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Monday, June 21, 2004

Coming out

Warning: Politics Ahead

Gee wiz! For a blogger who repeatedly claims to eschew political content in favor of humor, Israeli culture (I know, redundant), and family stuff, I sure seem to post a lot about politics! Sorry. You see, living full time at the center of a political sh*tstorm will occasionally necessitate some sort of comment… if for no other reason than to point out what an awful lot of sh*t there is flying around!

For some time now I have prided myself on remaining something of an enigma… meaning nobody (online or off) seemed to know exactly how to pigeonhole me. Those who divide their blogroll or bookmarks politically (by left and right wing) have me cautiously listed simply as ‘Israeli’ or ‘Jewish’. Visitors to treppenwitz who think of themselves as residing in the anti-Israel, or at least pro-Palestinian camp (I’m honestly glad there are some who drop by) probably think of me as a rare ‘good Israeli’… a ‘safe Jew’. That’s OK. I am… sign me up for a double portion of both. However, that does not mean that I will stay silent forever in the face of indescribable stupidity.

Today’s post will officially break my long silence on the whole topic of disengagement.

Do I want to disengage from the Palestinians? You bet I do. Do I want to do it unilaterally… under fire? Only if it makes sense from a strategic/military point-of-view. How did words like ‘strategic’ and ‘military’ get mixed up in this discussion? Because Israel (and oh, by the way… most of the western world), is at war… and nations at war make strategic military decisions, not pie-in-the-sky, theological, ‘only our opinions count’, spoiled-child-ultimatum-driven decisions.

That doesn’t mean that the prospect of unilateral disengagement doesn’t injure my sense of justice. It does…beyond description! I mean, I can’t fathom why Israel is the only country in the history of the entire world that wins its wars… and then, in order to sue for peace, has to offer up land, money, and arms, to the people who instigated the conflicts. And now, here we are in the aftermath of a gesture that would be roughly analogous to the U.S. offering the Great Plains back to the Sioux (even though most of our 'indians' came from somewhere else), yet here we are, once again circling the wagons! To use a well-loved bloggerism: WTF!!!

For those of you who aren't regular readers, my viewpoints here are somewhat strange, because I am (by current definition) a ‘settler’ [boo, hiss]. Just between the few of us, my town (Efrat) is no more a ‘settlement’ than San Diego or Los Angeles. True, it sits on territory captured from a neighboring country during a war … but hey, so do S.D. & L.A (the big difference being that SoCal was captured in a war of aggression). The fact is, I earned this ‘settler’ label by living in a town that sits just outside the ‘green line’. This magical line (also know as the 1949 armistice demarcation line) that coincides with no natural topographic feature, was never meant to be a final border (at least according to the document that created it). Rather, the final borders were to be negotiated by the parties to the conflict. From that time to this, there has been a profound lack of negotiating from any of the parties except Israel.

For example: In return for something sort of resembling peace with Egypt, Israel negotiated away an enormous piece of real estate (along with the homes of the Israelis living there) called the Sinai Peninsula. What did Egypt have to bring to the negotiating table? A pen.

A few years back, in hopes of a poorly defined peace, Israel sat down at Camp David and offered Arafat all but 3% of what he was asking for (and to offset that 3% of land he wasn’t going to get, Israel offered him a 3% land swap as compensation). What was Arafat asked to give in return? A vague promise to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Apparently even that was too much, because he chose that moment to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the present intifada.

OK, so Arafat declared open (albeit unconventional) war on Israel when he stormed out of Camp David. So why are we still debating national policy like a country at peace? Soldiers on a training exercise can debate and critique the merits of one tactical maneuver over another. But soldiers in the heat of battle better shut the ‘F’ up and let the people with a clear view of the big picture call the shots!

Why am I telling you all this? Because the news today is full of shrill and strident left and right wingers who are arguing as though they are in a kibbutz dining hall rather than on the front lines of a war. They are also stupidly couching their pronouncements in such absolute terms that for anyone to publicly take a baby step towards the ‘other side’s’ platform, it would mean admitting some sort of ideological or religious failure… like an alcoholic standing up in a crowded AA meeting and admitting he’s been hiding bottles of vodka in the toilet tank.

Why does it have to be like this? The Israelis who live in Gaza were encouraged to live there by their government. They are not renegades or outlaws... in fact when they moved there it seemed like a sound, even heroic decision, since that is where it looked like the final border was going to end up. But just as generals on the battlefield sometimes have to redraw their battle lines, so too, the government of a country at war sometimes has to make sickening decisions about its borders in order to safeguard it’s citizens.

My feelings on this issue brand me a pariah in both camps. The left-wingers will continue to vilify me because I live in one of Jerusalem’s many bedroom communities over that Red Herring called ‘the green line’ (despite the fact that we chose to live in Efrat specifically because it was in that 3% Israel always intended to keep). The right-wingers will now vilify me because I dare to publicly admit my desire to excise the Palestinian cancer called Gaza from the body of my country.

Well, there it is… my dirty little secret. I am that most reviled of all Israelis: I’m a centrist. I hope against hope that I am not alone here in the middle.

Posted by David Bogner on June 21, 2004 | Permalink


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Yes, the crazies egg each other on but most people are centrists. The symmetry between left/right crazies breaks down, though, in several places. First, the left has the whole world and the Israeli press on its side, so the right needs to shout to be heard. Second, the price that is paid when the left blows it is a high one.
Besides that, even someone like me -- who holds philosophically centrist positions pretty much like yours -- might reasonably reach the conclusion that the Gaza withdrawal will bring only grief.


Posted by: Ben Chorin | Jun 21, 2004 2:24:44 PM

You make an interesting point about the possible future results of a Gaza withdrawal. But unlike Oslo, this is simply redrawing the battle lines...not creating and equipping an enemy army.

Sure we risk looking weak like we did when we pulled out of south Lebanon... but I'd rather look weak from behind strong battle lines (i.e. borders), than look strong from a strategically vulnerable position.

Posted by: David | Jun 21, 2004 2:43:03 PM

Could you explain what advantage you see to a Gaza withdrawal? "Excising the cancer" sounds very nice, but Gaza and the Palestinian Arabs in it would not simply disappear; they would instead gain a safe haven from which to launch further attacks on Israel. The presence of the IDF helps keep them off-balance enough to inhibit such attacks.
Pulling out of Gaza would be like returning to the days when areas of Judea and Samaria were treated as inviolate by Israel, and thus served as very effective bases for terrorism. The fence around Gaza is only helpful if the Arabs don't have the freedom of movement needed to get around it.

Posted by: Russell Gold | Jun 21, 2004 6:07:23 PM

I appreciate your sharing your point of view.

However, the entire area around Israel is what you would call a 'safe haven' for those who want to kill us. I want them on the outside and us on the inside. This is what I meant by the term 'circling the wagons'. The present arrangement doesn't allow that.

Posted by: David | Jun 21, 2004 6:30:17 PM

Hey, David, welcome to the Centrist Pool! Come on in - the water's fine!

Posted by: Sarah | Jun 21, 2004 11:04:07 PM

I think it's one of Israel's best known maladies - you won't have a real political discussion until you outed yourself as belonging to one or the other party/camp. One of the first questions [maybe after asking whether you prefer water or juice], and only then you'll get heard [or shouted, depending on wether you've just made a friend or a foe]. It always feels like I'm being given a branding on the forehead and put into a box - I guess it is the pigeonhole tactic you've mentioned.

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Jun 22, 2004 11:18:41 AM

Your response to Russell Gold was that Israel was not creating and equipping an army in Gaza. I am not sure about that. Sharon wants Egypt to control the security in Gaza. Egypt, the country that has allowed the smuggling tunnels to Gaza to exist. Egypt, which receives very high-tech military equipment from the US and which has not demonstrated that it does not want Israel to be eliminated eventually.

The only time that Israel has been able to attain some sort of peace with any of its neighbors has been after she roundly defeated her enemies militarily. There still are attacks from Lebanon, which was another case of Israel evacuating before militarily defeating her enemy.

Posted by: bernath | Jun 24, 2004 4:38:27 AM

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