Eitan Haber
Photo: Shalom Bar Tal

Time to sober up, Israel

We thought we can fool the world all the time, but we were wrong

We used to think (and many of us still do) that “we’re the best in the world.” So here are a few insights on the matter:


Following the Six-Day War in 1967, we thought we’re the most powerful nationin the Middle East, and in the world. Even before that, we abducted Adolf Eichmann in Argentina, and later on we rescued our hostages in Uganda, killed arch-terrorists in their beds in Beirut, destroyed a nuclear reactor in Baghdad, and according to foreign sources also assassinated a terror mastermind in his Dubai hotel. Well, aren’t we the best?


The victory albums, victory songs, and the commanders who presided over the 1967 triumph brought us to such heights that we failed to notice Arab armies recovering shortly after the Six-Day War, and especially Egypt’s military. We also did not want to admit that the War of Attrition (1968-1970) did not end in clear victory.


Next came the Yom Kippur surprise, which should have taught us a thing or two about modesty, and then came the Lebanon War, which was far from being a success story, and then we stayed in Lebanon for 18 bloody years, not to mention the Second Lebanon War.


Somehow we failed to notice that Arab armies learned the lessons of every war and found solutions to counter the IDF’s great power: Anti-tank cells against our armored corps, missiles to circumvent our Air Force, and attacks on our civilian population.


We also used to think that the Arabs are dumb. Well, not all of them, yet to this day we seem to think that something genetic prevents them from being as intelligent as we are. They’re primitive, they dress bizarrely, and most of all, they’re uneducated.


Waiting for the phone call 

Today I remember how stunned we were when I accompanied Yitzhak Rabin many years ago to a meeting with Anwar Nuseibah, a Palestinian minister in Jordan’s government. Wow, said Rabin after the meeting, he speaks such wonderful English! What, an Arab? A Palestinian? Speaking English like an Oxford graduate, showing familiarity with history, and using a teaspoon to mix the sugar in his teacup? Something must be wrong here.


We also thought that the Americans are idiots. We fooled them all these years with winks, hoping they’ll believe that it’s merely a “tick” we have in our eye. You, in Washington, object to us holding on to the territories? Come on! You object to Jerusalem being Israel’s capital? You’re making us laugh. You say that we keep inventing new definitions and terms to further our own aims? (“Security margins” in order to expand settlements, “state-owned land,” in order to confiscate more land, and so on) – So why didn’t you pound the table all these years?


We thought we deserve everything, after the Holocaust and the six million dead. The world was silent while our grandparents were being burned? Well, the world shall pay. We deserve everything. Yet how come we didn’t realize that one of these days, the memory of the Holocaust will nearly evaporate in the world’s political corridors?


We also thought that great victors and geniuses such as ourselves need to “wait for the phone call,” as our legendary Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said immediately after the Six-Day War. We believed that the defeated parties always plead for their lives and seek capitulation, an agreement, and peace. We “we’re waiting for the phone call.”


We also thought that we have all the time in the world. We believed, and we may still believe so today, that time is on our side. So we had a “window of opportunity? The Soviet Union, the Arabs’ patron, collapsed? Our enemy, Syria, was doing badly? The PLO was facing a liquidation sale? Oh well, what do we have to do with all that? After all, we’re eternal. We’re patient. We waited 2,000 years, why don’t we wait some more. The Arabs shall come on all fours; the Americans will end up begging us; the world will learn.


Well, we thought that we can fool the world all the time, and we were wrong, big time.


פרסום ראשון: 06.13.10, 11:01
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