Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Get this clown out of here

Enough is enough.

It is a rare day when I stand up, as an American and comment on what Israeli politicians should or should not do. Few things irritate me more than when American Jews dictate to Israelis how they should live and die in a country they visit often only once or twice over the course of their lifetimes. In general, the lack of experience these supposedly ultra-Zionist American Jews have with Israeli politics and current events results in a gung-ho, never-surrender-one-inch-of-Judea-and-Samaria attitude that completely ignores the reality of the facts on the ground.

These alleged hard-liners (who again, have never picked up a gun or dodged bullets/suicide bombs themselves) have the nerve to call heroes like Ariel Sharon a Nazi and a traitor for doing what he felt was necessary to bring some level of peace and security to the country he served his entire life. They call Israeli leftists and peaceniks "weak" and criticize their readiness to compromise on difficult issues, despite never losing a loved one in a terror attack. Or perhaps worse, having to make the difficult decision, while looking down the barrel of an M-16 at a 13 year old holding a molotov cocktail, whether or not to pull the trigger and end a child's life in the defense of your own.

It is easy to sit back, criticize and make grandiose proclamations about Greater Israel or advocate Kahane-style policies, when one sits 6,000 miles from the actions one proposes.

This is not to say that I am a leftist or a peacenik by any stretch of the imagination. I am a strong believer in Israeli strength and unity. However, being that I am frequently in Israel and that I have Israeli family on both ends of the spectrum and (perhaps most importantly) I did not serve in the Israel Defense Force myself, I tend to keep a lot of my criticisms of Israeli governmental policies quiet. I am always willing to discuss Israeli politics and current events, but I am always respectful of the people who actually live, work and die in the country and I recognize that even with my level of involvement I cannot possibly know the reality better than the people that wake up in Israel everyday. Whether or not we agree with their views, it is not on us to dictate to the residents of another country what they should or should not do -- until it affects us directly.

It is a rare day when I will take a stand like the one I am about to. And it boils down to three words, uttered by Yitzchak Rabin on the eve of the ill-fated 1993 Oslo Accords.

Enough is enough.

We Jews have suffered under some very inept leadership. We who have a stake in the Jewish state watched this leadership bungle the Lebanon War. We watched this leadership fail to secure the release of Israeli prisoners who have been held for almost two years (the impetus for the war in the first place). We have heard this government's readiness to move forward with the "Road Map" despite the nearly daily rocket attacks on soverign Israeli soil. We have heard this government's readiness to discuss final status negotiations on borders, "refugees" and the fate of Jerusalem with an entity whose "democratically-elected" leadership still calls for the destruction of the state of Israel while simultaneously denying it even exists.

But the final straw, in this humble blogger's opinion, came yesterday when a report that the IDF was ordered to show restraint in dealing with Gaza "militants" made its rounds in the Israeli newspapers. While in essence this concept of "restraint" is nothing new (whether acceptable or not is a different question) what is new and particularly galling are some of the terms of this directive.

Specifically, that these orders cover the following three scenarios:

* If the rocket fire stops completely, so will IDF operations in Gaza.
* If Palestinians fire only at Sderot and other communities near Gaza, Israel will respond primarily with aerial assaults.
* If rockets hit Ashkelon, Israel will respond with ground operations like last week's, which killed over 100 Palestinians.

Source: haaretz.com

On the surface these appear to be standard "rules of engagement" for a military to operate under -- necessary for any combat situation. But if you look closer and read between the lines you will see the following implications:

1. Israel will adopt a reactive VS proactive policy of self-defense by only responding to attacks rather than going after the attackers before the attack takes place.
2. Israel will adopt a much harsher response if there are attacks on Ashkelon than if there are attacks on Sderot.

And by extension we can surmise that...

3. Israel is more willing to accept Qassam attacks on the innocent people of Sderot than Grad/Katyusha attacks on the apparently more innocent people of Ashkelon.

This is abhorrent.

Now of course there are other factors at play here. For example:

1. Ashkelon is a larger city than Sderot so an attack on Ashkelon demonstrates the enemy's ability to reach a higher population center, which puts more people at risk.
2. The type of rocket that can reach Ashkelon is more advanced, takes more time and preperation to fire and therefore implies the Hamas leadership's complicity in the attack.
3. Qassam rockets are much less likely to cause major damage or casualties than the more sophisticated Grad-type rockets that can reach Ashkelon.
4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Israeli soldiers (as well as Palestinian civilians) get killed in ground operations -- and any Israeli can tell you that it is always a last resort. Images of weeping Israeli mothers on national television is not good for business.

With all that said, there is no changing the facts on the ground. For whatever political calculation, the government (and therefore Olmert and/or Barak) are saying that the residents of Sderot, through no fault of their own, are only worth an air defense while the residents of Ashkelon are worth a full ground assault.

As we have seen from the mess in Lebanon and the continuing hell in Sderot, an air force simply cannot stop rocket attacks that can be fired by any Palestinian with a metal tube and a donkey. This is fact. We have seen that Hamas and Hizballah are willing to aborb the damage from aerial bombardment without so much as blinking an eye. This is also fact.

So in essence what these rules of engagement are saying is that the residents of Sderot will have to continue to live under constant attack. Olmert is willing only to react to these rocket strikes with limited strikes of his own. And as long as the war does not reach Ashkelon he is not willing to take proactive measures to actually STOP THEM FROM OCCURRING. He is ranking Sderot below Ashkelon in terms of importance and abandoning its residents to their fates. Imagine for a minute that Mexicans were taking pot shots across the Rio Grande and bringing terror from above to El Paso, but the American president decided that he would only invade Mexico if they demonstrated an ability to reach Dallas or Houston. RIDICULOUS!

So it is here and now that I repeat:

Enough is enough.

Political calculations aside, the fact that an ISRAELI prime minister has the nerve to decide that some Jews are more important than others simply based on WHERE THEY LIVE.

Enough is enough.

The fact that he bumbled his way into a war in Lebanon with no battle plan, continuing to trust his commanders to win the war from the sky after this policy had failed to prevent hundreds of rockets from raining down on the North for WEEKS.

The fact that he finally sent the infantry and tank divisions charging into Lebanon and expected to destroy Hizballah in three days.

The fact that all he accomplished with that ground operation was getting dozens of Israelis killed.

The fact that he sent in rookies who had no experience fighting Hizballah instead of the literally hundreds of thousands of reservists with decades-worth of first-hand knowledge of the Lebanese countryside.

But you know all this if you've read the Winograd report and if you followed the events as they happened. So why did I did not call for Olmert to step down in the wake of that disaster and I am now?

Because now he has proven that either he learned nothing from the war or he DID learn something and is STILL abandoning the Jews of Sderot to their fate. It is not that he is willing to attempt a cease-fire with Hamas, that is a different discussion entirely. I am not calling for a full invasion of Gaza, I am not advocating anything...I leave those decisions to the most efficient military in the world. No, the issue here is far deeper than that -- and it goes to the very concept of Israel as a safe haven for all Jews regardless of where they come from or where they choose to live.

It is the simple fact that when a prime minister of Israel willingly allows a situation to exist where Jews who are living IN ISRAEL are not protected from death, destruction and violence, he is defeating the entire purpose for which the state exists in the first place. And as such he has directly influenced the entire population of Diaspora Jewry who may one day in the future need that protection. Hence why I am comfortable commenting on this matter. This isn't a question of morality or religiousity or idealism, it a practical question of why the state even exists at all.

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone can learn from their mistakes and can be forgiven and move on. But if Olmert is really behind this order he is either completely incompetent or has failed his country in a way that violates the very principals it was founded on. Either way...


Get this clown out of here!