Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Maddening Mentality"

There's a common Hebrew expression: yeeyeh b'seder. "It'll be OK." Routinely said by way of assurance in any one of a number of situations.

Words of comfort are good, but often a situation will be "b'seder" only if proper action has been taken towards that end. And what is commonly seen is that the action is missing while the comfort is offered.

I've lived in Israel for seven years now and proudly consider myself Israeli in many ways. But this thinking baffles me. We're talking here not just about things like whether someone will find a new apartment. We're talking about the major issues the nation deals with. AI raise all of this now because we are facing one of the worst droughts in Israel's history and all sorts of emergency measures have just been announced. The baffling part of this, however, is that it was evident by the end of the winter -- say, by April -- that we had had insufficient rainfall over the winter rainy season, just as we had had insufficient last winter. And yet the emergency measures were not put into place until the situation had become dire. We might have saved considerable water between April and now, had action been taken sooner.


This paradigm of thinking: a lack of planning -- a lack of ability to anticipate potential consequences and then move in a timely fashion to avert them -- can be found in matters concerning serious security and political issues that affect Israel deeply.

What is this?

In part -- I don't delude myself otherwise -- this comes with self-concerned politicians who don't look beyond their own noses. They're in it for the short term, and concerned with looking good now -- the future be damned.

But in part, I am convinced, it comes with living perpetually in a state of stress and crisis, so that perhaps the only way that it becomes bearable to function is by closing some of it out and imagining that all will be well.

Unfortunately, this national mentality puts us at serious and unnecessary risk. And over and over in the last couple of years, I've had the maddening feeling that the government should have seen this or that coming -- "duhh," as they say -- and yet seemed to be blind-sided instead.


So, now, here's the sort of thing we are seeing -- and this is so typical: Senior Israeli defense officials have announced that Security Council resolution 1701 -- passed at the end of the Lebanon war two years ago -- is failing. It set in place what was supposed to be an enhanced UNIFIL (international) force in Lebanon that would work with the Lebanese army to stop Hezbollah from re-arming and re-deploying in the south of Lebanon.

But guess what? It didn't work. Syria is re-arming Hezbollah at a rapid clip.

Should anyone who has been staying abreast of happenings be surprised? I'm not surprised. Most of you are likely not surprised. So why do our officials announce this now as if it were news and not something that could have been anticipated from the beginning?

Anyone who's followed the situation in southern Lebanon over the past several years knows that UNIFIL tilted towards the Arabs. And I here have written about the declared reluctance of UNIFIL troops to do patrols at night and the fact that eye witnesses near the Syrian border attested to the presence of trucks driving over that border at night carrying weapons and supplies.

Is there anything I knew that Olmert and company were unaware of? Certainly not. But this resolution seemed to Olmert and Livni at the time a way out of the morass of the war. Livni, breathtakingly, referred to it as a diplomatic victory. No concern for consequences down the road. "Yeeyeh b'seder." Except that now these consequences have caught up with us. So Livni is reported to have said this week, "Hezbollah must be disarmed." Fat chance. And Olmert is convening the Security Cabinet to discuss the situation.


In spite of the fact that more mortars were shot from Gaza, we're keeping crossings open. This is, I suspect, linked to threats Hamas has made that only if this is done will there be progress on Shalit negotiations. If I am correct -- I cannot prove it -- then we're seeing one more sign of caving and loss of deterrence power.


Two Israeli Bedouin, who were arrested some weeks ago, have been indicted on charges of supplying information to al-Qaida that included routes for infiltrating the country and potential targets for terror attacks. They are both from the Bedouin city of Rahat, in the Negev, near Beersheva.


Announcement has been made of the arrest in May of four Hamas affiliated members of a cell in Nablus that was plotting suicide attacks inside of Israel utilizing chemical bombs. Apparently major hi-rise buildings in Tel Aviv were planned targets for these attacks. The cell members were working with an instructional video prepared by a senior Hamas bomb maker who was killed by the IDF in 2002.


A bill allowing the State to confiscate the property of terrorists has passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset.


As expected, the appeal to the High Court to block the trade with Hezbollah has not been accepted by the court, which declined to be involved.


Look for the Olmert-Talansky scandal to start becoming news again. Olmert has now admitted that he took envelopes of cash from Talansky, but says they contained only hundreds of dollars and were intended for expenses. Olmert is scheduled to be interrogated on Friday, and Talansky is due back here and is scheduled to be cross-examined by Olmert's lawyers next week.

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