The Rambam (Maimonides), the 12th century rabbinical giant, outlines the stages one must go through to do Tshuva, repentance. Among others stages, one must recognize what one has done wrong, sincerely regret it, take upon oneself never to repeat the transgression and be tested. It's that last stage which is interesting: it cannot be said that a sinner has truly repented until he or she has withstood the temptation of doing it again.
I mention this for what it tells us about human nature. NOT because I regard Hezbullah as having done repentance of any sort.
However: it was a telling event, this morning, when someone not from Hezbullah shot katyushas at Nahariya.
At the end of the war of summer 2006 Hezbullah celebrated its great victory over Israel. That in itself proves nothing. Nasser's Egypt celebrated its victory on the 7th day of the Six Day War: so what. And in Gaza, even if the IDF ends up killing all of the Hamas fighters but leaves three fellows still alive, they'll loudly declare victory. Hezbullah's claim in August 2006, however, was more than hollow declarations, in that the war really had been something of a draw.
After the celebrations, however, there were indications Nassrallah had a clearer idea of reality than he'd been pretending. He admitted in an interview that had he foreseen the vehemence of the Israeli onslaught he'd never have provoked it. He lives underground, rarely appearing in public. Most interestingly, the past two weeks he has been fulminating against Israel (and Egypt), but fulminations are sterile. For all his bravado, he never lifted a finger to assist Hamas when they could have used it.
Michael Totten suggests we read Tony Badran's analysis of what happened today, and since Badran knows about Lebanon and I don't, I won't argue with him when he says Hezbullah had to know about the intention to shoot those katyushas this morning. However, his thesis seems to be that the Iranians had to have somebody make some gesture from Lebanon, so they chose a minor player to make a minor gesture in a way that would give major deniability. This suggests a wariness in provoking Israel that is very healthy. It stems, I'm guessing, both from the pain inflicted in 2006, and the frightening demonstration this time that Israel has gotten its act together.
It's a bit weird to read a rocket attack on Israel as a positive sign, I admit, but the world is often a weird place, since it's populated by people.
All of this has been an introduction to some thoughts about the cease fire in Gaza which seems to be approaching, one way or the other.
I'm in favor. As a matter of fact, I'm in favor irrespective of the minutiae of the details of the agreement, although I hope the details will be the right ones. The reason I'm almost automatically in favor, however, is that it looks like this time we won, and the important players all know it.
The single most important player is Israeli society. We proved to ourselves that after the fiasco of 2006 we got back on our feet and proceeded to fix what needed fixing; having done so, we regained the confidence to defend ourselves efficiently. Since our enemies aren't about to disappear, our renewed confidence in our abilities is very important.
The second important player is Palestinian society. This is the second time in six years that we've demonstrated to them the limits of our patience, and our ability and willingness to act very forcefully when they cross those limits. I'll say it in the most black-and-white way possible: When we really get fed up we're very nasty, we're united in being nasty, and world opinion washes off our back like water off a duck. Yet the Palestinians, unlike the rest of the world, see us close up. Listen to all those Gazans as they damn us when we kill civilians. They keep on saying things like "the Israelis see we're civilians, they knew it's a school, how come they didn't behave as expected and refrain from shooting?" You've never heard Iraqi or Afghanistani victims using that sort of reasoning when mourning their dead.
The Palestinians have thus seen us close up for worse but also for better, and may have a clearer understanding of us than the world's media does.
My point is that the relative tranquility in the West Bank these past two weeks as we've been pummeling Gaza must mean something; moreover, if you listen to Avi Issacharoff and others who know what they're talking about, it may just be possible that many Gazans, too, have understood that Hamas is never going to lead them anywhere they'd like to go. If they follow the Hezbullah model, this may mean they'll continue to fulminate, but they'll hesitate to shoot. Palestinian laws mandate Palestinian elections sometime this year. I don't know if Hamas will allow them to happen, but if they do, perhaps they'll lose?
The final major player is Barack Hussein Obama. Ultimately, should it ever come to it, Israel can and will resist even an American president if he tries to force us to do something we really don't want to do. As I never tire of saying, the Jews are the oldest living group in the world because they insist on it; as a general statement, however, it hasn't hurt that they've often had a good understanding of power structures around them.
When it comes to forging reality, the Guardianistas are impotent. They pontificate, but no-one listens. The same goes for the UN, the EU, and the International Boy Scouts. Not so the President of the United States. He does make a difference. I don't know what the events in Gaza mean for Obama, any more than any of you do. We'll have to wait and see.