Sunday, June 8, 1997

Tumbling Backwards

Tumbling Backwards
June 8, 1997

A good friend of mine is presently doing his annual military reserve stint. Each day and/or night for three weeks he patrols areas in the Southern Hebron Hills. I’ve done the same duty in the past. However, now the patrols have new jeeps, looking a little sturdier than those I remember from a few years past. This morning I mentioned this to him after Shabbat prayers and he agreed. "Yes, they are a little more dependable, but they are also slower. It’s very difficult to try and chase anyone or any other vehicle." When I asked him why, he replied, "They are like tanks. They are bullet proof." When I looked at him, more or less stunned, he added, "Each one costs about $60,000."
The Israeli army has a reputation of being one of the best armed forces in the world. The IDF has a tremendous amount to its credit, taking into account the wars and battles fought since 1948. Israel cannot afford to lose a war, and, thank G-d, we never have. Or, have we? The ‘intifada,’ fought for close to ten years by the Arabs in Yesha against Israel was successful. This revolt against the State of Israel had, in reality, almost died out when Rabin was elected in 1992. But that regime took advantage of the smoldering remains of the intifada to initiate the Oslo Accords, leading to all that has transpired since. I guess it is true to say that the intifada was a war which Israel lost. And what a costly defeat!
Why did we lose the intifada war? Was there another way? Of course there was, but, then again, who was minister of Defense when it broke out - none other than our late Prime Minister Rabin. He didn’t try very hard to stop it. The intifada could have been ended quickly, with very little, if any, bloodshed. It wouldn’t have been difficult to do, ten years ago. However, as time went on, as the world media began to give more air time to the ‘poor palestinians,’ we found ourselves in a very difficult situation. This condition was exasperated when the army was sent to do the work of police, and, as the plight deteriorated, were forced to do nothing. Perhaps that is not exactly true. The army didn’t do ‘nothing.’ Rather the IDF began taking only defensive actions, and refused to view the continued violence as a war against Israel. Consequently, the troops, in spite of their being dressed in uniform and equipped with weapons, were forbidden to be soldiers. They were almost never allowed to take the offensive. The leaders of the intifada were not rooted out. Quite simply, Israel refused to treat the war against the State as war - and the results are today apparent. A war cannot be won if it is not recognized as such - a war cannot be won if there is only a defensive posture, without any offensive against the enemy. That is why we lost.
One would think that, even if mistakes are made, they would be learned from. Unfortunately, in Israel today, the opposite is true. We are continuing down the road of errors, on several fronts. Perhaps the most obvious example is in Lebanon. Our forces patrol are attacked, wounded and killed by Hisbullah terrorists, our airforce bombs some villages, and on it goes. We have lost many many fine young men in this tragic cycle of events.
The new bullet proof jeeps are another prime example of basic capitulation. I am not in favor of soldiers being shot in their jeeps. But one has to ask oneself, if the vehicles are bullet proof, isn’t this an acceptance of that fact that we will be shot at and there is nothing we can do about it? This is tantamount to throwing in the towel - saying, "I give up." "I won’t leave, but I know that you are here, you are going to try and kill me, and this is my answer, my reaction - my jeep is bullet proof."
Is this the way the ‘best’ army in the world should perform?
Last week Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu released his plan for final status talks with Arafat. He has adopted the ‘Allon Plan - Plus.’ This plan, initiated by the late Yigal Allon almost 20 years ago, calls for an enlarged Jerusalem, and blocks of ‘settlements’ throughout Yehuda, Shomron and Gazza. According to some media reports, Netanyahu has accepted that fact that some ‘settlements’ will have to me ‘moved,’ i.e. uprooted. It accepts the fact that Arafat has rights within a large amount of Yesha. And, finally, it intrinsically accepts the creation of a palestinian state.
Is this why we elected Netanyahu? To hear about ‘settlement blocks?’ - to hear about bullet proof jeeps? - to hear about soldiers who aren’t allowed to be soldiers?
On Yom Yerushalayim the central event takes place at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem - the Yeshiva founded by Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook. This yeshiva is the leader of all Zionist yeshivas in Israel. This year’s guest of honor was none other than Bibi, who spoke about continued settlement in Eretz Yisrael. I was very sorry when no one there had the guts, in the middle of his speech, to get up and ask him, "What about Hebron - who gave Hebron to Arafat?" Instead, the yeshiva boys applauded him, clapped their hands, sang songs, and encouraged him. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why.
On the face of it we don’t have to attack Bibi’s peace plan because it will never happen. It is nowhere near enough for the Arabs. For them, it is much too little. But if this is Bibi’s starting point, if this is where he is beginning the negotiations, where will they lead to?
Netanyahu is playing with forbidden fruit - he is regurgitating the same blunders made by his predecessors - the blunders that led to the Camp David Accords, to the Madrid Conference, and to Oslo. If the fear of G-d isn’t enough for him, Bibi perhaps should closely examine what happened to all those who participated in, and concluded those historic transgressions. Where are they today? Where does he want to be three years from now? Netanyahu has made some very serious mistakes, but it isn’t too late to correct, at least, some of them. It isn’t too late to make amends, and stop now, before it gets worse.
But for the time being, he is just tumbling backwards, and taking us all with him.

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