Alan Edelstein

My first war: part II: Tel Aviv bus bombing


A friend of one of our sons just posted:  “The ground war has begun–in central Tel Aviv.”

A bomb went off on a bus in a crowded Tel Aviv area about an hour and 45 minutes ago.  First reports are 15 injured, four seriously. 

Hamas said it would start suicide bombers again. Not sure if this was one, or if someone left it on the bus. But it makes no difference.  It is still reprehensible. There are no military targets in this area.  Just lots of people from the surrounding office buildings and restaurants.  

The bomb went off on the bus as it right next to a building that houses an art gallery where a friend of our daughter works.  She can look out the window and see the carnage if she were to want to do so. 

The world condemns Israel for accidently hitting civilians who are living amongst the Hamas’ rockets and arms.  But the world has been silent for months and years while Hamas and its allies deliberately target civilians.  Where are the UN resolutions? 

We are planning a Thanksgiving dinner for tomorrow. It is fun and meaningful to celebrate Thanksgiving–the quiessential American holiday–while abroad.  Per our usual practice, we will have friends of our kids and assorted other young Americans here on study programs or living here without their parents. 


It is always interesting and fun to have them here as they enjoy a taste of home, literally and figuratively. This year we may be providing some feelings of security as well as a bit of substitute parenting. Rather than some taking buses to get to our apartment, I will be driving to gather some of them up.


One of the most obnoxious aspects of the television coverage of the war is the comparative fatality count.  The broadcasters seem to imply that Israel is the aggressive bad actor as they continually announce the number of Palestinians dead versus the relatively lower Israeli body count,

as if they are announcing the score of a football game after the third quarter.

The point of this comparative body count seems to be that it would be a more acceptable situation if only more Jews were killed.  If only the terrorists were more successful, the game would be even and we could all feel better.  Israeli’s behavior would somehow be more acceptable if it did not do as good a job at building shelters, stopping incoming rockets, uprooting and moving its children to safety.

If only Israel showed the same disregard for the lives of its citizens that Hamas does when it positions its military facilities and armaments among its civilian population.  If only more Jews were killed, the whole enterprise would be would be proportionate and balanced and everyone could have a better feeling about the situation. 

Besides being morally repugnant, this whole implicit premise also ignores the injuries, trauma, and terror of the war being raged by Hamas, a war that has been going on ever since it took control of Gaza in a bloody upheaval.

It also reflects a widespread misunderstanding of the requirement that military action be “proportionate.”  Most of the media seem to think that the requirement of “proportionality” means hat it is impermissible for one side to use more fire power than the other.  In other words, we are in a sixth grade football game where the teacher insists we pick even sides.

This is not the rule of proportionality in wartime.  The rule requires that the military force used be proportionate to the objective the party is trying to achieve.  As long as the objective is a legitimate war aim, and as long as the military force is that which is reasonably needed to accomplish the objective, the fact that the sides are lopsided or that one side incurs many more casualties is not relevant.


An acquaintance recently asked if Palestinian Authority President Abbas had any negotiating power in this battle between Hamas and Israel, and whether United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could play a credible role in resolving the dispute.  My response:

Abbas has no influence in Gaza.  Due to his corruption and ineffectiveness, he has little in the West Bank.  Ban and the UN, which has condemned Israel virtually continuously for the last 40 years but which has said nothing about the rockets from Gaza over the years and which, despite the UN resolution ending the last Lebanon war, has allowed Hezbolleh to station 60,000 rockets and missiles in southern Lebanon, have no credibility in Israel. 

The UN Human Rights Council, which has or had as its members such human rights stalwarts as Saudi Arabia, China, Libya, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Russia, and Cuba, spends its time repeatedly branding Israel a human rights pariah while ignoring human rights violators like Sudan, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia, not to mention the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.  

So I would suggest that Ban could better spend his time playing tiddly-winks than involving himself in the current dispute.


One visitor who could make a difference is Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who arrived in Jerusalem last night.  She has credibility in the region, and she is smart and hardworking.  Speaking of smart and hardworking Americans, there is one, President Obama, who has been conspicuously absent here.

 President Obama visited Israel shortly before his first run for President, during which visit he steadfastly declared from Sderot that, as a parent, he empathized with parents who wanted protection from rockets then coming in from Gaza.

The President did not find the time or occasion to visit during his first term, although he did manage to visit several of our neighbors.  He showed great understanding and empathy as he reached out to the Muslim world, but he never felt compelled to drop in to visit with “America’s strongest ally in the Middle East.”

During the recent election campaign President Obama asserted again and again how he had Israel’s back, how his Administration had done so much for Israel’s defense, and how he would always respect Israel’s right to defend itself,  all statements for which many Israelis are very appreciative.  But there apparently just hasn’t been any time to visit.

 Now, just after the election, the President visited Mynamar/Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia.

America’s “strongest ally in the Middle East” is now under fire, both with arms and in many of the world’s capitals.  Several countries have sent high level officials to Gaza to show solidarity with those who would see us dead and gone.

What a shot in the arm it would have been, what a showing of solidarity, what a statement of support for those who seek peace and practice democracy, if the President could have detoured on his way back to the U.S. to stop for a few hours and show the world that he stood with us.

We appreciate him sending Secretary Clinton to try to mediate.  But a visit from him at this time would have been the most vivid demonstration of the friendship that he espoused so frequently during the campaign.








About the Author
Alan Edelstein made Aliyah in 2011 and lives in Jerusalem. He was the founding partner of a well-respected California government affairs firm and was involved in California government and politics as a lobbyist and consultant for 30 years. He blogs at He can be reached at