Geopolitics

Israel, Pangs Of Doubt For The Procrastinator Nation

From Golda Meir to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli leaders have too often put off decisions on key questions for the country's future. The cost of "conflict management" is no longer sustainable.

At the July 29 funeral of Israeli Sergeant Daniel Kedmi, killed in the recent war in Gaza.
At the July 29 funeral of Israeli Sergeant Daniel Kedmi, killed in the recent war in Gaza.
Yoel Esteron

-OpEd-

TEL AVIV — Have we won? Is it an annoying tie? Enough with this never-ending bickering. We just want to forget about the damn summer and move on. But where does Israel go from here?

The question of whether we won will be answered not by what happened over the summer but by what we do next. The Israeli Defense Forces are probably preparing for the next rounds of fighting in the south and the north. But hopefully Israel is more than the sum of all the threats it faces.

We are experts in national procrastination. If there were procrastination Olympics, Israel would be a top medal winner. And this isn't new. Since 1967, Israeli governments have recited the "time works for us" mantra. Golda Meir was a procrastinator until she resigned in 1974 after the Yom Kippur War ended. Yitzhak Shamir was a procrastinator who was strict about not being drawn into negotiations, God forbid.

But Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be the biggest procrastinator of all. The world expert on fighting terrorism has become a procrastination champion — Benjamin Hesitantyahu.

We have seen Mr. Hesitantyahu in all his glory during the war, but even before that, he spent his tenure specializing in so-called "conflict management." Now, after standing on the Protective Edge and making a small step forward, he again wants only quiet.

Slamming the government, while delightful, is just too easy. This government is our mirror. We must all reject procrastination and make some important, dramatic, fateful decisions. The most crucial national decision is also the most important socio-economic one: Do we want to reach peace with the Palestinians — not a ceasefire, not an arrangement but a true agreement? Two states for two peoples.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon says it's not feasible in the foreseeable future. He is one of those mocking so-called "solutionism." Other ministers do their best to thwart any chance of a two-state solution. These are legitimate opinions, worthy of a debate and resolution.

Time to decide

We've gone too many years without decisions. Maybe we grew to believe we could live our comfortable lives in the "villa in the jungle," as Ehud Barak called it before running away to look after his own interests.

This war was a painful reminder that repressed problems tend to raise their heads on inconvenient occasions. We have to decide: Do we continue clashing with Hamas and other terrorists, or do we try and reach conciliation with moderate Palestinians? The third alternative — managing the conflict on the back burner — doesn't really work. We saw during the summer how something on the back burner can become a big fire.

Secretary of State Kerry dines with Mr "Hesitantyahu." (photo- U.S. State Deptartment)

ISIS and others like them have added fuel to the regional fire. The most disappointing U.S. president in a long time said several days ago that the U.S. had no strategy for ISIS, though he has since said he is developing one with allies. America can probably afford Barack Obama. The ocean lets it live without a strategy. But there is no ocean separating Israel and Syria.

We have to decide whether it's better to postpone, or to expedite, negotiations with moderate Palestinians amid the growing threat from ISIS and like-minded terrorists. My logic says a peace treaty with the Palestinians headed by Mahmoud Abbas must be quickly advanced to allow cooperation with moderate forces in the Arab world.

Perhaps I'm wrong. If you are of different opinion, that's OK. Just look the truth straight in the eye and say, "We don't want two states for two people. We prefer fighting with Hamas over and over again. We are willing to sacrifice our economy, to shrink our civil agenda, to cut social budgets, to lower the quality of education and health care, to delay infrastructure and transport, and to give up on culture."

This is the bitter truth — those threats are too costly for us. The state budget is not big enough for everyone. If there is one thing we have learned this summer, it is that we cannot continue to practice the procrastination approach known as conflict management. We have to decide what we want.


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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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