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Sunday, February 10, 2008

... and that, your honor, is why I'm not in politics

Every so often I get comments (or emails) on a post saying that I should run for a seat in the Knesset.  Let the following post be the judge of such a foolish idea:

Last night after shabbat ended, the kids and I went to a climbing gym in Jerusalem to have some fun.  Ariella and I concentrated on climbing the walls with top ropes and Gilad and Yonah spent most of their time in the 'bouldering' area working on their free-climbing skills.

Ariella is a strong climber and has a lot of natural talent, but I had to constantly remind her to keep her hips close in to the wall, and instead of relying on the strength of her arms and upper body, to use the powerful muscles in her legs.

On the way home I turned on the radio at the top of the hour in order to catch the news, and the first thing I heard completely knocked the wind out of me:

"... two brothers aged 8 and 19 were among four members of a family who were wounded in a kassam barrage on Sderot.  The older brother is in moderate condition and the younger is in serious condition.  Doctors are not sure if they will be able to save the legs which were partially severed by the rocket blast."

I snapped off the radio and we rode the rest of the way home in silence.   All I could hear in my head was the echo of myself yelling up to Ariella, "Use your legs!  Use your legs!" as she struggled for the top of the wall.  I felt shamed by my words because somewhere in Israel was a wounded mother whose 8 year old son may not have any legs left to use when he comes out of surgery.

[Update:  Surgeons were forced to amputate the 8-year-old's left leg and are still fighting to save the right one]

When we got home and everyone was tucked into bed, I turned on my computer to check the news.

The headlines were terrible.  More than 50 rockets had been fired so far over the weekend.  Several had scored direct hits on homes in Sderot... one even crashing through a roof as the family sat in their dining-room eating Shabbat dinner.  And the Palestinians of Gaza were openly celebrating the wounding of a Jewish family by firing guns into the air and passing out sweets to the children.

There was no lack of detail about the situation in Sderot.  Not only about the damage and carnage, but about the perfectly justifiable fury of the residents at having been abandoned by their government in the face of unrelenting attacks.

At a certain point I couldn't read anymore without exploding with rage, so I clicked over to some other news stories of the moment.

Britain, it turns out, is up in arms over the looming 'humanitarian disaster' posed by Israel's threat to reduce Gaza's electricity by between 1% and 5%... and were demanding that Israel continue supplying full power to the beleaguered civilian population there.  Of course there was no mention of the very real humanitarian disaster being perpetrated on Sderot and other communities of the western Negev by the thousands of rockets targeting those civilian population centers.

I began to see red.

I know I shouldn't be surprised or angry that the rest of the world doesn't care a bit about the residents of Sderot.  After all, our own government doesn't seem particularly troubled by the ongoing carnage there.  But more than that, even the so-called hawks in Israel are inexplicably calling for a large-scale ground operation in Gaza without really talking much about specific goals... or the chances of success in achieving these un-stated goals. 

I'm no strategic expert, but one of the key failures of the Lebanon war seems to have been sending ground troops into harm's way without a clear battle plan... or exit strategy.  IMHO it would be the height of foolishness to risk the lives of our young men simply to punish Gaza.  If punishment/revenge is all you want, you can do that from the air... or by turning a switch and throwing the savages into darkness.  By my way of thinking, one puts Military troops at risk only to achieve specific objectives... and not one person in or out of government has been able to elocute what military objectives await our young men in Gaza.

My friend and fellow blogger Yaeli (one of my favorite lefties because she sometimes sounds more right-wing than I do) came up with a novel idea: For every kassam fired into Israel, we should fire an equally primitive/random weapon into Gaza.  However the flaw with this plan is that it presumes that the Palestinian leadership cares a bit about what happens to its civilian population... a theory that has been debunked by their ongoing use of civilian population centers as human shields for explosive labs, smuggling tunnels and kassam launching sites. 

The only thing a few random rockets would do is enrage the international community, provide some cheap sympathy points for the Palestinians and give the anti-Israel media a hook on which to hang the old 'cycle of violence' saw.  It's the old playground paradox:  When a little kid takes a swing at a big kid the big kid is trapped.  If he defends himself, he is called a bully for beating up a kid half his size.  If he doesn't fight back, he becomes a laughingstock for having been bloodied by a kid half his size.

No, I don't think that kassams for kassam is a formula for success.  I also don't think that sending IDF troops on a massive invasion to fight among Gaza's dense urban centers is anything but a death trap.  Besides the fact that the Gazans now posses all the sophisticated anti-armor weapons that Israel faced in Southern  Lebanon... the rules of engagement that would be placed on the IDF in such close proximity to civilians would be so drastic that our boys would end up being mowed down while trying to decide if they could legally/morally shoot the 'civilian' who were suddenly firing at them.

No, that's not the answer either.

Truth be told, if someone had put a button in front of me last night labeled 'kill every man, woman and child in Gaza' I would have pushed it without hesitation... and then pushed it again just to make sure it worked.  And then I would have gone to bed and slept with a clear conscience.   A population that celebrates the slaughter and wounding of innocent civilians is infected with a disease for which the only cure is death.

But this morning I am just the tiniest bit more circumspect.  I'm not saying that there is a cure for what ails Palestinian (and by extension all Muslim/Arab) societies, but my main concern right now is Gaza... and genocide is obviously not on the menu of Israel's options.

So what then?

It goes without saying that Israel should not be giving Gaza any of its power, food, water or fuel.  All that should have stopped the moment we closed the gates behind the last person out in the summer of 2005.  Heck, if we could throw together a plan to uproot 10,000 Israeli civilians from their homes, I have to believe we could have found a moment to also send a memo to Egypt and the other Arab sponsors of the Palestinians saying, "Oh yeah... they're your responsibility now.  Best of luck with that." 

But I honestly think that at this point, the only thing to be done is to drop leaflets throughout Gaza's periphery announcing that within 48 hours a no-man zone will be created by Israel.  The exact size of the zone would be defined by the longest range rocket in the Palestinian arsenal, and clear instructions would be given to evacuate specific areas before the deadline. 

At hour 49 the IAF would go in with blockbuster bombs and fuel-air explosives and turn that no-man zone into rubble so fine that nothing would remain standing above the height of, say, an 8 year old boy sitting in a wheelchair.

And that, your honor, is why I am not in politics.

Posted by David Bogner on February 10, 2008 | Permalink

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Quote - "goes without saying that Israel should not be giving Gaza any of its power, food, water or fuel. All that should have stopped the moment we closed the gates behind the last person out in the summer of 2005."

Should have been clear in 1977 at Camp David that in 1982 the line from El Arish to Ras Muhammad would move to Erez-Taba and not Rafiah-Taba.
Still, we forgot to remind the Egyptians and they "forgot" to remember, just shows that they had the smarts.
Grieving for the kids in Sderot and the settlements around Gaza Strip.

Posted by: asher | Feb 10, 2008 2:13:17 PM

Sadly coincidental; I was just posting a rant on how our media wasn't mentioning Sderot with one line this week-end, and looking for a clip about how the scene looks like in Sderot on YouTube, I came across a NEST of Arab video clips that somehow hint to me that it's the worst propaganda ever. Why isn't this this being checked and kicked off YouTube? It's entirely in Arabic, which is probably what "saves" these people's behinds. I'm thinking of reporting these videos...

Posted by: a. | Feb 10, 2008 2:24:58 PM

I am willing to bet that there are many, many Israelis who have experienced, shall we say, similar thought processes.

That poor kid....

Gila

Posted by: Gila | Feb 10, 2008 2:36:06 PM

Sounds right to me, David...

Or: For every kassam fired into Israel, Israel razes 10 dunams in the northern part of Gaza and starts pushing the population towards Rafah. The world is going to scream no matter what Israel does. The only ones who really need to be persuaded are the American administration.

Why, when Rice at all came to Israel for "peace talks" were the meetings not held in Sderot? All future diplomatic missions should be moved there. All credentialed reporters must be required to relocate there. Sderot must be made the center of activity for all foreign missions.

Posted by: Russ | Feb 10, 2008 2:49:32 PM

The question/issue is how to retain our humanity when conducting a war with those who use inhumane means. I certainly don't have the answers, at least none that seem dramatically different from yours.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 10, 2008 6:25:49 PM

Walla! Move all of the foreign press from the American Colony Hotel to Sderot!

What do you suppose would be more traumatic for the poor dears: having to deal with the kassamim or having to meet Israelis?

:)

Now that would be interesting.

My, I am snarky today....

Gila

Posted by: Gila | Feb 11, 2008 12:02:16 AM

Walla! Move all of the foreign press from the American Colony Hotel to Sderot!

What do you suppose would be more traumatic for the poor dears: having to deal with the kassamim or having to meet Israelis?

:)

Now that would be interesting.

My, I am snarky today....

Gila

Posted by: Gila | Feb 11, 2008 12:02:18 AM

"For every kassam fired into Israel, we should fire an equally primitive/random weapon into Gaza . . ."

rafi g. (life in israel) proposed this idea a few months back, except that in his formulation it would be the citizens of sederot and not the idf that would fire kassams into gaza. this way . . .

"The only thing a few random rockets would do is enrage the international community,"

. . . the government could claim that it doesn't control the citizens of sederot and can't be held accountable for every bit of lawlessness

Posted by: Lion of ZIon | Feb 11, 2008 12:20:51 AM

So because you initially react with emotions that any human being with a heart would echo (I know I had the same visceral response) you're not qualified for public office?

Some may believe that. Too bad. Your "next morning" solution is fair, rational and potentially effective. That's a far cry better than anything the existing politicians have come up with.

Posted by: Lynn B. | Feb 11, 2008 3:21:38 AM

There are tactics and strategies that are available to the military that can be very effective, minimizing casualties and loss of civilian life in Gaza. However, the GOI must approve them and stand by them in the face of international condemnation - which will happen under all circumstances except if Israel does nothing.

Israel can displace residents slice by slice until all of Gaza is in their hands and no one is living in their homes. Between slices it can offer peace for peace. The humanitarian crisis will force Hamas to do something - either make peace or war. Either one is sufficient to end the crisis. It is the "in between" that is not acceptable, which is what we have now.

In behavioral psychology when dealing with rats, the extinction curve is such that when reinforcement stops or punishment is imposed, we expect to see an increase in effort to obtain the reward or halt the punishment. However, these increases are fleeting and become weaker with each tightening of the screw and soon disappear to be replaced by other behavior forms - less destructive.

The slice by slice approach also minimizes the possibility that Hizb'Allah and Syria will know precisely when to enter the conflict. Their own doubts will play a stronger role than if there is a fully engaged onslaught by the IDF.

The slice by slice approach also has the advantage of allowing the time between slices to be minimized to reduce the ability of Hamas to target a stationary line. Some slices will take longer to secure, others less time, but there should always be some well publicized though brief period when negotiations can be held.

The most important thing about this approach is that the political side clarify on the occasion of each slice being secured that they are waiting at such and such place and will give safe passage to anyone who has the power to order a halt to the Kassams, etc.

Homeless Palestinians can be pushed toward the Egyptian border with the hope that they will break through to freedom, or whatever.

The exit strategy is simple. When Gaza is cleaned of its armaments, leave and let the people return to their homes. The next conquest will be considerably easier, but again it should be done slice by slice with peace offers between.

The justifiable cries of the parents who will lose their children in such a conflict is a real problem, if the troops are withdrawn after cleansing the towns and villages, thus leaving no tangible benefit for the army's efforts. If casualties mount, it could be that it will be necessary to retain much of Gaza without its population as a legitimate buffer against future attacks or until an agreement is reached. Perhaps a near empty Gaza can be internationalized, but let us not get ahead of ourselves.

Regarding the feasibility of such an approach, if Israel insists on its slice by slice approach, after enough slices (indeterminate at this moment), those parties who meet rock-like resistance will seek another victim, not unlike the Hamas turning on the Egyptians at Raffah. Hamas will argue within its ranks about the advisability of continuing. Strength on Israel's part will yield results even in Europe who will rightly see the demise of Hamas as a positive step toward Israel being able to reach an agreement with Abbas. Indeed, it is the existence of Hamas that Olmert and Livni and Barak are counting upon to prevent implementation any agreement. But enough is enough. Elimination of Hamas as a threat will ease the likelihood of Hizb'Allah becoming adventuresome and will ease the pressures on Israel should it have to fight Iran on its own.

Posted by: jerry | Feb 11, 2008 5:43:05 AM

"Truth be told, if someone had put a button in front of me last night labeled 'kill every man, woman and child in Gaza' I would have pushed it without hesitation... and then pushed it again just to make sure it worked. And then I would have gone to bed and slept with a clear conscience."

You know, that is one of the most horrible things one could think. But, the saddest part is I understand 100% and wish I could say that I haven't thought along the same lines myself. Not necessarily Gaza specifically but still...it's a shame that people can behave or be led into behaving so inhumanely towards their fellow human beings. I thank God I do not have that power.

Posted by: Lynn | Feb 11, 2008 6:03:27 AM

And that, Your Honor, is why Dave Bogner SHOULD be in politics, darnit!

Posted by: psachya | Feb 11, 2008 10:14:46 AM

"send a memo to Egypt and the other Arab sponsors of the Palestinians saying, "Oh yeah... they're your responsibility now. Best of luck with that."

I've wondered a long time why that's never been done. It seems to me that by relying on Israel for things like water & electricity, they have a certain amount of leverage over you. Yet, their Arab neighbors don't step-in to support them with those basic needs when you shut them off, right? Why would you Arab neighbors do that, after all - they would lose some good PR.

I don't know a lot about what's going on there, so maybe this doesn't make sense.

Posted by: Steve Bogner | Feb 11, 2008 2:01:44 PM

asher... It would be simpler to say that it isn't that Israel didn't get what it wanted at the bargaining table, but rather that it probably shouldn't have sat down at the table in the first place considering what we've been left with.

a. ... Good luck with that. I've found so much anti-Israel stuff on Youtube and complaining doesn't seem to make a difference. But let me try to post just one little video of a terrorist getting blown up by his own mortar and nooooo, they're all about rules! :-)

Gila... The difference is most of us aren't in a position to act on our feelings. Olmert and Co acted on emotion when they went into Lebanon in 2006. I'm not saying it was the wrong move, but I am saying they didn't have a strategy for going in or getting out. No goals... nothing. In the end they turned the IDF into a mob.

Russ... You know, you are making some sense!

Jack... Humanity? We don't need no stinking humanity! :-)

Gila... Snarky works. :-)

Lion of Zion... If I thought that were a viable solution I would volunteer to go down there and fire off a few rounds through the fence.

Lynn B. ... Having slightly better judgement than the class of sitting clowns we call a government is not what I would call a glowing recommendation for my talents as a legislator.

jerry... I can see you've thought this through so I won't try to dissuade you. However, I don't know anyone who would look favorably on a plan which, at the outset, is designed to be 'lather, rinse repeat' with the lives of our kids.

Lynn... True, but sometimes having that power means deciding between the lives of one's own citizens and the citizens of an enemy entity. Our leaders haven't even gotten that far.

Steve Bogner... Jordan didn't want the Palis and neither did Egypt. They both flatly refused to have any responsibility for their care and feeding... and I can't blame them. The Palestinians have been a thorn in the side of every society in which they have set up camp. Don't believe me? Just ask the Lebanese!

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 11, 2008 2:15:05 PM

But let me try to post just one little video of a terrorist getting blown up by his own mortar and nooooo, they're all about rules! :-)

On the slightly positive side, I just witnessed that YouTube took down a defaming video in German-Turkish-English propagandistic gibber about the recent incident here in Ludwigshafen quite immediately (background: a house inahbited by Turkish families burned down, killing nine people).

Yes, flagging may seem in vain, but better this than no protest at all.

Posted by: a. | Feb 11, 2008 2:29:00 PM

a. ... Fair enough, but it still feels a lot like tilting at windmills.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 11, 2008 2:50:44 PM

Yeah, that is exactly why you SHOULD be in politics. I saw a headline that Olmert in Europe said he 'feels for citizens of the Negev,' and blew my stack -- you're supposed to DO something about it, you poodle!

Move the Capital and the Knesset and the Supreme Court to Sderot for one month.

Posted by: Pam | Feb 11, 2008 5:48:31 PM

Would that any of the morons running for President here could see the issue as clearly.

"Moral equivalence" goes out the window when you're dealing with people who pass our sweets to the kiddies when one of their rockets hits a civilian target and kills or wounds a child. Me, I'd say each rocket means a 5% reduction in electricity and water. That gives 'em 20 rockets before they dry up in the dark. Screw the Europeans.

Posted by: Elisson | Feb 11, 2008 7:03:47 PM

I see the residents of Sderot are out protesting in Jerusalem today. I wonder if that will have any affect at all. I couldn't understand anything said or written but it seemed very visually disturbing with all the shrapnel being thrown and the screaming bloody murder. Have they done anything like that before?

Posted by: Lynn | Feb 11, 2008 11:11:24 PM

David, I would argue that your judgment is much more than slightly better, but what do I know?

Given the chance, I'd certainly vote for you.

Posted by: Lynn B. | Feb 12, 2008 12:22:45 AM

Coming along nicely... you've almost completely dropped the PC apologetic pose you previously used to cushion this sort of post...

Posted by: Ben-David | Feb 13, 2008 1:34:31 PM

Mr. T,

You most certainly could and should be in politics. This does not require running for PM and winning; you should be a member of a democratic Israeli political party, supporting activists there who you agree with against others inside who don't represent you as well. And with a little effort, you could be a little more active, with a little more political power (central committee member, etc.)

If you or any of your blog readers wants to hear more about making a political difference in Israel, please contact me.

Posted by: Gidon Ariel | Feb 15, 2008 1:47:46 PM

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