Thursday, July 29, 2010

Roaming with Dror Etkes

Michael Totten and I spent the day driving around the West Bank with Dror Etkes. Michael is in Israel for a month, collecting stuff to write about, so if you aren't a regular reader of his already, I suggest you make a point of following him now, and see what he has to tell.

Who's Dror Etkes, you ask? Well, that depends whom you ask. The Magnes Zionist says Dror is a hero of his. Yisrael Medad, from the opposite end of Israel's political spectrum, recently wrote about the Dror Etkes he doesn't like. The fact is that Dror, who set up and for many years ran the settlement monitor project at Peace Now before going on to Yesh Din, is a more complex person than most people think. Yes, he's one of the fiercest adversaries of the settler movement, and he likes to give the appearance of a profound skeptic of the Zionist project, but me, I don't buy it. Regular readers will know that I'm not a fan of our radical left, but Dror - whom I've known off and on for 25 years - doesn't fit into their pigeon holes. A Hebrew-speaking Jew who knows every inch of the Biblical heartland like the back of his hand, who cris-crosses it constantly even at times of high security tension; who does his best to know the intricacies of Israel's corridors of power and law so as to insist they live up to their own standards, and who explains his motivation by citing Leviticus 19 verse 16: "neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour; I am the LORD" - that's not someone I'd thoughtlessly brush aside. Spend the day with him and you'll learn that he knows more about the settlers and the many gradations of identity and motivation among them, and is generally much fairer about them, than any of the journalists he's shown around over the years. He'll also describe the Palestinians in plausible, non-starry-eyed terms.

I'm not going to try to describe the tour - maybe Michael will - but here are various observations I had during the day.

Set aside Dror's affectation of using the terminology of the Post-Colonial-gang - a patina which adds nothing to explain what's happening on the West Bank - and it's surprising how much his positions and mine overlap.
1. We agree that the conflict with the Palestinians isn't about the borders of 1967, it's about 1947, meaning Israel's existence as a Jewish state.
2. Neither of us thinks removing the settlements will bring peace, though Dror does see this as a necessary condition, and I tend to agree.
3. Both of us mostly agree on which settlements won't ever be removed (Dror may be more expansionist than I, since he sees them all the time).
4. We broadly agree about the motivations of the various strands among the settlers, including that most of them - the Haredis in Modi'im Illit, say, the Russian immigrants in Ariel or the regular folks from Jerusalem who live in Maaleh Edomim - are not primarily ideological. They aren't there to colonize Palestinian territories.
5. While Dror is more stern about it than I - because of what he does and knows - I agree with his analysis of the hard core of settlers who mostly live in the ideological settlements along the top of the hills: they are there to ensure Jewish control of the Biblical heartland.
6. We agree that a large majority of Israelis don't support the settler's project; Dror is persuasive, however, in demonstrating that the majority fears a clash with them more than letting them have their way.
7. We disagree - but not vehemently - about the responsibility the Palestinians bear for the situation. For example, Dror sees a roadblock which has been emptied of IDF troops as a threat to Palestinian freedom of movement that can be re-created at short notice; I see it as a roadblock that will never be manned again if the Palestinian violence doesn't return. We both tend to agree the violence may well return.
8. I agree with Dror that the majority of Israelis neither knows nor cares what goes on on the West Bank. This wasn't always to, but it has been for at least 20 years. Non-settler Israeli civilians never go to the West Bank; even I, who do every now and then, am not aware of most of the details of the story. This means that Israelis sincerely don't understand the extent to which Palestinians regard the settler project as the Israeli project, and distrust us for it.
9. Dror agreed with me that since the Palestinians - effectively all of them - no longer go to Israel, they've lost touch with our reality at least as much as we no longer see theirs. The fact that a solid majority of Israelis wishes to be rid of the occupation, has no interest in the Palestinian areas, and yearns to partition the land and move on to other things, is probably not recognized at all on the Palestinian side.
10. This cognitive disconnect, we both agreed, is a result of the misnamed peace process.

Finally, a point we didn't discuss, and may or may not agree on: It is the Biblical heartland, the West Bank is. I've been advocating an Israeli departure from it since the 1970s - a long time ago. Yet it's the place we come from. You wander its hills and read the Bible, and each hill is in there; each story is on one of them. We've been reading the stories and commenting about them, uninterrupted, since before the Athenians quarreled with the Spartans, a thousand years before the Roman Empire, two thousand years before the major cities of Europe began growing out of unimportant villages. They're not as dramatically beautiful as Norway or Montana, but if you've been participating in the Jewish discussion for the past few thousand years, they're home. You can't roam them and remain unmoved.


Bryan said...

I'm confused about something, Yaacov. In #2, you say that removing settlements won't bring peace, but you think it's necessary? Necessary for what?

Also, I'm devouring "Hitler's Bureaucrats" and I'm finding it most interesting. I took out "Eichmann in Jerusalem" from the library to read when I'm finished so I can get the context of your thesis. Even without the context, it's very readable and most persuasive.

Avigdor said...

Yaacov, where did the three of you go in the WB?

Anonymous said...

I followed Michael Totten when he had a website, when he wrote for TechCentralStation, when he wrote for Commentary, but Pajamas Media is a step too far. I would like to think I can find sane international reporting without accompanying vaccine conspiracy theories. Michael is making a big mistake by positioning himself so far on the right.

Avigdor said...

PM is an advertising platform, not a fact checking service. PM can offer him a portion of its ad revenue, and all he has to do in return is publish what he normally writes anyway. How is that a loss for Michael? PM is actually a perfect umbrella for someone like him - an independent, freelance journalist with a loyal following who lives off his work. Bravo to PM and to Michael.

Barry Meislin said...

I think he means that just as leaving Gaza was a necessary but not sufficient to achieving peace, so is leaving the West Bank.

It is necessary (the Palestinians demand it); but it is not sufficient (there will be no peace, anyway).

In fact, the disappearance of Israel is what is necessary for peace.

But if anyone thinks that the disappearance of Israel is also sufficient for peace has no idea of what this region is about.

On the other hand, once Israel disappears, that will be for many a grand achievement, sufficient in and of itself.

After Israel disappears, no one will care about peace (or the lack thereof); and no one will care about the Palestinians (or the lack thereof).

The goal, to repeat, will have been achieved.

Lee Ratner said...

Bryan, to put a less negative and more practical interpretation on number 2 than Barry, look at it this way. Before 1967, the settlements were imposed on the West Bank by Israel. The settlements occupy some of the best land in the West Bank. Palestinians view them as colonial outposts more than the places in Israel proper. Worst, the people in the hill top settlements, the ideological settlements, are really racist towards Arabs and view and treat them as inferiors. The entire settlement project rubs the Palestinians in the wrong way and makes them very uncooperative. It only increases the hatred by the Palestinians and gives the hate-mongers fuel.

This won't change till the settlements are gone. The change won't come over night but gradually more and more Palestinians will stop wanting to fight and the extremists and hate-mongers would loose influence. It'll take awhile but it will happen.

Barry, if Israel keeps hold of the West Bank forever than Israel to will disappear in the same way that South Africa did. Not having Judea and Samaria sucks but its better to have part of Israel rather than none of Israel. If the Israelis wanted the entirety of Eretz Israel than they should have done it in 1948. Its too late now.

NormanF said...

I do not see Jews ever being removed by force from Yesha. No Israeli government will try it now and there too many of them for it to order the army to uproot against their will, a characteristic of fascist regimes. The Gaza Disengagement must never be again be repeated long with Jews' being arbitarily deprived of their right to live where they wish for racist reasons.

NormanF said...

Lee, Israel was not strong enough in 1948 to acquire Yesha and Gaza. Someday, the Land Of Israel will complete. Now Jews hold onto the greater part of it and the complete realization of Jewish rule over the entire Land is a long term process. The outcome of the struggle will depend on which side puts deeper roots into it - the Jews or the Arabs. The Arabs show no interest in developing what they've got and that is why they lost in the 40s and that is why they look set to lose again.

Barry Meislin said...


You seem to believe that once Israel returns to the pre-June 1967 borders (though they are not borders; they are armistice lines), then the Palestinians will have no reason to continue to want to destroy Israel.

What makes you so certain? Why should one rely on such a belief?

Lee Ratner said...

Actually Norm, I disagree. Israel could have probably gotten the entire Mandate in the first war if it fought a bit longer. The Arab armies were exhausted and out of money and lacked weaponry to make a serious counter-act. Their governments were weak at home because of the previous defeats they suffered. It might have even been better for both sides if Israel took the entire Mandate because pressure would have been put on them to absorb the Arab refugees better. There would have been more of an air of finality to it. More non-Arab Muslim states might have joined Turkey in recognizing Israel, making it an ethnic as opposed to an ethnic-religious conflict.

Also, I disagree with you on one day Israel will be complete. God hasn't interfered with the situation so far and I wouldn't count on Hashem making things better any time soon regardless of whether Israel takes your preferred course of action or my preferred course of action. The longer Israel keeps the West Bank and Gaza, the greater pressure will be put on Israel to just grant citizenship to the Palestinians and let all the Palestinian diaspora back in. We have a good thing going in Israel, lets not ruin it just for Hebron, Schechem, and Jericho. Nothing of particular interest to the Jews in Gaza either.

I've read a bit of the Magnes Zionist. He pisses me off. I'm all for a just settlement with the Palestinians but I oppose his ideas on de-ethnicizing Israel proper. For there to be a just two-state solution, Israel must remain as Jewish as any Arab state is Arab. It must be Jewish culture that is at the center of the state. The schools must teach Jewish history and literature. The festivals must be our festivals and the language ours to. Nor should the Law of Return be completely abandoned, modified maybe and just maybe, but not abandoned.

Lee Ratner said...


To the contrary, I think that if Israel returns to the 1948 borders that many Palestinians will start to fight for West Jerusalem, Jaffa, Be'er Sheva, and Nazareth. Especially at first. I've never maintained that retreating to the 1948 borders would lead to an immediate hot peace or cold peace. I never presented myself as that much of an idealist on this blog.

However, I feel that Israel could best defend itself by shedding itself of the West Bank and Gaza completely. First, Israel will no longer be in control over millions of Arabs. Besides saving Israelis a lot of money because they would no longer need to provide services to the Palestinians; all the Israel is an apartheid state will loose a lot of ground and start looking ridiculous. Non-Muslim nations, especially in the Americas, Europe plus Australia and New Zealand will also take Israel's side more readily if Israel was with the 1948 borders. All the non-Muslims on the Palestinian side will loose interest fast and move on to other causes. The Palestinians would have less support for whatever stupid thing they do if they were free.

Eventually even many Muslims will loose interest and want to get passed the conflict. While many Palestinians would want to press on, others will want to see what they can do with the West Bank and Gaza rather than engage in another round of attacks against Israel. It'll be a slow thing but it will happen.

Israel must move first because only Israel can leave the West Bank and its better to leave willingly than look like we were forced out. Than things will start to snowball.

Bryan said...

To be perfectly cynical, I think it far more likely, if a "one-state solution" were ever threatened and the threat were credible, that the Israeli government would expel many or most of the Arabs (not Israeli citizens but the Arabs in the disputed territories) rather than risk "demographically" losing Israel.

It's easier to say sorry than ask permission, as the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Indians, and Pakistanis have all discovered.

Israelis are just like every other national group, and when threatened with politicide, they'll remove the threat to the polity: namely, the non-citizen Arabs.

I don't say this like I want it to happen, because I don't. But I think that forecasting doom for Israel by the "demographic bomb" in the disputed territories is inaccurate. If the Israelis hold on to Yesha and the Arabs get more numerous, it will be the Arabs, not the Israelis, who will ultimately get displaced. Would it be ugly? Yes. Would it be a collective shame on Israelis? Yes. Would Israel still exist? Yes. The last answer is the only really important one in the long run.

Barry Meislin said...

Eventually even many Muslims will loose interest and want to get passed the conflict. While many Palestinians would want to press on, others will want to see what they can do with the West Bank and Gaza rather than engage in another round of attacks against Israel. It'll be a slow thing but it will happen.

You seem to have a higher opinion of the neighbors than they have of themselves.

But not as high as the belief in your own certainty.

The equation seems to be:
This is the way things ought to be = This is the way things will be.

Seeing that that works better in certain societies than in others, should one be accusing you (among other things) of socio-cultural arrogance? Of imperialism (of ideas)? Of colonialism (of morals)?

Here's another view that I believe is more in accord with the past 62 years (and in particular, the past 10): They care nothing of Israel's culture, its achievements, its successes, its failures, its problems, its potential. They care about one thing and one thing only: that it leaves, that it goes, that it is erased, that it disappears.

Nor are they all that fussy about how that might happen. Or when (sooner rather than later, of course).

They are not worried about what they might lose or sacrifice or suffer by having it disappear.

Just that it happen.

In life, there are priorities.

RK said...

This was a good post. It underlines the fact, lost on many people outside of Israel, that there has been deep consensus in Israel since 2001: a remarkably non-ideological consensus in that it's not opposed theoretically or theologically to land for peace and that (outside of the national Orthodox) doesn't have much sympathy for the settlement enterprise. Instead, it's centered around security. And robbed of real disagreement, political disagreements largely center around verbal sniping. (Case in point: the dyspeptic comments constantly directed at the Left in this blog; a Left, that by the author's own admission, has been reduced to the political sidelines.)

Everyone concerned knows that there's not going to be a peace agreement anytime soon. But that's no cause to tell ourselves lies about what life's like for a lot of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. Removing the settlements may not (won't) result in peace in the near future, but it will end the petty fencing off of olive groves and agricultural land and the vandalism and the thousand other indignities that anyone who visits areas near Kfar Tapuach or Shiloh sees. It's a tragic outcome for the settlers—there's no denying that—but most Israelis don't seem to have trouble working up the resolve (or rather, indifference) to dismantle villages when it comes to the Bedouin.

Sylvia said...

A GRAD missile just hit Ashkelon from Gaza

Sylvia said...

"but most Israelis don't seem to have trouble working up the resolve (or rather, indifference) to dismantle villages when it comes to the Bedouin."

Oh, please. You know very well that the village was illegally established - without proper infrastructure sewer or water system on land previously assigned for other purposes.
Bedouins have the opportunity to file the right applications and get a tract of land.

But how would you know? You don't even seem to know that the Bedouins are Israelis and serve in the army.

To suggest that we mistreat Bedouins and dismantle their houses out of the blues is sheer slander. In this small development town where I live, where jobs are rather scarce, Bedouins are dentists, restaurant owners, teachers and building contractors. They are better off than we are.

They are professors at Sapir College and at Ben Gurion University where a Jew from the political Center- never mind the right - cvould never hope to get a job.
Young Bedouin men and women are getting a higher education and they are quite numerous on campuses in the South..

True, some of them may be forced to find speedy housing solutions given that Bedouin men are permitted to have multiple wives and so the family grows very lar5ge very quickly. But there is a limit to lawlessness.

It seems to me that the radical left is desperately searching for a cause.

Avigdor said...


Does improving life and increasing self-rule for Palestinians result in an increase in security for Jews, or the opposite? You make it sound so clear cut.

As for Lee, Barry, NormanF, we have the same conversations over and over again. I can argue each one of your points forwards and backwards by now. All we're doing is retrenching; there's no real shuffling of chairs. Let's have a rule to avoid recycling the same arguments over and over again, at least to each other.

Barry Meislin said...

Tell you what. Since I say the same things over and over again, just disregard me. Skip me.

No sweat. No big deal.

YMedad said...

Thanks for the mention.

However, since I have actually debated Dror, and have pressed him and tested his knowledge and perspective and outlook and other aspects, - and since I do not agree with you and him on the necessity of removal of communities - I think I have a better grasp of darling Dror. I would hope that he has a similar appreciation of my person as you do of his and can make a differentiation between someone being an overall nice guy and a person who wishes me and my friends ignominy.

Lee Ratner said...

Fair enough point Victor. What I really do not get are the people who propose creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and decreasing if not eliminating the Jewish nature of Israel at the same time. It really defeats the purpose of a two-state solution. If the Jewish nature of Israel proper has to be eliminated, you might as well go for the one-state solution.

Bryan, population transfers only work when another state takes the population you get rid of. One of the reasons why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still an issue is because the Arab states made a choice not to grant citizenship to the Arabs that were transferred in the various wars, especially the War of Independence. If the Arabs that left Israel in 1948 got citizenship in the states they settled in, we wouldn't have as many problems.

Anonymous said...


I was deeply impressed by your what-iffing the history of 1948.

In my book any what-ifer of history is into delusions (never mind if his book is praised, it's idiocy and that's it).

Remember what you'll see 10 miles on, if you move one of two parallels by just the tiniest nudge? And that is a fact of real life.

Yes Victor I've used that image over and over again and I'll continue to do so until somebody gives me a better one to illustrate the idiocy of the what-if-historians or wanna-be what-if historians.

But in this case, after Lee has shown him/herself to be a first class what-iffer he/she goes on to predict in the same super-sophisticated style the future and evidently wants to be taken seriously.

btw I award top price on this thread to Sylvia's "missile just hit ..."

ages ago there was a bestseller describing women who loved too much and consequently believed the promises of abusers of all colours to reform over and over again.
there is bestseller psycho writer Watzlawick's disdain for "more of the same"
etc etc - but of course politics should never resort to taking real life's well-established facts into account. ;-)

As to settlements:
why do I read again and again that states with contested borders have resorted all through the millenia to keeping settlements in those regions? Let's say you remove a settlement and then it should prove necessary for military reasons to establish a permanent outpost there? What would have been gained? (if that's a dumb question I apologize but only if the military tells me so)


I find it depressing that Dror as described by Yaacov didn't impress me - overlapping positions notwithstanding because: remember what a nudge does to a perfect parallel

Yaacov said...


You seem to be missing an important point. Israel's left -such as they still exist- are a legitimate and honorable part of the Israeli politic. Israel's radical left, on the other hand, a tiny group of a few thousands at most but with a media imprint the size of a continent, includes people who are in the enemy camp. They don't use military weapons, but they're still the enemy. Since we're a democracy they may say whatever they say, but the rest of us don't need to respect them for it.

Yisrael - I assure you Michael Totten is scheduled to meet settlers, too, and lots of others people with diverse viewpoints. I expect his reports from Israel will reflect a broad spectrum of perspectives - in and of itself more than much of the media offers.

Victor - We drove in an arc from Jerusalem down to Midi'in Illit, then up by Beit Arye then Peduel and Bruchin to Ariel, east towards Eli, around Maaleh Levona then south via Migron to Jerusalem. Much of this, however, not on the usual roads.

Lee Ratner said...

Silke- I don't think that its really engagin in What-If history to argue that the nascent IDF and Israeli governments could have seized the entire Palestine Mandate if it wanted to. Many historians believe that it was possible including Benny Morris. There were people pressing Ben-Gurion to go for the final push. At the very least they should have gone for all of Jerusalem.

Now what would happen if Israel took control over the entire Mandate is open to question but it would have been very different and most likely better for Israel. In the 1948 borders, the Arabs could convince themselves that Israel could be eliminated by just one more war, just one more push. If Israel's borders were the same as the Mandate's borders than the 1948 settlement would look more permanent even in the eyes of the most fanatic anti-Zionist. The population transfer would have been more like that between India and Pakistan or Greece and Turkey than what happened probably.

What I'm really disappointed is that the French and British interfered with the Faisal-Weizzmann agreement. That would have created a Jewish state about the size of Taiwan and let the Arabs free to develop without enduring colonialism. It could have worked.

Bryan said...

Lee: Even if the Arab states refused to naturalize the Palestinians, they would be only a rhetorical problem for Israel, not a practical one. Besides, the Arabs already keep the Palestinians disenfranchised and in camps. How would having more of them substantially change their rhetorical position?

But as I don't think there's any kind of real threat of a "one-state solution" being imposed in the near future (unless the Palestinians decide that the "two-state peace process" isn't profitable enough), it's all academic anyway.

I agree with you about the Faisal-Weizmann agreement. Even if the Arab state collapsed in infighting, the Jews still would've been off to a better start.

Anonymous said...

Lee and Bryan

looking at stuff they did before us is very instructive in showing us how real people behave instead of purely fantasized ones but it by necessity, no matter how detailed, leaves always out huge parts. Just try to write up one hour of your day in all its aspects and implications including public opinion, the Zeitgeist, the dominating fashion, the weather, your digestion, the look your colleague just gave you, what all other parties having an impact on your life in this one hour were up to etc etc etc.

I doubt that a 1000 pages would even begin to do it justice.

The most detailed history book I have read covers in its core about 6 years, runs to about 4000 pages and made me realize for the first time what a limited picture these 500 pages tomes for the same period had given me. it was quite a humbling experience of the kind of "I know that I know nothing" and it made me forever read the 500 pages ones with the grain of salt they deserve i.e. I am reading a hopefully decent and serious historian take on an extended and complicated period giving me one view of it which is by necessity tinted by his doing the selecting of what's relevant and what's not. (question: in novels I've been told again and again that at some time boys used to re-enact battles with the help of tin-soldiers, how do kids get made familiar with strategic necessities of war these days?)

So no matter how sophisticated and learned a what-if is presented, it remains a what-if and that's it. I am not much into science-fiction but I remember having read some very convincing what-if thought experiments about time travel i.e. what a simple step off the path may trigger in the far future. I don't know if the story about the butterfly wing and the hurricane is true science but in history it certainly is. A cough by one misinterpreted by another may change things ever so slightly, lead to basic trust or distrust and voilĂ , there we go.

What about all these stories about the people meeting their future spouses by chance? how about your practicing a bit of what-iffery around those stories ... ;-)

History is hugely influenced by people
and what do you know what the pitfalls of this or that agreement might have turned out to be.

Today is today and it offers enough problems of its own, looking to the past to see how they dealt with similar problems then may get the little grey cells into efficient operating mood but moaning about spilled milk won't.

Take Miss Marple who is forever reminded of something but is at the same time the keenest observer of present goings on and draws her conclusions exclusively from them.


Yaacov said...

Silke -

Churchill, I assume.

Computer games have replaced the tin soldiers, for better or worse.

Anonymous said...

yes, Yaacov,

it was Churchill on WW1 (I'm still stuck in volume 1 of WW2)

what I keep in mind most is how often Roumania switched allies - what a mess! - and how depraved Wilson (at least initially) considered Europeans to be who had played along in that game.

computer games
- I thought of that, but isn't that mostly about hand to hand combat? while the tin-soldier-stories in novels claim that the kids knew all about the real life geography where the actual battle took place i.e. when there was a swamp they had to watch out for it, likewise if there was a rock etc.

maybe knowledge about hand to hand combat is in times of urban warfare more important than knowledge of geography ... I'd stick to geography though with lay-out of houses typical of this or that area added to it.


Bryan said...

Silke, not all computer games are about hand-to-hand combat or even individuals using other weapons. Pardon the geek jargon, but real-time strategy games (like Starcraft, which is obviously science fiction, or Command and Conquer, which is more "realistic") can teach kids good lessons about strategy, but less about tactics.

Playing soldiers in the back yard might teach you how to bend around obstacles and sneak around properly, but real-time strategy games are more about grand strategies: whether to use fast, mobile units at the expense of defense, or whether to sit and defend yourself until you have overpowering firepower, whether to expand to get more resources (and spend more resources defending a larger area) or whether to turtle with the resources you were given. And, of course, how to react to certain types of attacks and to counterattack effectively.

In some respects, they do teach lessons that would be harder to teach kids who wouldn't otherwise come up with grand strategies on their own. And in other respects, they're time-wasting and not at all educational. But you know, you win some, you lose some. (And obviously the trigger-happy first-person shooters like Halo or Counterstrike don't really teach any valuable tactics or strategy, so not all games are created equal.)

Anonymous said...

thanks Bryan

is it old age or is there some truth in my guessing that overall grand strategy today is so en vogue that it is marginalizing the tin-soldier-perspective a bit?

I'm asking because that's how the McKinsey et al guys came across to us ol' hands ... and never mind that I was in a group which was salivating for getting its stuff from old tree into clickable and typo proof (and how the eco-geeks seem to have operated claiming that models based on 5 years of history would predict the future - that's unjust to the geeks, I'm sure they told the traders what kind of tool they were given, but then some buts and never minds set in and took over)

have you come across these guys
especially their Ancient Warfare discussions fascinate me, how much, all that re-enacting notwithstanding, we do not know yet, but once one is into strategy one may of course forget about all that ;-)

Of course an overall framework is necessary or you'll jump from project to project (like McKinsey seemed to make our management do, the overall strategy there seemed to be as long as it's new it must be great)

let's hope that in the military the more earthy types retain enough clout to keep the grand strategists aware of real life's obstacles and pitfalls.

(sorry I grew up as the kid of a very severely injured man and so I can't stop thinking from the perspective of kids having to cope with it today)

Bryan said...

To be honest, the trigger-happy first-person shooters are a little more en vogue right now (not at this exact second, because Starcraft II just came out after 6 years of waiting, so everyone and his mother in the computer gaming world is playing it), so I don't predict any mass waves of teenagers who are good at strategy but lack knowledge of the basic realities of war (even simulated war). But kids--as far as I can tell--are no longer playing war games with their friends in the back yard or the park in large numebrs, and that is unfortunate.

Soccer Dad said...

Point 10 is very important. I remember reading a story before the first "intifada" how a soda factory in Ramallah had an arrangement with the Yeshiva in Bet El for students to provide supervision for the soda to be marketed in Israel.

I'm sure that program didn't last long. The notion that the PLO was the sole legitimate representatives of the Palestian people ensured that no such coexistence would be possible. Coexistence would be defined by what the PLO demanded (a top down approach) rather than by what (some) Palestinians may have wanted. This (I think) actually set back real peace (or coexistence) for the sake of a "misnamed peace process."

I could be wrong but when I was in Yeshiva in the early 80's I got the impression that it wasn't unusual for Jews living in Yehuda and Shomron to have Arab friends.

So one effect of the peace process had been (for better or worse) to push the peoples apart.

Lee Ratner said...

SoccerDad, the essential problem of the peace process has been that Israel has to have dealt with less than stellar leadership on the Palestinian and Arab side and the ability of extremists, especially on the Palestinian and Arab side, to gum up the process by an act of violence.

Since Palestinian and Arab leadership has been less than stellar, the Palestinians never had a leader capable of dishing out some hard truths to them or who have encouraged extreme hatred to maintain their own power and turn people away from their failings. This problem exists in other Arab and Muslim countries. Israel has more than a few leaders, academics, and whatever willing to tell harsh truths to the Israelis, making this problem not really existent on the Israeli side.

Christopher said...

Fantastic list of observations, its good to see new thoughts coming out after years of all the same!

And I'm glad you find Montana beautiful, Mr. Lozowick--I'm writing from Montana at this very moment!

AreaMan said...

While we know what the settler families want, I have been unable to figure out what the Israeli government wants in the West Bank.

The GOI must have had a strategic reason to want Israelis to move to Judea and Samaria. But I'm not sure what it can be. Other powers have, in the past, protected themselves with the Great Wall of China, the Distant Early Warning (DEW) radars, the Maginot Line, and so on. But Israel stakes out Zionist families? Is there a strategy here?

Bryan said...

Yaacov pointed it out earlier in this post:

See that picture of Israel's financial capital from the West Bank? That's the interest Israel has in the West Bank. Without it, Israel is 9 miles wide, and those 9 miles are not easily defensible mountains. They are beachfront plains, and they are so densely populated that you could barely fit a Maginot Line-type defense there even if you wanted one. (But from that hill, a Maginot Line is useless anyway because enemy artillery could shoot right over it.) Moreover, from the top of the West Bank, Israeli radar can detect attacks coming from beyond even the Jordan valley. But from Tel Aviv, the earliest warning they could get of a coming attack would be when the tanks reach where that picture was taken.

Judea and Samaria provide strategic depth, which means that they provide some room for error. If Israel is 40 miles wide, they can afford a mistake or two when an invading army rolls in. If Israel is 9 miles wide, they cannot afford a single mistake in times of war. And mistakes are always made in times of war.

Anonymous said...


I don't know if and when establishing settlements in contested border areas got out of fashion - in the history stuff I like to read it happened all the time - all those fortified castles of old housed families, did farming, were preferably located at strategically favourable spots etc. etc. Much better for lots of reasons to have settlements than just military outposts.

And here is a more well reasoned than my "it's business as usual" take

Fashions come and go and just because settlements "they" try to tell us seem to be "out" right now from what I read I conclude that variations of the tactic are still widely in use. But of course they are located elsewhere and seem except for maybe Tibet not to be as "exciting" as what Israel does.


Lee Ratner said...

AreaMan, read the book Accidental Empire to understand why exactly Israel set up settlements in the West Bank. It was a combination of two factors mainly. The first was after the Arab leaders refused to negotiate with Israel after the Six-Day War, Israel scrambled about what to do about the West Bank, Gaza, Golan, and Sinai, and eventually fell upon the pre-state solution of settling the land. The other issue was that religious Jews wanted to rebuild the Jewish communities of Hebron and other areas of religious and historical interest to Jews.

Anonymous said...


come to think of it the settlement strategy was used widely by the US-military in Germany, take a drive through "their" part of the country and look at all the housing complexes, schools, churches, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets you name it and most of it unaccessible to us Germans. And believe me not having access to the delights of the PX or the cafeterias etc. was loudly bemoaned by us.

Also I have known quite a number of US-military-personnel who choose to stay on as civilians.

The difference of course is and was that the "host"-country had no eliminatory plans on them and no matter how much we minded to be the designed battle field if the cold war should have ever become hot, we still thought we were better off with them than without them.

Also we were smart enough to notice that US-occupied areas seemed to do a wee bit better than those which didn't have that luck. Don't you think Palestinians learning from our example might be a smarter move than insisting on identity-romantics?

but of course this is only the private view of somebody who has spent much of her life in an area under occupation


Rabbi Tony Jutner said...

If Dror and Totten dont support BDS, they are part of the problem

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian for underlining the strategic depth of Yehuda Shomron !
May I remind all the ME pundits that Yehuda Shomron is the shield protecting both Ben Gurion airport and Gush Dan which harbours main Israeli population centers and industries ?
Without that shield,Israel is doomed !
And there is no demographic arab time bomb ....
Therefore the conclusions are straightforward for many Israelis !
May I add that currently,most Israelis changed their minds about "settlers" and support them now ?
The recent census is available on many Israeli sites ....


Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention the fact that more and more motivated combat troops come from Yehuda and Shomron !
Explain them that they must uproot their own homes families and friends to achieve "peace" of the Grave...
The "smashing success" of Aza is a grand inspirational source for them...