Thursday, January 16, 2014

Forget Feinstein. Forget Yaalon. Follow Hamas-Fatah

Israel’s news vendors have a problem. They exist only to react—and to get a reaction from you.

They are passive. They train you to be passive—to wait for the next news report.  

Passivity and reaction: that’s what the news business is all about. Wait for me to tell you what has happened. Isn’t this exciting? Isn’t it worth your time?

Look at headlines. They don’t just inform. They exist to attract your attention. They try to excite. They want a reaction from you.

That’s a problem for Israel because Israel cannot afford to be passive. Israel cannot afford to react to other’s actions. We did that in October 1973—and got a devastating Yom Kippur War.

We can’t afford to do that again.

But the news trains us. It hammers a message at us: Wait. Listen. Read.

It’s all passive. If we were surrounded by friends, such behaviour would be acceptable. But as that 1973 War proved, passivity in war is not good—and that’s a real problem here in Israel: we are at war.

Passivity in war is bad. It leads to being attacked. Is that what we want?

This news-induced habit of ‘react, wait, react’ came to mind today with the morning headlines: pro-Israel supporters react to an anti-Israel remark by US Senator Diane Feinstein; news analysts and politicians continue to react to an anti-Kerry remark made by Israel Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon; the Israel Air Force (IAF) has reacted to mortars fired from Gaza.

We seem obsessed with watching others demonize, delegitimize—and attack--us. We wait for the next attack. How will we react to tomorrow’s news?

Here’s a suggestion: forget Feinstein. Forget Yaalon. Forget Kerry. We are at war. Stop waiting. If you want win, keep a very pro-active eye on your enemy.

To paraphrase an old political saying, keep your news close, but keep your enemy’s news closer.

Our enemy’s news is not about Feinstein, Yaalon or Kerry. Our enemy doesn’t care about these individuals. Our enemy is concerned about himself. If we were smart, we’d watch that concern. Then, we’d learn from that concern. Then, we would know how to act first instead of waiting for them to act.

Our enemy is Hamas-Fatah. As described recently by an Arab essayist writing on the Palestinian Authority (PA) news site, these two organizations represent the two halves of the Arab War against Israel. Hamas is the religious half. Fatah (PLO) is the secular half.

 Right now, Hamas and Fatah are not friends. But they recognize that they want the same goal—to destroy Israel. So they talk (yet again) about reconciliation.

While Feinstein-Yaalon-Kerry fascinate us, Hamas news focuses on Egypt and Fatah. Fatah, meanwhile, focuses on Hamas and corruption.  

We would be wise to watch these stories.

Hamas is concerned about Egypt because Egypt has just announced that the next target for the Arab Spring will be Hamas—and Egypt will help to replace it. Understandably, Hamas officials aren’t happy about this. Hamas is also concerned that Fatah has no right to talk peace with Israel until a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah has been completed—because, Hamas declares, most Palestinians reject those peace talks.

We should watch these comments closely. They impact on Israel’s negotiation position. How can Israel sign a ‘peace’ with only half of its ‘partners’? How can there be peace if a majority of ‘Palestinians’ truly reject peace with Israel?

Of course, the West will say that our only peace partner is Fatah. Our reaction to that should be, really? Has anyone asked Hamas about that?

Fatah is concerned about Hamas. Hamas says it wants reconciliation—and talks about it on its news site. But at the same moment that Hamas writes about ‘reconciliation’ Fatah worries that Hamas hasn’t responded to Fatah. “We hear contradictory statements by a swarm of Hamas spokespeople,” Fatah officials say, “but we cannot consider that a real response…If Hamas leaders want reconciliation, they should live up to their promises” and tell us. ”Otherwise, that would be considered closing the door for reconciliation.”

How does ‘reconciliation’ affect peace negotiations? Think about it: Israel signs peace with Fatah. Fatah reconciles with Hamas. Hamas rejects peace with Israel. Will this be good for Israel?

Fatah is also concerned about corruption. Corruption is rampant in the Palestinian Authority. They admit having trouble controlling it.  

Can Israel sign a peace with corrupt people? Would you buy a used car from a corrupt dealer?

Israel is at war. Talking about what politicians said in speeches or private conversations might be entertaining, but those comments are irrelevant. What our enemies are doing, however—and saying about each other—is very relevant.

Enjoy Israel’s news. But keep your enemy’s news closer.



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