As I have to remind myself and readers, I've spent all of 10 days in Israel, and sometimes dehumanize the Israeli experience. Here's a note from someone who's spent more time on-the-ground, my friend Peter Drubetskoy, a veteran of the Golani brigade now living in the U.S., who has observed a former commander's transformation:
Bradley Burston in Haaretz has a colum quoting reserve brigadier general Shmuel Zakai, the former commander of Israel's southern region, opposing the widely-bruited idea of invading Gaza.
In Zakai's view, Israel's central error during the tahadiyeh,
the six-month period of relative truce that formally ended on Friday,
was failing to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than
markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip…
"The carrot is improvement of the economic situation
in the Gaza Strip. You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians
in Gaza in the economic distress they're in, and to expect that Hamas
will just sit around and do nothing. That's something that's simply
In the end, Israel must realize that "we can't impose regimes on
the Palestinians. We can't cause the Palestinians [to decide] who will
rule over them. Hamas took over the Gaza Strip. This is a fact. I do
not believe that the state of Israel should cause another ruler to come
to power in Gaza borne on the bayonets of the IDF. "
"It's just like after the disengagement. We left Gaza and we
thought that with that troubles were over. Did we really think that a
million and a half people living in that kind of poverty were going to
mount the rooftops and begin singing the Beitar hymn? That is
I served under
Lebanon where I was the deputy communications officer. We were never very close, and separated by two levels of command; so I was surprised when several years later I
met him by chance during my reserve duty and he started
hugging me and calling me "akhi" ("my brother", a
call widely used in the army – and beyond – with a connotation similar to
"bro".) Then several years later I heard that he was
removed from the post of commander of and that his tenure there
included charges of "scorched earth" policy.
And then back in May, before the
start of recently-ended truce with Hamas, I learned that he was one of
the signers on the letter calling for open talks with Hamas. I was surprised, and left a comment on YMeded's blog, My Right Word:
it's high time. I am glad some people still have enough good sense in
them to try to find a pragmatic solution to the situation. I was
surprised to see Zakai's name on the list: I know him not badly, having
served under him in the army. You know what, he never struck me as an
"Arab lover". I am not sure what was the story with his early
discharge. On the one hand under his command in Gaza punitive actions
against Palestinian civilian population increased, on the other it
looks like he was against some of these.
Now he again talks
about recognizing Hamas as the power in Gaza and working with them,
to some extent, etc. I reflect, Maybe I never got to know him. In the land where almost no politician dares to say the obvious, it takes a tough, crazy golanchik to say this stuff.