Jerusalem Magazine
Since this is going to be published in the New York Times I have to be more circumspect about what I write. The standards will be much more severe. The New York Times is after all the premiere newspaper in the USA. When these writing appear in that august publication, much will change.
Perception for one. No longer a crank journal from a nonentity, suddenly the thoughts carry weight and dignity. Image and perception. Published on the web through personal e-mail, the thoughts were frivolous and insignificant. Suddenly they carry import and meaning.
That’s what the war in Israel has become. Image and perception.  Has Israel lost? Has Israel won? Is Hezbollah a significant player in the Middle East, or a fleck of dust on the strands of time? If Hezbollah emerges intact from this war, Israel’s image drops. Imagine an old-fashioned grocery scale, put weight on one side to balance the other. If Hezbollah has more weight, Israel gets lighter, less significant. The converse is also true.
What bothers me is not that the war has become one of perception. Analysts say wars are usually 80 percent psychology. I’d have thought it was 80 per cent ammunition. Now our soldiers fighting on the borders are pawns in a game of chess aimed not at winning but in getting the best position before the powers that be step in to stop the conflict.
How would you like to be fighting for your life knowing that all you’re doing is getting Israel a better position at the negotiating table? I’d feel cheated. I’d feel that if I wasn’t fighting to win, but only for some better diplomatic solution, I wouldn’t fight as well.
But lucky for all of us, I’m not fighting.
The kids that are on the battlefront show admirable spirit. Those in hospital say they can’t wait to get back to their friends, their comrades. To protect their homes. These kids are heroes. And those that died? At least three of those Israelis killed so far were American born. Michael Levine came from Philadelphia. Yesterday a 52-year-old kibbutznik was killed driving his bicycle to his fields. The shrapnel from a katyushas killed him. He was an immigrant, born in the USA.
Israel is made up of immigrants. Many of the boys in uniform come from the former Soviet Union. Some, like Miki Levine, from the USA. Most from families that had been in Israel a few generations. Soldiers with a sense of unity, or purpose, thinking about each other, helping each other, not thinking of the big picture. Israeli army boys are a unit, each watching the other. Bond of Brothers. Wonderful to see.
Israel reportedly has only a few more days to reach their goals. Almost everyone agrees that power and strength will not win this war. But if Israel doesn’t make significant gains in the battlefront, then Israel will be forced to accept a peace settlement that will cause more problems in the future. Israel will be forced to accept an international force not to its liking.
These are the thoughts circulating in Israel. These are the discussions on the radio, on television, in the press. These are the thoughts of Israel PM Ehud Olmert. But one wonders if these goals of perception and image aren’t things better kept quiet, behind closed doors. Why should the public know that the war is only jockeying for position, because it can’t be won?
Much has been said about the over abundance of press coverage of every katyushas that falls, ever rocket that lands, ever tank that rumbles by. Yesterday the Israeli Army’s special ops people carried out a daring raid deep into Lebanon, along the Syrian border. We’ve all seen the video. It was like watching a Tom Clancy movie, little figures moving around on a TV screen, puffs of black smoke, commentary to tell us what was happening.
It was a major accomplishment. The Chief of Staff let it be known that Israel can strike anywhere, anytime. This was a raid on a hospital taken over by Hezbollah forces. Five Hezbollah men were taken back to Israel for interrogation. But the biggest prize was those minutes on TV, around the world. Look at what Israel has done. Image and perception.  As if you drive up to the bank in a new Lincoln, make sure the bank manager sees it, before asking for an extension on your loans. He’ll look at your balance sheet, at your income, and tell you that you’ve wasted money renting the Lincoln. He isn’t impressed.
If all we’re doing is fighting a war for TV, to impress the other side with our accomplishments, so that we can call a cease-fire and say we won, then I wonder at the logic of the conflict in the first place. I wonder if our erstwhile leaders haven’t lost sight of the major goals. If their public image, their place in history, their chances for reelection or kudos for the number of bombs they’ve dropped justify what is going on. I’m naïve. I admit it. Here all along I thought we were supposed to somehow or another kill off Hezbollah so they wouldn’t be a threat. My mistake.
Many of my friends will be angry with me for blasting the government in times of war, and they’d be right. I’m in favor of the government’s policies, like 90 per cent of the other Israelis. What bothers me is I suspect the conflict has ground down more to negotiations than battles. If that’s so, why not stop now: get the boys home before they get hurt.
But of course much as they’d like to say “We won, let’s go home,” it’s not possible. The goal is to somehow or another diminishes Hezbollah’s ability to strike at Israel’s borders and heartland. This will not be done in two days. This will not be done when the international community decides the battles are over. Because they won’t be over for a while. Israel will create a security zone in Lebanon, just like the one they left. The boys fighting today will be back doing their miluim (reserve duty) next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. And it won’t be fun.
For all the talk of a cease-fire and an international force, no one is seriously going to face Hezbollah but Israel. Thirty rockets so far today. The homeland security chief has told residents to stay in their shelters. This ain’t over yet.
The army says that fifty-percent of Hezbollah’s strength has been eroded. But Hezbollah still has thousands of missiles. Thousands. State-Sponsored Terrorism. And what’s being done about it? Israel is criticized for bombing Lebanon. CNN shows pictures of the before and after of Beirut, tsk tsking the air force’s bombing Hezbollah targets. Much more dramatic pictures than the Israeli side. But sort of skipping over the fact that Israel is trying to stop the Hezbollah from showering Israel with missiles.
Yesterday the long-range Katyushas were fired. One hit Afula, one struck near the Arab village of Jenin, forty miles from Lebanon. A narrow shallow security zone isn’t going to stop them, either.  Israel’s Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fisher, a new immigrant from the highest levels of US economic circles, estimates that Israel is loosing about $250 million a week on this war.
It’s going to cost big bucks to keep our troops in Lebanon for who knows how long. Last time it was 18-years. Soon the press will blame Israel for occupying Lebanon, again, as if Israel has nothing better to do, as if occupation is a pastime Israelis engage in, like lawn blows, during their leisure time, when they get bored.
Former Sec. Of State Henry Kissenger said, ‘just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not out to get you.’ Given the several thousand Hezbollah rockets that have fallen on Israel so far; given the fact that Hamas is still firing in the south, given that both Hamas and Hezbollah are still holding Israeli soldiers, and most of all, given the fact that the Iranian government calls Israel a cancer that has to be excised from the world, there is ample room for paranoia.
Arabs are famous for over-exaggerating their successes, the numbers of Israeli tanks destroyed, the number of soldiers killed, and the numbers of Lebanese massacred by Israel. The Kana disaster is a case in point. Now the numbers of  killed dropped by half. The Arab side was always good at the image and perception thing. Israel was more interested in facts on the ground, proven and provable in a scientific method.
Winston Churchill warned about Hitler for years, and forced into fighting, designed a plan to destroy the enemy. Now we’re more concerned with providing content to keep the viewers watching between commercials.  George W. Bush, though, and Tony Blair, seems to get it. Like Churchill they see the big picture. They see that a Beirut building bombed to rubble is what happens to a country when it goes to war. They see that if something tough isn’t done more bombs will go off in London Subways, Spanish train stations, Twin Towers of democracy in the USA. They see that the struggle is far from over, and if the public doesn’t rise to the challenge radical Islam will take over the world, a country at a time. That’s why these guys care about Israel. It’s like watching the Spanish Civil War in 1936, with the Democrats against the Fascists. You don’t have to be a genius to see what follows the Hezbollah Israel struggle. Even if Hezbollah loses.
Tisha B’Av. The destruction of the Temples. Someone had to be watching. Had to know what was coming. Maybe no one listened. Not even the NYTimes.
August 10, 2006 Day 30 War in Israel