Thursday, October 9, 2014

Yom Kippur and false conceptions

Last Saturday Jews in Israel and Worldwide observed Yom Kippur. A day of repentance, forgiveness, fasting, prayer and soul searching.
This is also the anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a war that is largely remembered in the Israeli consensus as the most traumatic. A coalition of Arab armies led by Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on its holiest day, in what is generally seen by the mainstream Israeli discourse as a "great surprise" and the result of Israeli "complacency". Some scholars put in on par with the greatest military surprises of the 20th century: Operation Barbarossa and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This year, 41 years later, just like any other, Israeli newspapers, tv shows and internet portals all dealt deeply with that war, providing even more new stories, angles, insights, excuses and apologies. Much is said about a sort of a PTSD the nation still suffers from 41 years later. Interestingly enough, if we look at the results objectively, it's easy to put Yom Kippur War in the same line with The War of Independence and The Six-Day War along with Israel's greatest victories. Just to put things into perspective: the unanimously-agreed "triumphant" Six-Day War lasted (as the name suggests) for 6 days; the generally-considered "disastrous" Yom Kippur War lasted for two weeks and a half. Helplessly outnumbered and surprised in the beginning, the war ended in the outskirts of Cairo and Damascus, not Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. It was after the Yom Kippur War that the Arab countries' ambition to destroy Israel by force was crushed, (turning instead to propaganda and "indigenous" narratives). And still, perhaps in line with the Yom Kippur traditions, we keep repenting and searching within ourselves, trying to realize how did we go "so wrong"? What lessons can we learn from the mistakes of 1973? How can we make sure we don't repeat them?

IDF accepts surrendering enemy soldiers in Egypt (left) and Syria in 1973.

And here comes the interesting part: the mainstream is convinced the great surprise of the attack was allowed by the "false conception" the command was trapped in. The intelligence knew of the Arab armies' preparations, the soldiers in the Sinai peninsula saw the movement of the Egyptian forces, Golda Meir received the warning of King Hussein of Jordan, and still the false conception prevailed. The conception the Arabs will not actually dare to attack. Now let me ask you: if that was indeed the case, are we not wasting Yom Kippur War's lessons away? Are we not trapped again in a false conception?

For some 20 years now Israeli governments, left and right, operated within the paradigm of the two-states solution, "land for peace" formula and the belief that only the establishment of a Palestinian country in the very heart of our own will solve all our problems. This, however, was tried and failed numerously. If there's indeed any science in "political science", then these "experiments" and "observations" must be taken into the most serious of consideration.

1. Israel went through with the Oslo Accords, establishing (and arming) the Palestinian Authority, relinquishing control over Areas A and B in Judea and Samaria, hoping this would end violence and become a step towards peace. Instead we received a rise in violence, terror and bombings. It took Operation "Defensive Shield" and the construction of the Security Barrier to bring bloodshed coming from the PA to a halt.
2. Israel left Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah took over and started terrorizing the Israeli north with missile fire. Israel had to return and engage Hezbollah in 2006 in what was dubbed the Second Lebanon War.
3. Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005, extracting all military and civilian presence and pulling back to the revered (pre-)67 borders. Instead of establishing a prosperous Palestinian state, Hamas (who took over by force in 2007 after winning the elections by a landslide) invested millions (millions!) of international aid money in its terror industry. Millions that could have went to infrastructure and welfare. Since then three military operations and counting were needed to block Arab aggression against Israel.

Infographic taken from

If the main disagreement between PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who is considered to be a right wing conservative and Zehava Gal-on, leader of the far left Meretz party is where the border with the future Palestinian state would be, how many Jewish "settlers" will be evacuated, will Jerusalem be divided or not, then at the end of the day both of them are operating within left-of-center, destructive, proven wrong time and again paradigm. We are trapped once again in a false conception. This conception tells us to ignore the realities on the ground and the historical precedents for the sake of some pre-constructed ideas, and believe the hostilities towards Israel will magically stop with the establishment of a Palestinian state. Lest we want to repeat the mistake of Yom Kippur, we must start thinking outside the box. The excuse of the left used to be "well, what is your alternative?", suggesting there's no choice but the two states. Well, now we have a countless array of classical right wing alternatives. It's time to be original and brave and invest the money, intelligence and think tanks that go into the "peace process" industry towards finding an actual working and lasting solution. Sure, it's not going to be easy and it is going to be very expensive. There are no magical solutions. But all is better than a certain suicide.

Happy Tishrei holidays, all!
Don't stop using your brains!

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