Archive for the ‘Moty & Udi’ Category

Moty & Udi: On having what it takes

Monday, July 4th, 2011

I’m reading Yehuda Avner’s book, The Prime Ministers. Avner worked closely with Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin and Menachem Begin. He held positions as a speechwriter, ambassador to several countries, etc., and met some of the personalities that played a major role in the events of the time. Avner finds good qualities in all of the Prime Ministers for whom he worked — he certainly admired Rabin, but he clearly loved Menachem Begin, a man who understood traditional Judaism as well as the practical realities of governing the state, who was equally at home with diaspora Jews and sabras, a man who lived humbly and was unfailingly polite to everyone he encountered regardless of their importance.

All four of the above put the welfare of the state of Israel and the Jewish people far above above any personal or partisan goals. None of them sought personal aggrandizement or became wealthy during their political careers. Things have changed, haven’t they? Compare Begin with a Peres or an Olmert!

The comparison with American presidents is hard to avoid as well. Most of our recent leaders have been mediocrities without substance, sold to us by campaigns crafted to project appropriate messages to multiple sectors of the electorate, to take advantage of our electoral system, a combination of Madison Avenue,  Hollywood and the arcane world of shadowy political consultants.

In office, they affect the trappings of emperors, flying here in there in astronomically expensive movements with huge entourages. Those that are not multi-millionaires shortly become such.

Some have suggested that excessive grandiosity in the behavior of leaders, the building of massive edifices, etc. are signs of decadence and incipient decay in institutions like corporations or nations. Makes sense to me.

It might be, at least in America, that the selection process makes it almost certain that we will get a vain, cardboard figure, likely to put the lowest forms of partisan politics and his personal well-being above the good of the nation. Because of its small size and the existential nature of the problems it faces, it may still be possible for Israel to have a man like Begin become Prime Minister.

Of course you can’t expect that a prime minister or president can, like Udi, have zero interest in politics. But I think that the most important qualities of a leader have little to do with politics. They are dedication to an ideal which transcends ambition for fame, historical recognition, wealth, etc.; the highest degree of personal integrity, humility, and the ability to maintain those characteristics despite the temptations of office. A tendency to want to think things through oneself rather than rely on experts helps, too, as John F. Kennedy famously found out after the Bay of Pigs.

Examples of leaders with these qualities are Begin and Rabin, and in America, Harry S. Truman. All of them made mistakes, but all of them also displayed the integrity essential for leadership, something rare indeed.

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Moty & Udi: A creative scenario

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Judah Rosenthal, who draws Moty and Udi, has been away for a few weeks, busy illustrating a book, work that he gets paid for (unlike Moty and Udi). I’m glad he’s back.

Like Shula, I’m going to be creative today. Here is a little science fiction set in the near future:


June 21, 2013, 6 months into Barack Obama’s second term.

Secretary of State Power has announced that she will be coming to the region to visit the Sunni and Shiite caliphates (in Turkey and Iran respectively). She’ll also visit Palestine and the Islamic Republic of Egypt, with a stopoff in occupied Israel to visit the troops and investigate the humanitarian crisis there.

Flashback to September, 2011:

Lebanon introduces a Security Council resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from all of Judea, Samaria Eastern Jerusalem, and designating that area as the Palestinian Homeland. President Obama offers Israel a deal:

The US will veto the resolution if Israel will agree to an aggressive timetable to vacate most of the territories (he will allow Israel to keep the large settlement blocs and some parts of eastern Jerusalem). Obama offers to set up early-warning stations in the Jordan Valley, manned by US troops. Obama makes it clear that if Israel does not agree, the US will abstain.

Israel agrees. The resolution is withdrawn — Obama would prefer not to have to veto it and Lebanon obliges — and the first withdrawals are scheduled for January 2012. The PA announces that it is declaring a state with provisional borders and announces that any land evacuated by Israel will become part of Palestine.

Right-wing parties criticize Netanyahu but most accept that the alternative would have been worse and the government stays in place.

Egyptian elections are held. The largest single bloc of seats is gained by the Muslim Brotherhood, which easily puts together a coalition of smaller parties.

Bashar al-Assad retains control of Syria, by viciously suppressing his enemies, particularly Sunnis. Turkey warns Assad that it won’t tolerate what it (ironically) calls ‘genocide’.

The Turkish AKP government removes the last vestiges of secularism from its armed forces and judicial system. Although it did not get a 2/3 majority in elections which would allow it to automatically replace the constitution, it prepares to submit a new constitution to a national referendum.

January 10, 2012.

Israel begins to evacuate smaller settlements, while continuing talks with the US about the timetable and exactly what will be included in its withdrawal. The process is destructive to Israeli society, pitting Right against Left and deepening divisions. It is expensive and creates much human misery. The PA claims that it is not moving fast enough, that the US is biased toward Israel and is not holding it to the agreement.

The Egyptian government schedules a referendum on a new constitution, which calls for all legislation to be ‘grounded in’ Shari’ia. It further relaxes restrictions on its border with Gaza. There are several attacks perpetrated by terrorists crossing the Israel-Egypt border.

Israel and the PA make an agreement for a prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit. Israel releases 1,000 prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti. Shalit goes home at last.

PA elections are held. Hamas wins a small majority of seats. Barghouti is chosen as a compromise President.

May 1, 2012.

Barghouti protests Israeli incursions into what it calls “Sovereign Palestinian territory” in Judea and Samaria. Fatah officials understand that the IDF is keeping them alive. Nevertheless, Obama sharply criticizes Israel, and the IDF’s activities there become reactive rather than pro-active.

Islamic Jihad in Gaza takes credit for a Qassam missile that makes a direct hit on a bus at a kibbutz next to the border, killing 20. IAF bombs PIJ targets in Gaza, warns Hamas that it is responsible. Hamas claims that its people have been hit, and fires rockets. Iron Dome intercepts many, but not all. Thousands of residents of southern Israel in shelters.

Egypt adopts new, Islamist constitution. Obama congratulates Egypt on peaceful process.

May 3, 2012.

Hamas rocket-firing continues. Israel bombs Hamas targets, begins to prepare for major incursion. Obama and the Egyptian President warn Israel not to invade Gaza. Egypt moves tanks and artillery into the Sinai. Barghouti arranges cease-fire with Hamas, then demands acceleration of withdrawals in return.

A seismic event is detected in Iran. US, Israeli and Russian monitors believe it is a nuclear test, but don’t make this public.

November 6, 2012.

Barak Obama is re-elected. He gets 78% of the Jewish vote.

January 20, 2013.

Barack Obama is inaugurated for his second term. Hillary Clinton is replaced by Samantha Power as Secretary of State.

February 4, 2013.

Power meets with Barghouti; they issue joint demand that Israel make more rapid progress in evacuating Judea and Samaria. Security Council resolution calling for immediate withdrawal and declaring Palestinian homeland is re-introduced.

Turkey adopts new, Islamist constitution. Obama congratulates Turkey on peaceful process.

February 15, 2013.

Security Council votes. US abstains, and the resolution passes. Power makes a speech in which she says that we gave Israel every chance to comply, but the Palestinian people have waited long enough. Obama says nothing. US Jewish leaders are shocked, shocked.

Terrorism against Israeli settlements increases. When the IDF goes after perpetrators, Power warns Israel to desist from ‘aggression’ in the territories.

February 28, 2013.

A security council resolution calling for economic sanctions against Israel and an arms embargo in order to “protect the Palestinian people” is introduced.

March 15, 2013.

The US votes for the resolution and it passes. Pro-Israel forces in US Congress are furious, but US is embroiled in the Venezuelan missile crisis as well as trying to get the remainder of its troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq alive, and there just isn’t room to worry about Israel.

April 4, 2013.

Another mysterious seismic event in Iran. Definite confirmation of a test of an operational nuclear weapon.

Israel sends its Foreign Minister to the US to beg for action against the Iranian bomb. But the administration had long since decided that the world would have to accept a nuclear Iran. FM argues that Iran is expected to attack Israel in the immediate future. FM is told not to worry.

April 5, 2013.

Israeli commandos attack the US X-band radar facility in the Negev, putting it out of commission (the X-Band radar is manned by US personnel — it is off-limits to Israelis — and it can detect a plane or missile taking off anywhere in the country).

Israel bombs nuclear installations in Iran. At the same time it attacks missile launchers in Lebanon.

Hizballah launches a massive missile barrage at Israel. Many of the missiles are intercepted, but there is a huge amount of damage and thousands die. After 3 days, 90% of Hizballah’s missile capability is destroyed. Hassan Nasrallah and most of Hizballah’s high officials and commanders are dead, buried in a slagheap that was their bunker. Hizballah is out of the war.

Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and Judea/Samaria fire rockets and infiltrate into Israel to carry out terror attacks.

Iran attempts to fire intermediate-range ballistic missiles at Israel. Most are destroyed at launch. None hit their targets. They keep trying.

April 6, 2013.

A furious Obama demands an immediate cease-fire. He calls the attack on the X-band radar ‘an act of war’, and recalls the USS Liberty incident. The security council meets in emergency session.

Israel activates non-nuclear focused EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapons over major Iranian cities and military installations,  frying almost every electrical and electronic device in the country. Automobiles stop running, radios and telephones go silent, even streetlights go out. Oil and water pumps stop turning. Nobody is directly injured, but Iran has been set back 150 years in a few milliseconds.

April 9, 2013.

The dramatic part of the war is over, but the IDF fights bands of terrorists all over the country, while still trying to evaluate the massive damage to life and infrastructure suffered from the missile attacks. Stunned Iranians are trying to figure out how they will get food and water with most of the means of communications and transport non-functional.

April 15, 2013.

The Israeli PM explains that he had no other choice to save his nation short of full-scale nuclear war, but world reaction against Israel is furious. The Lebanese and Palestinians are claiming huge casualty numbers, and most people believe that Israel used a nuclear weapon against Iran. Egyptians are demonstrating in the streets, calling for an immediate invasion of Israel. Many Egyptian volunteers go to join Hamas forces, until the government, afraid of retaliation, shuts the border.

Public opinion in Europe, especially the UK, is massively anti-Israel. People are prepared to believe any story, no matter how horrible or how irrational, and there is no shortage of those prepared to tell such stories. The Guardian has huge headlines accusing Israeli and IDF leaders of mass murder.

The Security Council accuses Israel of aggression. Secretary of State Power makes an impassioned speech in which she calls Israel a rogue state, and says that the Palestinians are in danger of genocide. The Council decides to send troops to protect the Palestinians.

April 25, 2013.

Troops from the US, France, Turkey and the UK arrive in Israel. They set up a caretaker government under a High Commissioner to administer the country. Members of the Israeli cabinet and General Staff are arrested on suspicion of war crimes.


This is just one possible universe of many. My creative imagination is not much better than Shula’s — who knows if what will really happen will be better or worse? It will certainly be more complicated — I left out the actions likely to be taken by Syria, Turkey, etc.

I learned two things from the exercise above: one is the importance of the US administration. If you think it’s hostile now, wait until its second term, if it gets one.

The other is that the information war is critical to the overall outcome. In my scenario, Israel fought a defensive — if preemptive — war, and in military terms, was victorious. But the political outcome was just the reverse.

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Moty & Udi: Can this marriage be saved?

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Nobody expects the marriage (the Fatah/Hamas one, not the royal one) to last. My view is that it is a marriage of convenience, planned to present the Palestinian Arabs as speaking with one voice just long enough to get the state of ‘Palestine’ declared.  Afterward, there will be a divorce and a violent custody battle over ‘Palestine’. One could imagine the IDF taking sides against Hamas in this one.

Some analysts don’t agree. They think that adding Hamas to the mix will make it harder to get recognition for ‘Palestine’. After all, Hamas won’t agree to recognize Israel and give up terrorism, etc., and the US and EU are insisting that any Palestinian government do so. But in my opinion, the EU is already beginning to weaken. Although the US could have been counted on in the past, we really can’t predict what this administration will do.

One partner in the marriage has already been shown (Gaza, 2007) to be an abusive spouse. So far, the only thing that has prevented Hamas from taking over in Judea and Samaria has been the presence of the IDF, which almost every night arrests Hamas operatives there. You know what will happen if the IDF withdraws!

There are some bright spots. “Joe Settler” points out that a married couple shares their liabilities as well as their assets. When Hamas joins the PA, then the PA becomes responsible for Gilad Shalit. Can a responsible government justify holding an innocent citizen of another country incommunicado, for ransom, for almost five years? Not to mention the rockets that are still being fired into southern Israel by Hamas.

The Fatah/PLO faction is clearly in a giddy honeymoon state. Here’s what one PLO diplomat told a friendly reporter:

The new Palestinian government will respect all previous PLO agreements, including the Road-map commitment to an end to violence and the Arab Peace Initiative, and it will move toward establishing a Palestinian state on 1967 borders … How could the EU come out against a government that has the same policies as the EU itself on this region? I don’t think that is an option.

Hamas as a movement might have a document calling for armed struggle, but as part of a unity government, it will have to respect the law and it will have to respect the Roadmap … Israel is saying we have to choose between peace and Hamas. But Hamas is part of Palestinian society, it’s part of our people. They must respect the choice of the Palestinian people and see Hamas as part of the [final?] solution, not part of the problem.

That’s interesting, since even the PLO never lived up to Roadmap obligations to stop terrorism and incitement, and Hamas has already made clear that they will not compromise their genocidal principles.

I also like the part about Hamas being “part of the solution,” but the Israeli response that the Arabs must choose between Hamas and peace is, well, stupid. The PA voted against peace in 2000 at Camp David, in 2008 when it rejected Olmert’s proposal and just last year when it refused direct negotiations with Israel. And Fatah, the dominant PLO faction, rejected peace at its convention in 2009 when it adopted a resolution reaffirming its commitment to armed resistance. So don’t bother saying “the Palestinians must choose.” They’ve chosen, over and over, with and without Hamas.

So, Can This Marriage be Saved? Who cares, they’re both jerks.

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Moty & Udi meet a rabbinical student

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Yesterday I mentioned an article by Rabbi Daniel Gordis that I found positively shocking (although on second thought, not so surprising). Gordis, a Conservative rabbi who made aliyah to Israel from the US in 1998, tells us about some American rabbinical students:

Item: Not long ago, a student at one of America’s recognized rabbinic schools sent a note to the school’s e-mail list saying that it was time to buy a new tallit.  Seeking advice about what to buy and where to get it, the student noted that there was only one stipulation – the tallit could not be made in Israel…

Item: Also not long ago, other rabbinical students were discussing how to add relevance to their observance of Tisha Be’av. They began to compile a list of other moments in history that should be mourned. One suggested that 1948 be added. Because of the Nakba? No, actually. It was time, this student said, to mourn the creation of the State of Israel.

Item: A rabbinical student in Jerusalem for the year chose to celebrate his birthday in Ramallah, accompanied by fellow students. There they sat at the bar, with posters (which they either did or didn’t understand) extolling violence against the Jewish state on the wall behind them, downing their drinks and feeling utterly comfortable. Photographs of the celebration got posted online.

What is common to the soon-to-be-rabbis in these stories is not that they are ‘peaceniks’ who think that the road to peace runs through Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. No, they are simply anti-Israel (or, in the last case, at least indifferent to its survival).

Rabbis are an extreme example, but — as I wrote in my “Beinartism” post yesterday — the relationship with the US is essential to Israel’s survival, and the phenomenon of anti-Zionist American Jews is more dangerous to it than numbers might suggest.

Beinartism — the view that the state of Israel is not worthy of support because it allegedly is (or is becoming) an undemocratic, theocratic and morally corrupt state — is a particularly ugly ploy, because it proposes that Jews should not support Israel because Israel does not exemplify Jewish values. So it has a particular appeal for liberal rabbinical students whose idea of Jewish values is that they are synonymous with secular humanistic ones.


The movement to delegitimize Israel has thus found an argument that specifically targets Jews. But of course the idea that Israel is becoming a Fascist state is useful practically everywhere in the West. A reader expressed concern to me today about a recent poll, which purportedly illustrates how “young Israelis are moving much further to the right politically”:

The study found that 60 percent of Jewish teenagers in Israel, between 15 and 18 years old, prefer “strong” leaders to the rule of law, while 70 percent say that in cases where state security and democratic values conflict, security should come first.

Hmm, can you say “false dichotomy?” Surely the best possible situation would a rule of law with strong leadership. But the pollsters — financed by a German foundation, by the way — suggest that they are incompatible. Maybe it would be clearer if the question were written this way: whom do you trust more to protect you, the IDF or Israel’s left-leaning Supreme Court?

The security question is similar. If  you live in Sderot and rockets are falling in your neighborhood, does it make you ‘right-wing’ if security is your no. 1 issue? Anyway, why does it conflict with democracy? A similar question is asked about the ‘peace process’ vs. “Israel’s national interests.” Are you surprised that “national interests” came out more important?

Here’s more:

Among Jewish youths, support for the definition of Israel as a Jewish state as the most important goal for the country grew from 18.1 percent in 1998 to 33.2 percent last year, the survey reports. At the same time, there has been a consistent drop in those who back the importance of Israel’s identity as a democratic country – from 26.1 percent in 1998 to 14.3 percent in 2010.

I speculate that the increase in support for Israel as a Jewish state has something to do with recent attacks on this idea — from Palestinian leaders who refuse to recognize it as such — and also to recent expressions of Jewish leaders regarding its importance. In any event, this is a positive development! What is the alternative to a Jewish state?

I’m not sure how they obtained the figure for a drop in those who “back the importance of Israel’s identity as a democratic country,” but the poll itself (available here in Hebrew) indicates that 80% of Israeli Jews between the ages of 21-24 found it either ‘very important’ (63%) or ‘pretty important’ (17%). Only 4% selected ‘not important’ (numbers are similar or better for other age groups).

I’m not worried about Israel’s democracy. Who does claim to be worried is the Left in Israel, as represented by Ha’aretz, who see a continuing decline in those likely to vote for their candidates. But this is a result of the hard lessons Israeli voters learned from Oslo, the withdrawal from Gaza, etc.

In fact, what is actually happening here is that Israel’s democratic tradition is asserting itself.

Israeli policy — even under ‘right-wing’ governments, is still following the path established by the Labor government in 1993.  Most Israeli governments have been far more willing to make concessions to the Palestinians than the Jewish population would like, and it can be argued that they far exceeded their mandates, even to the point of deceiving the people about their intentions.

The always-failing ‘peace process’ has been kept alive by money and pressure from Europe and pro-Arab elements in the US,  but a popular reaction has developed in Israel among the people who have to pay the price in security.

You can call it a ‘turn to the right’ if you wish. But those who applaud democracy should view it as a turn toward making policy more accountable to the popular will.

Moty & Udi: Contingencies

Friday, March 25th, 2011

One of the things they stay up nights to do in the kiriya, the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, is contingency planning. What if Hizballah and Hamas launch their missiles in a coordinated attack? What if the new Egyptian government allows Hamas to get even more sophisticated weapons (this one appears to be moot already)? And so forth.

I hope that the policy people are doing similar planning. For example, what if the UN — in the form of the Security Council or the General Assembly — recognizes the state of ‘Palestine’ according to the 1949 lines?

Actually, I don’t think the question is a ‘what if’ — it’s a ‘when’. And when is probably before the end of 2011.

Although a UNSC resolution could have ‘teeth’ that a GA resolution normally wouldn’t, like the imposition of sanctions on Israel if it doesn’t agree to dismantle settlements within some time frame, even a GA resolution can be used as a justification for action by member states, even military action, as Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz explains here.

But, you say, they can’t do that — the territory is disputed, it is part of the original Palestine Mandate, there are numerous resolutions calling for agreement between all concerned parties, etc.

Forget it. It doesn’t matter. Nations will do what they want and create legal justifications afterward. This is always how it has been. And Palestinian statehood is a (really bad) idea whose time has clearly come.

As I’ve said before, this would be very disadvantageous to Israel compared to the status quo or even to a negotiated pullout — which would be bad enough. It would include no concessions to Israel’s security needs, such as control of the Jordan Valley, a demilitarized ‘Palestine’, control of airspace, etc. And it would not force an end to further Arab claims on Israel, such as the demand to resettle ‘refugees’ in Israel. Even if lip service were given to these issues, that’s all it would be — there would be no concrete guarantees.

Another possibility is that the UN might not impose the ‘solution’ itself, but rather give the job of working out the messy details to another entity, like the Quartet. The difference between this and the Road Map would be that this new Mandatory Power would have the ability to force the parties to accept its dictates.

Ehud Barak has suggested that it’s still possible to prevent this by getting the Arabs to agree to bilateral negotiations now:

“Israel’s de-legitimization is in sight. It’s very dangerous and requires action,” Barak stated. He warned against an attempt to push Israel into the same corner South Africa once occupied.

“A political initiative will minimize the chances along the way. We have not tried to put all core issues on the table in the past two years. Israel must say it is ready to discuss security borders, refugees and Jerusalem and it will get a chance. If it fails, responsibility will be placed on the other side.” — YNet

The problem with this is that from the Arab point of view there’s no reason to make a bilateral agreement. If the objective were the rational maximization of benefits to both sides, the kind of “New Middle East” that Shimon Peres envisaged, then this would be the way to go. But the objective of the Arab side is different. In fact, they are prepared to make significant sacrifices in almost every area in order to bring about the end of the Jewish state. They don’t want to maximize their benefits, they want to weaken Israel as much as possible.

They know that in areas related to Israel’s security they will get a better deal from the UN, the Quartet or anyone else than they will from Israel. So the probability of meaningful negotiations is zero.

It’s likely that the UN will want to ‘unify’ the Palestinians, and certainly both factions will pretend to get along well enough to permit this. My guess is that without the IDF to protect it, Fatah is history, unless perhaps it gets new leadership. But as I argued recently, it really doesn’t matter which faction ultimately gets control of the Palestinian entity — both are committed to the elimination of the Jewish state.

Right now the question is what to do about Hamas. Should Israel exercise restraint, knowing that Hamas will ramp up terrorism? Or should it invade Gaza again to re-establish deterrence?

It’s not an easy question. The precedents of Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara show that international pressure to stop before Hamas is completely neutralized will be immense, and condemnation afterward will be severe. It would certainly reinforce the movement for the UN to establish a Palestinian state. In fact, regardless of how careful the IDF is to prevent civilian casualties, accusations of massacres and war crimes will be made loudly and immediately. These could even conceivably be used to justify intervention according to the model of Libya, that is, the need to ‘protect’ Arabs from Israel. It’s also been suggested that Israeli action against Hamas would strengthen the hand of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

On the other hand, Hamas is getting stronger every day, thanks to the porousness of the Egyptian border, and fully intends to use its weapons against Israel. Maybe it’s a good idea to nip them in the bud before they become a part of ‘unified Palestine’.  War with Hamas is unavoidable. If not now, when?

Of course, any such campaign would have to be carried to completion. Do Israel’s leaders have the guts to do this in the face of pressure from the US? How far would the US and Europe go to stop it? Can Hizballah be deterred from joining in?

Lots of questions.

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