cradle of civilization, or the center of religion, an arena where man’s ideas are formed, even if they are unformed, and often uninformed.

I am still war-logged, as talks drag on between Israel, Egypt, and a strip ruled by terrorists, using the West Bank, former terrorists standing as a wildcard for the best chance to create a peaceful solution. If the past holds, a fiery chat will end with rocket fire by Hamas, who has already sustained damage though not beyond repair. Worth rebuilding, coastline along whole western side. 

Erez in the north is the crossing where Hamas blocked Gazans from visiting the clinic for wounded. It used to be open, pre-Hamas. It is near Beit Hanoun from where Hamas fired rockets on Israel's coastal cities, Ashqelon and Ashdod, and if you keep going, Tel Aviv.

Stretching toward the sea in the south is Khan Younis. Israelis destroyed a terrorist compound there. The family left when the IDF called and sent an empty bomb as the roof as a knock before a real one, but the family decided suddenly to backtrack and play human shield. Don’t know if game would have worked, but they ran back too late, surprising the IAF who could not stop the ordered strike in time. Like your mom said, once you start crossing the street, don’t turn back, keep going to the other side, so you don’t confuse the drivers. Mom knows best.

In one neighborhood Hamas built more than an Osama-type compound - the whole town was a military base. Shujaiya was inhabited effectively for the military: Hershey Pennsylvania for war, not chocolate. Bombs in hospital, houses, schools, and mosques. The hardest fighting and most IDF deaths came in Shujaiya. You don’t even see it on this or on most other maps. Hershey/Shujaiya was a place kept under wraps. It is in the middle of Gaza (across from Kibbutz Nahal Oz, where a tunnel led and where tunnel terrorists killed IDF soldiers guarding the kibbutz). Shujaiya's hospital was military HQ, the engineering room of the factory, as it were. Here is a video

of its bombing, the after explosions of caches in the basement, and the call between an IDF woman and a Gazan to make sure the hospital was empty. Yes, the IDF telephoned Shujaiya’s hospital. (And someone answered...) Gaza and Israel are neighbors, and you still can sense the strong contact between the sides built up over the pre-Hamas years. Shujaiya will be rebuilt with international funds and hopefully with no more arms. 

Shujaiya and Rafah are where two kidnappings of slain soldier’s bodies took place. Recovering these two bodies is part of today’s negotiations.

Rafah is next to Egypt. As soon as Morsi was deposed, Egypt's military flooded 1,000+ tunnels with sewage from Egypt's side of the border to stop Hamas entering. Hamas smuggled goods on which it took 25% tax, the bulk of its revenue, but also created terror chaos. Egypt did not want Hamas' Muslim Brotherhood anymore than they wanted Morsi's, whom they luckily threw out before he could convert Egypt to fundamentalism (like Turkey).

Israel and Egypt as allies, against all odds, against Hamas.

New axes are forming, in unexpected ways.

Here is how I think it lines up: 

Standing with Israel         
Egypt, US, China, Australia, Canada, India, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia

Standing with Hamas
Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, Russia, Africa, South America

Fill in other countries. Arabs are on both sides. So is Europe... they will get tested over timeJews, the wandering people, live in both axes, and in Israel they live all mixed together, with freedom of religion and a strong army that politely calls and knocks before entering.

I hope this ceasefire is final, because politeness is hard under rocket fire, and Hamas may not agree to cease firing while it still has 3,000 rockets.

If talks stall and firing resumes, I just hope Israel keeps it in the air.

Uh oh, Middle East time, not 5pm yet here or midnight there, but rockets are firing. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

August 8

Tel Aviv


Eric got bussed home at 9pm on Thursday! Dad baked a cake. Eric arrived much cleaner than last time I saw him, just before the ground incursion. He got out for 15 hours (overnight) on a Monday before the Thursday boots on the ground. Time to shower, shave, and do laundry. And sleep in a bed. He'd been in the field for 3 weeks with one change of clothes. No showers. The smell of his army bag is stuck in my nostrils forever; it was toxic in an unventilated area. 

But by the time of the ground incursion,  dozens of families donated hundreds of shirts and briefs. So many that soldiers wore stuff, threw it away, and grabbed new. Wasteful. But there were no washing machines in the battle field, so families here opened the money spigot. And also poured out love. And appreciation. And gratitude. The IDF poured out water from cisterns on trucks so soldiers could half wash. By last week, restaurants in Tel Aviv could already risk coming down and serving burgers. Eric was too far inside to get them, but all troops were better cared for in war than they were just before, training in the bush camps. Still, I haven't ventured near his boots again yet. Eric did warn me .... still toxic. 

Most soldiers are on R and R, rest and relaxation. Determined to celebrate the engineers, specialists and infantry this shabbat, the sound of new rockets drowned out by the roar of the IAF. Sara's guys in the Air Force are still on full alert.  Sara and other fitness instructors' 'clients' had no time for the gym this summer. No practice laps. It was run for real time. And with rocket resumption, the whole country is ready to snap back to full attention. But there is hope for the talks. Especially with Egypt and Israel on the same side.

I was asked, has my view of Israel changed this summer having spent all of it here, and during war?

Like Israel, I learned that today's warfare is fought as much in the press as in the field.  Israel devoted more resources to getting out its message. Their morality is so clear to Israelis they can't understand how it could be invisible to others, or how people could equate then with the likes of Hamas. They explained their campaign in perfect English, on TV. Netanyahu too. He explained he feels a moral burden to STOP Hamas from taking advantage of innocent Palestinians and of Israel's morality in war. 

Israel's morality is clear to Hamas by the way. A week ago, when the IDF dismantled Shuja’iya, a small town used as a major forward operating base by Gaza City's hiding leaders, IDF soldiers grabbed a manual in Arabic on “Urban Warfare” from a house. The IDF posted, "The manual ... reveals that Hamas knows the IDF is committed to minimizing harm to civilians." It goes on, "This Hamas urban warfare manual exposes two truths: (1) The terror group knows full well that the IDF will do what it can to limit civilian casualties. (2) The terror group exploits these efforts by using civilians as human shields against advancing IDF forces."

Last war, Israel would not have shared that info. But someone has to educate Jon Stuart about his 'freedom fighters.' Their fight closed borders which formerly allowed Israelis to shop in their stores, buy food, and swim at their beaches. Prompting a new Israeli expression, Humus, not Hamas. Now 40% of Gazans are unemployed, 90% if you dis-count Hamas' fighters including those who 'study abroad' the fine arts of kidnapping and stealth paragliding.

In Israel, war is a backdrop, all consuming when it hits but usually kept in the background. Israel is split in two parts. Most of the time a regular country, more prosperous, interesting and fun than most, with more sunshine and worse manners. But, a country whose hostile neighbors spill over to disrupt a Jewish state. Gazans are maybe not so willing to keep up the fight. The protesters numbered 2,000. Hamas was hoping for 10,000 plus. The woman are being videoed crying, Hamas, no mas. Let's go back to having peace with the Jews. Never the Israelis, by the way, always the Jews. That is the vocabulary of the curriculum taught in UNWRA schools, funded by your tax dollars. at work.

Israel still seems to have a bright future. Incredibly. Israel benefits from France's Jewish neighbors in the suburbs of Paris behaving as Hamas. And France has no IDF. No Netanyahu. France's hate is Israel's gain. A Netanya croissant has indeed become worthy! So is a brioche. (Jacques stopped eating wheat - think the thin waitress noticed I ate both?) No need for Hebrew. Our waitress served us in smooth-as-glass Parisian French. In the center of Independence Circle, Netanya. Albeit surrounded by Bolshevik style square, gray office and apartment buildings, nowadays you can eat a French breakfast and then drive to cliffs overlooking white sand beaches. Israel benefits from its new immigrants, and a next big wave from Europe could be a rich one. 

I realize Israel's success plays into the Hezbollah Plan. Round up Jews in one place so you don't have to hunt them globally. I don't understand how the Arab world never got past hating. Or why Europe is backtracking. More importantly, without Israel, what would French Jews do? Ethiopian? Russians who don't feel free to be Jewish at home? German Jews who thought the coast was totally clear?

More and more Jews are going to take their chances it seems in one central place under the cover of their own armed forces and their own government. Jews haven't been this together since the time of King Solomon. And Israel is the centerpiece. Without a strong Europe, only America is the periphery. A strong civilization thus prospers, and adds to the good of man. Can the world make room? (Apparently there is a test for this, the Israel Test:

In 2014 Jews still can't help being - Jewish. They even like it. Despite the worry and the work. They built a viable democratic country. And look toward continued democracy in one other area country: Tunisia. 3 years democratic and holding. The Huffington Post: " Tunisia attempts to re-define its image as both a country mindful of democratic reform as well as a country ready for economic stability, is that factors such as Islamism may be less important to democratic reform than Western foreign policy analysts would like to believe. ...Whether Tunisia turns into a stronghold of stability and democratic governance in the coming years is uncertain, but given the region's current volatility, Tunisia seems to be light-years ahead of its neighbors."

And there is the possibility of still another reformed country, small, independent, constructive, democratic: Kurdistan. Hopefully America helps keep ISIS off the Kurds' heels.

Tunisia, Kurdistan, and Israel. If three democracies can stand here, this could be a really nice neighborhood.

War is ending as it began, with a sputter, on a weekend. Shabbat shalom...? At least for today. At least in Tel Aviv. Operation Protective Edge: Over and out.


patisserie Netanya

local supermarket spice section!

beaches of every kind everywhere

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August 7

Second Day of Peace

Spelling and After-math


The Hebrew army apparently can't 'spell' Eric. We know he has broad shoulders, but please spell him already, i.e. relieve him of his tour of duty outside southern Gaza. We are glad he is in Israel. We are glad he is well. We know 64 soldiers and 4 civilians perished, and many more are wounded. But traffic is snarling in all of Israel as a country gratefully rejoicing still being one, and Jews everywhere rejoice still having one, this weekend. 


In Gaza too cars are back on roads. But anger there is less tampered than Israel's. They don't know what to do next. War was their industry. They reveled, like master swordsman indigo Montoya in the Princess Bride, at being in the 'revenge business.' 3360 rockets fired. 2303 hit Israel. 475 hit inside of Gaza. (per IDF). And, like Senor Montoya, Gazans now wake up to discover that there is not much profit in revenge. Especially if Israel's iron dome intercepted the kills. Inconceivable!

As an American I am satisfied with US foreign aid tax dollars that long supported Egypt via its army, so when Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood cronies tried to hijack a country the military was there to take it back. Iron Dome, paid for by US, saved Israelis and also Gazans. Almost 2,000 Gazan lives were lost, almost half fighting-aged men. Some Gazan civilians were killed by Hamas because they were not allowed to evacuate. Many were killed by Israel. All deaths are sad. But Israel avoided heavier tonnage bombs in Gaza because Israeli civilian deaths numbered only four, due to the success of Iron Dome technology, which the US continues to support, and also it must be said because Israel was willing to send in soldiers, on foot, rather than crudely do the whole job from the air. (One effect was captured Hamas fighters, according strictly to rumors in IDF and out, planned to enter Israel by the hundreds via tunnels on Rosh haShana to bring Israel to its knees, and while, well, inconceivable, that scenario would have started a reaction that would have cost many more lives on both sides, unleashing regional gates of hell. Will ordinary Gazans notice that this war could have gone worse, but never better? Will they care? Revenge, a form of hate, is a funny business, and Gaza still has to deal with itself. Now that Egypt and Israel closed tunnels and destroyed rockets, will Gaza's soldiers, the 20,000 strong force that mostly hid there, turn from violence to fishing? Will Hamas be ousted?

Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have had to take back their countries from extremists, Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabis, respectively. These two remain the big powerhouse countries in the region and both have US support. Iran and Turkey are vying to replace them, competing with other for the title of supremacy. US loosened sanctions on Iran just when they were finally working beautifully. Powerful non-violent cards, sanctions, but you have to know how to hold them, not fold them. Iran and Turkey both currently support Hamas and religious extremism. Fighting in Syria and Iraq are proxies for Sunni vs Shiite power. This regional conflict is not Israeli. It's Arab. And if there is one thing I would change administratively in this region's countries, it's term limits. US, Israel, Europe all have term limits. No government can stay and stay and stay. Israel got dragged into war when Hamas ran out of cash, and Hamas hopes Qatar's 30-something leader, turned fundamentalist (Who died and left him king? Daddy. No term limit.) will foot the next round of bills. If so, I hope Egypt and Israel, with or without Abbas, disallow the replacement of expensive rockets and terror tunnels destroyed. We only know so far that Abbas agreed to supervise Gaza's southern border, the infamous Rafiah. 

When we heard peace talks got that far, we figured Eric could leave the area surrounding Rafiah and come home. Most soldiers are indeed home. We have seen some. 

My personal after-math is same as my before-math in Israel, washing machine and dryer humming, clean sheets, towels, shampoo, soap, hot water and AC for my kids and other soldiers who 'spell' in Tel Aviv for a night or more. 

Just waiting for one of them to be Eric. 

Then I can go home. To another democracy of the free and the brave.