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Points I’ve Been Pondering

Some reflections about Israel at war and America’s political war games

Photo: Flash90

Bibi — a Lame Duck but Not Tame

The risk that Israel’s Operation Iron Swords will morph into a broader regional conflict cannot be dismissed. However, even if the battle remains localized, and Israel achieves its goal of eradicating Hamas without spillover, there will be massive turnover at the top levels of the IDF and the various intelligence services after the last shots are fired, when blame is apportioned for the failure to heed multiple warnings of a Hamas invasion and prepare accordingly.

Would Prime Minister Netanyahu be personally implicated? There is a growing consensus that Israelis will demand a new postwar political configuration, and that even the Likud is ready to move on from Netanyahu. As a war hero, Netanyahu might even willingly step down as part of a plea bargain arrangement that ends his three corruption trials.

Pundits have scribbled Netanyahu’s political eulogy prematurely on many occasions, only to hit the delete button shortly thereafter, but my point is that even if Bibi isn’t a lame duck, he can benefit tactically by acting like one. He can prosecute the rest of the war more effectively and enforce his demand for a terror-free Gaza with an ongoing IDF presence if he makes decisions based on his experience and gut instincts rather than what’s going to win him votes. If he leads like he has nothing to lose, he will also be better able to resist the pressures from a Biden administration pandering to  progressive voters to win a second term.


Setting the Facts on the Ground Straight

When describing the failure of the military, intelligence, and political echelons to take steps to prevent the Simchas Torah massacre, the Israeli media uses the term “conceptzia,” which is slang for the prevailing misconceptions that blinded the top brass. Those misconceptions center on the over-reliance on a variety of high-tech devices to patrol and secure the border and on grossly underestimating the enemy’s capabilities and will to kill.

Those are just two of the symptoms. Israel made the same mistakes before the Yom Kippur War, whose underlying causes were supposedly diagnosed and treated, but they had a relapse. The first underlying cause is a concept called “victory disease,” which a US Army research report defined as a combination of “arrogance, complacency, and the habit of using established patterns to solve military problems.” I’ll leave that for the postwar investigative panel to explore, but the biggest underlying cause of the current failure stems from the 1993 Oslo Agreements, under which the Rabin-Peres government effectively legitimized Arab claims to the land of Israel.

To this day, Israelis brought up with little or no Torah education or even knowledge of our people’s history lack the vocabulary for defending our rightful, G-d-given claims to the land that go back almost 4,000 years. The Arabs, meanwhile — now known as Palestinians — are gregarious in their quest to deny our past and our destiny.

The overwhelming majority of Arabs who live between the (Jordan) River and the (Mediterranean) Sea descend from 19th-century Egyptians — migrant workers who arrived after Egypt took control of parts of “Palestine” after the Napoleonic wars, or from migrants who left the Ottoman Empire when it began to disintegrate in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Arab political aspirations in the land surfaced only as a rival movement to Jewish nationalism after the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in which the British expressed support for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine.

Too many people, including Israelis, have bought into the Palestinian narrative. It will take a massive re-education process to set the historical facts straight, and there’s no better time to start than now.


Humanitarian Hypocrisy in Gaza

While Israel battles Hamas, the international community is up in arms about what Gaza will look like the “day after.” What should be truly shocking is why nobody expressed similar concerns the day before.

Did you ever hear a word in the last 15 years about the humanitarian plight of Gaza residents when Hamas was expropriating apartment buildings, main thoroughfares, schools, hospitals, mosques, and playgrounds, to construct a tunnel infrastructure that rivals the New York City subway system? Did you ever hear a peep from the UN about Hamas commandeering UNRWA facilities to store weapons and use as bases to fire rockets into Israel? Or was the UN just too busy crafting anti-Israel resolutions to trifle with Hamas?

The same applies to Hezbollah, which has seized control of much of Lebanon for the sole purpose of waging jihad against Israel. Where is the international outrage? Why is there little or no humanitarian concern for Iranian dissidents trying to overthrow an Islamic regime that has financed terror to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars on almost every continent?

I understand it’s much easier to blame and pressure Israel, a liberal democracy, than to condemn and coerce brutal dictatorships. But isn’t it due time to apply some moral clarity to the issue? Israel did not cause Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, nor is it responsible for curing it.


Republican Debates Drone On

The Republican National Committee might have decided it’s done sponsoring presidential debates for now, but a couple of networks have picked up where they left off and will televise two more debates before next month’s Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. The four debates to date have been a major disappointment, especially for those hoping for a captivating alternative to Donald Trump.

Mike Pence, the former vice president, and the most dignified candidate in the field, bowed out early. Some intriguing new names, such as Doug Burgum and Tim Scott, barely got a word in edgewise, while Vivek Ramaswamy, who had a few wow moments in the first debate, looked sillier onstage every time he competed. Chris Christie is still hanging in there, but he has one goal — to goad the other candidates into attacking Trump — and he has failed miserably.

That leaves us with Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, who are flailing in the national polls. DeSantis has slid from 33% to 11% in the last year. Pundits keep talking up Haley, but her move from 3% to 10% in the national polls in 12 months hardly qualifies as the “surge” that they keep hyping, especially when she trails Trump by 50% nationally and 30% in her home state of South Carolina. Both DeSantis and Haley are smart, capable people who look increasingly like they picked the wrong year to run. Well, there’s always 2028.


Trump and the Inevitability Jinx

We all remember how Hillary Clinton was supposed to be “inevitable” in 2008 until Barack Obama came along, and 2016 was also supposed to be Hillary’s year until Donald Trump disrupted her coronation. There is many a slip between the cup and the lip, and it’s too early to raise a toast to Trump, but there is a vast difference between his current standing and Hillary’s fall from grace.

Remember, Trump was president for four years. There are at least 50 million Americans out there who think he did a great job and got cheated out of re-election in one manner or another, and would like to see him regain his rightful post in 2024. That’s a great head start, and if it becomes clear that there is no Republican alternative, Trump can work on rebuilding the rest of his winning 2016 coalition.

Until then, the presidential campaign still has this underlying dynamic of voters pining for someone other than Biden or Trump. There is talk of third-party candidates coming from both major parties. There are occasional whispers that Biden will drop out, without Vice President Harris dropping in. Or that Trump will be convicted in one or more of his trials and voters will drop him like a hot potato.

How much of this is wishful thinking? How much is hype from political writers with daily deadlines? Considering there is no viable alternative right now, from any candidate with big-name recognition, big-time accomplishments, or even sizzle, the safest bet is still a Trump-Biden rematch.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 990)

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