Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mizrachi staff solves the Middle East crisis!

OK, now here is a conversation that went really well. I thought. In it, I solve all the problems in the Middle East! That was easy!

Forwarded conversation
Subject: thoughts?

From: Michael Unterberg
Date: Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 12:38 PM
To: Judaic Staff Meeting


From: Rabbi Aaron Bayer
While I’m not sure that I agree that this episode dictates we must rush to the negotiating table I think that his point about balancing the power of force with the power of ideas is an important one. This is refreshing to hear from the left but I am concerned that I will not hear anything similar from the right.
 From: Dara Unterberg
i take issue with his equating what happened on that ship with using force as a means of smashing problems and squashing ideas . those soldiers used force only in self defense.

 Every attempt to use force not as a preventive measure, not in self-defense, but instead as a means of smashing problems and squashing ideas, will lead to more disasters, just like the one we brought on ourselves in international waters, opposite Gaza’s shores.

i also think he is oversimplyfying the solution. just go back to 67 borders, divide jerusalem- and even if that happens,  whats the guarantee that everything will now be fine?

Thus, the only way for Israel to edge out Hamas would be to quickly reach an agreement with the Palestinians on the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as defined by the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has to sign a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank — and by doing so, reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip. That latter conflict, in turn, can be resolved only by negotiating with Hamas or, more reasonably, by the integration of Fatah with Hamas.

i do think that his point about hamas being an idea is important to grapple with.

But Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. No idea has ever been defeated by force — not by siege, not by bombardment, not by being flattened with tank treads and not by marine commandos. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one.

i'm outta here now. i know this isn't the email group with the republicans in it, but even so, commenting on politics makes me nervous! SO IF ANYONE DISAGREES WITH ME, BE NICE ABOUT IT! (who said there's no crying in baseball?)

From: Adin Krohn

First of all, Dara, I think most, if not all, of your ideas here would be echoed even by republicans, so I think you are safe. I think...

I agree with what's been said, just want to add one point which is that I am confused as to why the solution has to be offered by Israel alone. Where is the accountability on the palestinian side? Israel has made very generous offers in the past and they have been summarily rejected. Now they say "just give us East Jerusalem and all will be fine." Will it?
There is such lack of trust on both sides. Not sure how to overcome that. I feel like we have given in so much in the past, and have nothing to show for it, Gaza being the prime example.

On one hand, I think the world doesn't look to Hamas for answers because why expect a terrorist organization to come up with an alternative idea? That is the genius of their strategy.
On the other hand, negotiating with the PA without a solution for gaza is untenable at this point.
So what are we to do?

Mr.Oz suggests an oversimplified solution, as Dara said, which assumes that the palestinian leadership has its people's best interests in mind. Unfortunately, I don't share that assumption.

Are we, alone, the ones responsible to offer the Gaza population a better idea, or is that the role of the PA as well? I think it must be a joint effort.
Meanwhile, israel has to deal with the fact that Gaza is controlled by terrorists. The blockade prevents arms from reaching there. Why shouldn't we continue to prevent this?



From: Noam Shapiro

Totally with you, Adi. The Palestinian leadership is NOT interested in that peace agreement. Arafat turned it down in 2000. What makes anyone think that the Palestinian leadership as it currently stands would be more willing to take that offer?

I also echo your sigh. I'm not sure what the way out of all of this is, but these days I'm just feeling more and more "ein lanu al m lihishaen ela al avinu shebashamayim."

From: Michael Unterberg

The problem cannot be solved in the next few years. But we can arrange to get closer or farther away from future solutions. Will it take 20, 50 or 100 years till things are normal? I think how we act now will answer that question.

That is why I support:

1) Unilateral disengagement to the borders indicated by Barak in 2000. These societies have to be seperated till a new generation rises without the fear and distrust. Look at the current American relationship with Viet-Nam.
2) Massive Israeli diplomatic pressure on nations and international organizations to help it provide aid to palestinians without compromising security.

Where I agree with Oz is that we have developed a successful and professional military. It may not be perfect, but it is one of the best in the world.
Its doctrine is based on professionalism, careful planning, quick execution, preemptively striking and taking the battle into the enemies borders.

Why does our diplomacy not share these elements? Both in communication to media and other governments, it does the opposite of the things I just listed. Why?

I think because of Ben-Gurion's famous "Oom Shmoom" attitude, which was appropriate in the desperate struggle for survival years of the 1950's. But this "What difference does it make since the goyim will always hate us anyway" attitude is defeatest, counterproductive, and (in my opinion) lacking in Zionist ideology.

We should be asking for govt.s and NGOs to invest in building plants and factories in Gaza and WB, increasing the flow of goods and people into Egypt and Jordan, human rights and freedoms in the territories, etc. If they can't do these things, how can they blame us? If they can, so much the better. But take the ball to their court. Why did we not ask for international intervention LAST WEEK to help us negotiate a stitch in time solution with Turkey? If it worked, great! If not, we could be seen as truly looking for solutions instead of being perceived as beating up "peace activists".

I agree with Oz that we are fighting the wrong battles. We win every military conflict, and we're loosing the war for legitimacy.

We can fight like a proud, free people. We walk the walk. Let's talk the talk.

On the same point, with a different illustration:

By the way, I'm tempted to post this discussion on my blog. Is that ok with everyone? Anybody else want to weigh in?

From: Adin Krohn

good article- thanks.

I do not mind at all if you want post this discussion. Glad you got it started.


From: Michael Unterberg

Cool. But does anyone think that there's any merit to what I am saying?

From: Noam Shapiro

I totally hear what you're saying Michael. I do think it makes a lot of sense. My only concern would be what Dara said earlier- since there is no guarantee that moving back to those borders would make things better, why do it? And there IS a potential loss here- big time. First, uprooting lots of people from their homes. And second, if indeed Aarb mentality did not change, increasing Arab territory would weaken us and be dangerous.

From: Michael Unterberg

Good, clear points. I'll respond:

1) "since there is no guarantee that moving back to those borders would make things better, why do it?" I think we need to carefully define what "better" is, by setting reasonable expectations. Everyone in this conversation is agreeing that Fatah will not make peace with us any time soon. So, do we want to live together with people we are at war with, or separate from them? I think that separation is better. I think Gaza has been a success. We stop suicide bombers from getting across the border with fair frequency. We can't stop rockets, just like we couldn't before disengagement. But we can now act with deterrent force, and then withdraw. This is how we dealt with Egypt, Syria, etc., and in the end deterrence works best. So I think Sharon's disengagement has been a success. It hasn't solved all of the problems, (it was going to) and it hasn't come without a price. (it wasn't going to) But I think it has made things better, after you define what the optimal better could be. The other system is what we do in the West Bank. Which brings me to...

2) " there IS a potential loss here- big time". No question about it. I think you are, if anything, understating the loss. We are talking about the amputation of our heartland, Yehuda and Shomron. But as with any amputation, the question is, what do you lose if you keep the status quo? And limbs get amputated on such shikulay hadaat. Do we want our Israeli youth indefinitely serving in Palestinian homes, towns and villages? When you look into how security operations run, it is impossible for me to imagine that our chaylim's souls are not suffering. Talk to a typical hesdernik about politics, and see if you are impressed with his ahavat habriot. Morally, should Zionism, a movement of national liberation, exist at the expense of another? For these and other reasons I think that the status quo is untenable. The price is too high. We may need to take the loss.

3) "if indeed Aarb mentality did not change, increasing Arab territory would weaken us and be dangerous." What's the if? In the near future I think that's a given. (barring some game changing unforeseen event) But that gets me back to my point one. Deterrence is morally preferable and pragmatically superior to occupation. If Lebanon isn't a proof that deterrence is better than occupation, I don't know what is. The attrition and loss of life we endured in South Lebanon for 15 years are less awful than the creation of Hizbulla as the major force in the country. We ended with a ridiculous retreat. But even that strategic bungle has brought us not victory, not peace, but a condition that is better than it was. We aren't losing a steady stream of casualties, we aren't harangued (perhaps rightly) for that occupation, and it is much, much cheaper. Soldiers who serve in the north complain that it is so much more boring than serving in the West Bank. I wish boring tours of duty for all of our soldiers.

Sometimes, when you can't solve the problem, and the status quo is awful, all you can do is make things better. First define it, then work toward it.

Please let me know what you think, everybody.

From: Adin Krohn

As always, Michael, good food for thought.

Here is my concern (which doesn't necessarily preclude your suggestion):
The withdrawal from Gaza has eliminated certain problems. But, it has created a feeling of despair in that when we give in, they Arabs just get bolder and demand more.
so what do we do in 20 years? give away more?
I also want boring tours of duty for soldiers- especially starting 6 1/2 years from now- but do we give up too much in the hopes of change?
Territory relinquished will never (well, almost never) come back to us. But coming up with an alternative plan which could help change the Palestinian mindset would allow us to "wait it out" while developing a true partner for peace.
I fell it is sort of like in a card game- who's gonna show their hand first? If we could trust they would not slip an ace out of their sleeve after we showed our cards, then fine. but if not, people just want to hold our cards close to our vest.

I love your idea about enlisting the rest of the world to provide aid, developing infrastructure in the WB and gaza, etc. I think that the latter is the road to freedom for their people from their leadership. I mean, it is astounding to me how abbas calls for a boycott of "settlement" goods when the arabs are employed all over the WB. Hurting Israeli business hurts them more. But if we could help them develop their own businesses, develop their society, education, etc then I feel much more positive about the whole thing.

btw- can you remind me what the specific borders Barak suggested in 2000 are?

Keep talking everyone, this is interesting.

Shabbat shlaom,


From: Michael Unterberg

I understand what you mean. I think I feel the same way that you do, but my head tells me it won't work.

I guess I'm more pessimistic about the Palestinians. I don't hope for change in the near future. And I think the status quo has been untenable and due for change for decades.

And what is that alternative plan you refer to? I'm pretty sure that somebody would have thought of it by now. There has only been one basic solution, and the UN came up with the basic framework in 1947. Lefi aniyut daati, there has always been only one solution to two people who believe they have a right to the same land. partition.

I also never get the, "then don't we have to keep giving away more" question. We are debating about the West Bank, and no Israeli government has or will ever give away land west of the green line. (other than small amounts on return for Jewish land inside the green line)

The fuzziness of that issue is part of the problem. What is our end game? Where do we want these millions of Arabs to live? In or out of Israel? If the answer is out, then what are we waiting for. We may be playing cards close to the vest, but they are playing chess. Their end game is all of Israel. They already lost the battles and the war, so they are moving the front to the realm of PR where we are losing. I say, let's start beating them at that fight. And cut to the chase on the only possible land solution.

Here are some maps of Camp David 2000:

Shabbat Shalom, oh Rabbi with extra leisure time!


No comments: