Jonathan Zausmer

To my friends on the left

The ground has shifted. Some of you haven’t noticed. You are stuck in the paradigm that existed pre the Gaza war. I say the Gaza war because this is no “operation”: not an edge, not protective, not a cliff. Forget that stuff. This is war. It is all out war and it isn’t about to end tomorrow. Kerry will come and go. People will hum and ha. The Human Rights Commission will sit and wring their hands at the suffering.To those who still live in the past – and in this case the past was barely two weeks ago – you need to figure things out and re-position.

Being perceptive and internalizing the implications of where we are will not make you less left, less liberal, less humane, less moral.

Peace comes in strange ways and from strange places. Sometimes it only comes after a bloody and messy conflict. So you need to be ready and you need the staying power to see this through without the old tropes and boiler-plate phrases.

I am coming across comments and energized appeals from some people who I respect highly, that simply make no sense. And when they do, it is not relevant to the time and situation we are currently in. I have listed some of the common assumptions and desperate verbal attacks coming from those of you who are lagging behind a timeline that is in super-fast motion and changing every minute. For each feeble utterance an answer follows that may sort out your confusion.

Lame Left Utterance: Netanyahu started this war by using the kidnappings as an excuse for attacking Hamas in the West Bank

Answer: Yes, no doubt that was the factor that precipitated this war but what of it? We now see vast missile capability, beyond anything forecast. We see a city of tunnels meant for a massive attack against civilians and military. We see an empowered Hamas. Are we to sit back ponder peace without reacting, while rockets rain down on Israel from Nahariya to Sderot?

Lame Left Utterance: The tunnels are identified as the objective of the conflict. No doubt this is a ruse to take us into a confused war of attrition with no end or exit.

Answer: Yes I hear you: we all carry the scar from Arik Sharon who lied to the Israeli public and to Menachem Begin that the first Lebanon war would end forty kilometers from the border. But this is not the case in this instance. The overall objective of this war is to bring about an end to rocket attacks by whatever means. Demilitarizing Gaza has been clearly presented as the final objective here. The tunnels are an achievable goal, but it is disingenuous to use this clear operational objective in order to accuse Israel, later on, of wondering into an unneeded conflict beyond this objective.

Lame Left Utterance:  We need an immediate cease-fire to end the suffering and enable negotiation at bringing the conflict to an end.

Answer: The suffering of innocent people is shocking however to conflate this terrible reality with the thought that Hamas will sit down and reason at this stage is simply delusional. What has occurred here is that all the previous cease-fires and understandings were used to build an arsenal of humungous proportions. Far worse is the important success Hamas has achieved by the closing down of air traffic to Israel by most international airlines. This is no time to sit and take a breather.

Lame Left Utterance: An alliance is about to reveal itself consisting of Abu Mazen, the Arab League, Egypt, Jordan and they will force Hamas to disarm in exchange for opening of ports, airfields, trade and a long term cease-fire.

Answer: That alliance is not impossible, but it is a complex process and it will take time if at all it ever comes into existence. By that time the full implications of death and destruction in Gaza will create rifts that will damage willingness to work with Israel in the immediate time frame.

Lame Left Utterance: The tunnels are a huge intelligence failure and they could have been stopped militarily or diplomatically had they been revealed in time.

Answer: Mistakes happen. Maybe this was one. But now that we are aware of the length, breadth and scale of what we are facing we are better equipped to make decisions. As this war proceeds, there will be more accumulated intelligence, more data, and more revelations. All that material creates scenarios with more solid information for real-time decisions.

Lame Left Utterance: Israel cannot afford another Golstone Report and international condemnation. We need to stop now.

Answer: Yes, after years of obtuse settlement expansion and swaggering ultra-nationalism, Israel finds itself in the dog-box of world opinion. But there is one thing fundamentally worse than this: losing. Israel now must walk away with measurable assets gained from conflict. Without this, we shall sink further into isolation and motivate further kidnappings, attacks and conflict.

Lame Left Utterance: This is all because of the occupation. If we end the occupation, we end the conflict.

Answer: For Hamas, the occupation is the entire Jewish State. Any long-term cease-fire will be used whether by stockpiling weapons, whether by propaganda or whether by eliminating the moderate wing of Palestinian government. Ending the settlement venture is a critical need. Ending military control over a divided Palestinian entity with the non-compromising fundamentalists aiming to control the region is another.

Lame Left Utterance: Israel needs to sit and talk to Hamas. It’s inevitable.

Answer: The day Israel sits down with a militarized Hamas is the day that the moderate wing of Palestinian nationalism dies. Abu Mazen, the Palestinian Authority, voices of peace and reason will give way to hard-core fundamentalist rule whether in approach to Israel or to the nature of a future Palestine. Israel has achieved enormous consensus until this point by the quartet’s insistence on Hamas recognizing Israel as a prerequisite for any discussion, aid or negotiation with what is generally considered a terrorist organization.

Conclusion: There is no easy way forward. The conflict is greater, deeper and more problematic than the previous operations in Gaza. Resilience is the word. Israel has all the means to create a changed reality but at this early time, the other side has generated initiative. Things will change but there is no place for a gentleman’s draw. If and when Hamas is demilitarized or the rocket capability eviscerated, options for meaningful negotiation may follow. So for those of you my friends on the left, who are leaning back on familiar formulas, please find a place in front of the herd, not behind it. After this conflict a lot of creative thinking will be needed to move peace onto the urgent agenda of our national priorities.

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.