David Grossman encapsulates what went wrong

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David Grossman lost his son in the Lebanon 2006, arguably due to the ineptitude of the IDF and the political leadership, including Ehud Olmert. Even before then, Grossman was a noted Israeli dove solidly on the left of Israeli politics. He is critical of the attack on the flotilla, which is not surprising. However, there was one section of his op-ed that caught my eye. It states, politely, what I have been trying to communicate about the failures of those who are running Israel these days.

And somehow, all these calamities – including Monday’s deadly events – seem to be part of a larger corruptive process afflicting Israel. One has the sense that a sullied and bloated political system, fearfully aware of the steaming mess produced over the years by its own actions and malfunctions, and despairing of the possibility to undo the endless tangle it has wrought, becomes ever more inflexible in the face of pressing and complicated challenges, losing in the process the qualities that once typified Israel and its leadership – freshness, originality, creativity.

Freshness, originality and creativity. Yes, that is precisely what is lacking, as well as sensitivity to what is going on around the world to Israel and to Jews these days and an insensitivity to how Israeli actions are making things worse. Where is the inventiveness that we used to see Israel engage in, that today its high tech sector creates seemingly effortlessly? Did all the promising IDF commanders leave the army? Did all the promising politicians go into private industry? Israel always seemed to be able to do a great deal with very little, but it may well be that its powerful military has gotten so big and fat that they are focused on doing things without the ingenuity of an impoverished army. It might be that Israel’s politicians view themselves as leaders of a country that isn’t midget sized and instead believe that extensive media coverage make a country with a population smaller than Los Angeles into some mid-size power and they also no longer seek creative and original solutions to complex problems.

It would serve Israel well to bring back into focus the importance of doing things they way they had to when resources were far more scarce for them.

And yes, all of these events are symptoms. The illness, however, is that there’s no peace. To get to peace, Israel must be at its most original and most clever. Yes, the Palestinians are holding out and don’t want to sign a deal. However, it is the duty of the government to find a solution that will work. Olmert and Barak have laid the groundwork for a deal that Israel can live with and that, theoretically, should also satisfy Palestinian demands. No, not all of them, but many of them. The trick now, is for Israel to figure out how to press the supporters of the Palestinians and powerful brokers like the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia, to push the Palestinians into these deals.

11 Comments

  1. uncle joe mccarthy

    6/3/2010 at 4:22 pm

    what happened? the second intifada, the reign of terror beset by hamas…that is what happened

    is israel making mistakes? yup

    but how much more creative should they be

    even when they do nothing, those who wish to see the state destroyed and its people killed, create atrocities

    israel is in a state of war with hamas…by all rights, whether its bad pr or not, they could have blown every one of those ships right out of the water.

    the world screams about the blockade. there would be no blockade were it not for hamas. and even before the blockade, the world was screaming about the humanitarian crisis in the gaza.

    go and listen to the likes of norman finkelstein, who loves to use quotes regarding gaza all the way back in 2004…when there was no blockade.

    this operation was a fubar, because for some dumb reason, israel really believed that these people were on a peace mission.

    the ism…the ihh…on a peace mission???

    the ism who sacrifices stupid americans for the greater good of the palestinian people?

    the ihh who are directly connected to al quaida?

    so how should israel be more creative? dismantle the blockade and just wait for israelis to be killed? hand over the west bank and half of jerusalem when hamas still has in its charter the destruction of the state…while iran continues to fund them and call for wiping israel off the map?

    • themiddle

      6/3/2010 at 6:18 pm

      More creative is something like Entebbe or sabotaging the ships in a safe way that leaves them neutralized but without the possibility of a firefight.

  2. LB

    6/3/2010 at 8:54 pm

    Entebbe would never succeed in the internet age.

  3. themiddle

    6/3/2010 at 9:27 pm

    Maybe not, but in its time it was a daring, creative and highly unorthodox operation. Today it would be something else, but the point is that it wouldn’t be the unprepared team of commandos that was sent out in an idiotic mission to combat a group that was looking precisely for this type of conflagration.

  4. LB

    6/3/2010 at 9:40 pm

    in its time it was a daring, creative and highly unorthodox operation.

    Of course it was – I wasn’t belittling Entebbe. But to pull off anything remotely close to that today you need to be Russia, the U.S. or terrorists.

    As for this incident – Israel has been known to do more stupid things. But since there has been no one in charge with any spine in a a few decades, people think they can f*ck with Israel with few repercussions. For example, Rabin backing down in the early 90′s, allowing the expelled terrorists back in; Bibi – Wye, Hebron; Shamir – Madrid; not to mention every “goodwill gesture” towards our friendly murderous neighbors.

    It’s not only the U.S. and Europe that fail to understand that Israel is in the Middle East, and not in Scandinavia – it’s pretty much any Israeli government in recent history, as well.

  5. Tom Morrissey

    6/4/2010 at 10:11 am

    “Freshness, originality and creativity” are the victims of Arab rejectionism, Iran, and terror. These things engender the mentality that anything is justified in the face of existential threats. Discourse– as we see constantly on this site– gets reduced to the question of whether Israel had a ‘right’ to take this measure or that. Because the threats are deemed existential, the answer is always yes. Meanwhile, anti-Zionism in Europe and elsewhere churns out over-the-top, moral condemnation, entrenching this limited, rigid, defensive pro-Israel discourse.

    So you never get to the question, was this the smart thing to do? How does it serve the state’s long-term strategic interests? What indeed are those interests? Is it smart to pick this fight when there are far greater threats just over the horizon?

    The Israeli government can take the view that settlements and borders must await final-status talks. The blockade of Gaza may be justified. Both positions are perfectly reasonable and defensible. But the former puts off the day of reckoning with the pro-settlement, Greater Israel right, incalculably damaging Israel’s image in the world.

    As for the blockade– sure, Shalit, the rockets, etc. But what sort of future do Israeli leaders imagine for their country? How do they want relations with the neighbors to look in 10 or 50 or 100 years? Aren’t there enormous costs to the Israeli future in embittering hundreds of thousands of people, including children, including apolitical Gazans of potential good will, who live right on your doorstep?

    Israel surely is on the defensive; the threats to its existence are real. Yet the absence of any initiative from Jerusalem to affirmatively shape a better future for the country and its immediate neighbors, places that future at even greater risk, no matter how many ships are successfully turned away from Gaza.

    • themiddle

      6/4/2010 at 12:12 pm

      Tom, with this government, all we have right now is the statement by Bibi that he would accept a two state solution. He hasn’t had a chance to negotiate it, though, because the Palestinians have been playing for time. Before Bibi, however, you had a government elected to evacuate the West Bank (that was Kadima’s platform) and then you had Olmert offer a very fair peace deal that can be called Clinton Parameters Plus. Part of the problem is that nobody is pressuring the Palestinians to come to an agreement. So even though we are in general agreement, the one detail that I urge you to include in your thoughts is that in the end Israel needs a partner in order to come to a deal and as long as the other partner isn’t there, it is extremely difficult for them to back off unilaterally.

      The problem with doing anything unilaterally is that you could end up with a second Gaza or you lose leverage as you proceed with negotiations.

  6. josh

    6/5/2010 at 6:08 pm

    Middle,
    what it comes down to in your reporting this week is your continued perception how Israel is making you look bad. You don’t live anywhere near Sderot or hte ‘Gaza Belt’ and have not had to hear Color Red sirens to understand why all measuers should be taken to prevent any unsupervised material from going in.

  7. josh

    6/5/2010 at 6:14 pm

    I find it very hard to understand that middle is always expecting Israel to come up with new ideas for peace and that the Arabs don’t have to. This static attitude is just a continued insinuation that Israel is to blame for this lack of peace. When is middle going to demand from the Arabs to be creative and original? When was the last time the Arabs conceded anything? The middle does not care.

  8. Tom Morrissey

    6/6/2010 at 10:03 am

    Josh, the pressure returns to the Arabs when Israel abandons passivity and attempts to shape the future, e.g. Taba.

  9. Meir Schwarcz

    6/6/2010 at 10:55 pm

    David – Creativity and Freshness: yes, that’s needed. But I can’t agree with you that these qualities got lost somehow, somewhere, as years went by.

    It’s the times that have changed. Israel’s hands are tied much more than, say, 20 or even 10 years ago, due to the ever-growing animosity and vicious antagonism of “World Opinion”: NGOs, the UN, the EU, a newly-assertive Russia, a much more powerful China, and now the worst US President since Carter (even worse than Bush 1). Add to that the Iran problem, an openly hostile Turkey, the 2006 Lebanon fiasco, growing encirclement, Hezbollah re-armed, our apparent inability to shoot when needed lest a lame sheep gets martyred and the UN condemns us for it, and you have a soup that’s definitely not of the chicken variety.

    Regarding pushing Palestinians and their fellow Arabs into a solution using “creativity”, I agree with you even less. However smart and creative we are, our opponents are not negotiating partners who can be convinced with reasonable offers; they are our implacable enemies.

    Don’t be naive, David; even Abbas is an enemy. And he is not at all interested in a sane, realistic kind of peace. The more concessions we are prepared to make, the more demands the Arabs will make. This is their mentality and their policy. If we offer land, they’ll want the right of return. Are you prepared to commit suicide???

    And even if we come up with the most creative ideas: pray tell, who will “push” the Palestinians into a smart, mutually beneficial peace? Obama? Syria? Hamas?
    Iran? The EU? Russia? The UN ? Or any of our “friends” in London or Paris ?

    You are a great journalist, David. But here you are simply wrong. Golda’s dictum still applies, and I’m sorry to say that the Arabs hate us much more than they love their own children. They don’t want peace. They have seen that we can make blunders, too; they feel that the whole world is supporting them, so they have smelled blood. And they will try to eradicate us, every Jew.

    With G-d’s help we’ll cope, survive, and flourish. But creativity won’t bring peace with fanatical enemies.

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