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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Formulating an appropriate response

In the wee hours of this morning, a kassam rockets streaked out of the dark desert sky... crashing to earth amidst the clustered tents of sleeping soldiers on an IDF training base just north of the Gaza strip.

The shrapnel from the explosion ripped through the tent fabric and into the flesh of the male and female soldiers sleeping there, stunning scores with the force of its explosion.  At last count some 69 soldiers were wounded - one critically - and have been evacuated to various hospitals based on the severity of their wounds.

Almost immediately the cell phones of defense and government officials sprang to life as the calls went out to meet in the dark hours before dawn to formulate an appropriate response.

In the inner sanctum - the 'holy of holies' - of the government and defense offices, the most senior communication and public relations personnel huddled over hastily-procured coffee and danishes to hammer out the proper language for the Prime Minister's morning remarks. 

One might think that it is easy to craft just the right message... but the perfect balance has to be struck between sending too stern a warning to the 'bad' Palestinians and offering an overly-generous confidence building gesture to the 'good' Palestinians.

In the waiting rooms of hospitals throughout the country, parents of wounded soldiers clustered in small groups, nervously wondering out loud if the government spin doctors would be able to come up with language appropriate to the damage done to the tender flesh of their progeny. 

"Certainly this time they'll use the words 'deplore' or 'deeply regret' when they call the news conference" said one distraught mother.  "After all", she continued, "my daughter lost an eye and has shrapnel lodged in her neck.  That has to be worth a 'deplore', right?"

Another parent sitting nearby shook his head firmly.  "I'm not sure they should go quite that far.  Sure, my son may not regain use of his arm, and he'll have to eat through a tube for a few months... but Olmert has come so far in his relationship with Abu Abbas. Can he really afford to jeopardize all that by using such rash language?" 

"He's right", said another mother sitting in the corner with what seemed like a small army of weeping children gathered around her.  "Our soldiers will eventually recover enough to live relatively productive lives, but the peace process is on life support.  'Deplore' would set the peace process back years.  I'd be happy if Olmert would simple 'regret the unprovoked attack'.

"Unprovoked?", said the father who had spoken earlier.  He was now standing next to a vending machine trying to figure out through tears of frustration how to get it to dispense a candy bar.  "How can Olmert use the word 'unprovoked' without assigning blame.  If he doesn't assume at least some of the responsibility for the attack it will look like we're only blaming our peace partners.  No, I think he simply has to 'regret the attack' and leave it at that."

Similar discussions raged in other hospitals despite the fact that these parents would have no say in their government's official response.  I suppose talking about a response is preferable to complete inaction... but still, the hours before the dawn seemed endless for the distraught families.

With the rising of the sun, the Prime Minister emerged from his residence in a crisp dark suit and was whisked to the Knesset in his waiting car.  Without even pausing to acknowledge the press gathered outside, he immediately went in to consult with his communications team.

Less than a minute later the low murmur of the press corps was hushed as Prime Minister Olmert emerged to the podium to deliver his prepared remarks.  He had taken off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves - a clearly understood symbol of hard work and aggressive determination - and had furrowed his brow in a studied approximation of fatherly concern.

As he stepped up to the waiting microphone the flash of cameras gave his movement a strobe-like effect, and added extra gravity to the moment.

"Thank you all for coming out so early this morning.  It's been a long, difficult night and there is still much work to be done."

The flashes continued to pop from all directions and the press dutifully hung on his every word... politely ignoring the sealed envelope in the Prime Minister's hand that showed every sign of having just been handed to him.

While he paused in his off-the-cuff remarks for dramatic affect, Prime minister Olmert slowly broke the seal on his briefing package and scanned the single printed page contained therein.  The silence that stretched out for a full 30 seconds while he read and reread the page was electric as everyone waited to see what would come next.

After clearing his throat and nodding resolutely, the Prime Minister began speaking... the weight of his office's responsibility clearly showing on his lined face.

"Last night the State of Israel was attacked with rockets, resulting in the wounding of almost 70 soldiers.  We deplore and deeply regret this unprovoked attack and reserve the right to offer an appropriate response."

A gasp went through the room.  "Did he really use 'deplore', 'unprovoked' and 'deeply regret'?" whispered one reporter to his neighbor.  "My editor will kill me if I get this wrong.  He used the trifecta, right?"

His neighbor - a seasoned journalist from Haaretz who was openly weeping at the shock of this strongly worded governmental response - simply nodded. 

In the waiting room of Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva, several family members of wounded soldiers clapped their hands and uttered words of relief such as "finally!" and "what took them so long?". 

But the elation wasn't universal. 

The father who had voiced concern over the fragile peace process simply shook his head, wondering if perhaps he could have done more to encourage his son to ask for an army deferment.  After all, wasn't the very existence of so many soldiers an open provocation?

But before he could give voice to his thoughts, the Prime Minister continued from the snowy television perched on its wall bracket in the corner of the waiting room.

"Our response will be measured and just", he continued.  "The anticipated release of prisoners in honor of Ramadan may... I repeat, MAY be delayed by as much as a week. We also may consider providing only USED weapons to the PA's elite security forces instead of new M-16s... and half the usual amount of ammunition.  Lastly, I am heavily weighing the possibility of rescheduling this afternoon's meeting with the PA Chairman until sometime after the holidays.  I don't think the climate is right at present for a fruitful meeting."

Now even the parents who had advocated strong language looked shaken.

"Do you really think he'll follow through with such dire threats?" asked one mother who had been calling for exactly such action since 4 AM.  "I mean, there's no turning back from something like that!"

The father who had counseled restraint shook his head disgustedly, looked away and spat, "You wanted a harsh response?  Well now you've gotten one".


Posted by David Bogner on September 11, 2007 | Permalink


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I would be throwing up on my shoes; but I can't unclench my teeth. Very nice post. I also do not expect a proper response from the government, or from much of the public. It may be a bit "harsher" than it has been, lo these six-plus years, than for the crimes against Sderot. (According to IMRA,"... as bizarre as this may sound - the country takes military casualties much more seriously than civilian casualties.") I do not know what it will take to cause Israel to get over its mental illness; but I think we are still in for more kissing up to everyone on Earth but our own dear citizens. Thanks, in part, to the attitudes of many of those citizens. After all, a poll was just taken (carefully excluding the religious), in which 48% of the respondents said that if Israel didn't exist, they would not consider it a tragedy.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Sep 11, 2007 1:45:21 PM

What am I not understanding? We "may" do this, we are "weighing" this...is that really so harsh?

Posted by: Benji | Sep 11, 2007 3:11:09 PM

After reading about this early this morning, I looked at the Zikim training base on Google Earth. That base is south of Ashkelon and is within mortar range of the Gaza Strip. The southern-most lane on the firing range appears to be within rifle range of the fence. Who in their right mind would put recruits in a place like that? Especially in tents. They have all that open land east of there in the Negev that they could use.


Posted by: Karl Newman | Sep 11, 2007 4:52:52 PM

Oy Dave, this would be riotously funny if it weren't so sad, and so true!

Posted by: yitz | Sep 11, 2007 6:26:35 PM

Mr Bogner,

I hope you won't view this as any kind of intrusion because I was raised Catholic but I take the liberty because I've got happy memories of being a "shabbes goy" (sp ??) in a community with lots of varied groups after WWII. Children of Survivors and such.

Probably went to more Bar and Bas (sp ?) Mitzvahs than baptisms and confirmations growing up.

I have such admiration for the people of Israel when I see how our society in the US has been so torn by what is, compared to yours, a very peripheral involvment with the same (mostly) groups. I wish I were more eloquent but I just want you to know that a lot of us "goyyim" (sp?? again) see and care deeply.

Re-reading this, it sounds a bit like "some of my best friends, etc" please don't see it that way?

Thanks for taking a moment to read this and may G-d bless and hold you all in the palm of His hand.

Posted by: Jim From Outside Boston, MA | Sep 11, 2007 9:00:41 PM

"Where have you gone, Moshe Dayan?
Your nation turns its lonely eyes to you..."

Posted by: psachya | Sep 11, 2007 9:08:01 PM

Orwellian. Just repeat after me. 2+2=4 2+2=4

No matter how many times they tell you it's 5.

Posted by: Alice | Sep 11, 2007 9:20:26 PM

Technically it is not a problem to stop rockets: divide the enemy land into squares and make them clear that if there is a rocket out of the square everything is grounded there. They want to live somewhere, aren't they? Garbage-in, garbage-out. The only point is that this will cause too much causalities and none wants to use such means.
The answer of Mr.Peres to this issue was: "Nanotech beats rockets". That is, cover all the area with hornet planes and knock down by artillery or whatever, everything that appears similar to launchers.


Posted by: medvegonok | Sep 11, 2007 9:42:14 PM

Hi Trep,

Thanks for the GREAT story...

But, I really think that you ought to insert a line at the bottom that overtly says that the story is sarcasm. I can really picture a number of dolts not getting it and that same doltishness coming back to bite you in the tuches. And I like you too much to ever want you to have to endure a pain in the tuches. I seem to remember Yehuda reluctantly doing the same after one of his zinger posts.

You post reminds me alot of this classic:


Chief of Staff: Splendid. Juan Cole might turn out to be one of our biggest assets. "The work of the righteous is done by others." (Laughter around the table.)

Positive vibes to you!


Posted by: Maksim-Smelchak. | Sep 11, 2007 11:06:05 PM

I would forward the link to this.... except that it requires a functioning brain to really appreciate. And those people who most should read it are incapable of 'getting' it.

Posted by: Back of the Hill | Sep 11, 2007 11:59:17 PM

David, this was a brilliant post. YOUR response to what happenned yesterday, beats our prime minister's response by a mile.
PS: He is officially "our" PM because I arrived last week and have my teudat zehut in hand....(now for that darned driver's license!)

Shana Tova--may it be a year of strength!

Posted by: Baila | Sep 12, 2007 12:40:07 AM

I guess it's all about fear,
and the unwillingness so many have to confront and manage it properly. On the other hand, it could be just another example of an ice cream cone to the forehead - that too is embarrassing.

Posted by: Schvach | Sep 12, 2007 1:17:18 AM

David -
All I can say is...masterful.

I wish you, Zehava and your kids a good, sweet year with peace and an effective government.


Posted by: mata hari | Sep 12, 2007 1:57:36 AM

Masterfully done.

Posted by: Maya | Sep 12, 2007 2:39:31 AM

BTW, this might be the best thing you've ever written smarty!

Posted by: Alice | Sep 12, 2007 2:58:01 AM

To go off on a tangent...I've always wondered why there are 'urgent consultations' and midnight meetings in reaction to these sorts of events. It's not like they aren't predictable. Don't they have a 'war games' division to anticipate scenarios and prepare responses to them? The post event meeting should basically just ratify the response that was calmly thought in advance. Am I missing something here?

Posted by: dov weinstock | Sep 12, 2007 5:17:18 AM

Doh! I guess I'm one of the aforementioned dolts. Can I plead the oleh chadash card? Hey, just trying to learn here...at least this dolt asked for confirmation. Shana tovah to you all.

Posted by: Benji | Sep 12, 2007 8:46:15 AM

Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Posted by: Cara | Sep 12, 2007 8:03:39 PM

Good golly, I guess I'm a dolt too! There are so many moonbats in Israel that it is not easy to see that this was a satire.

Posted by: batyah | Sep 17, 2007 12:26:56 PM

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