5 takeaways from 2 weeks in Israel
My wife and I are back, after an intense two weeks in Israel.
From the Lebanese to Gaza borders, from the Mediterranean Sea to Judea and Samaria, from the cool evenings of Jerusalem to the heat of the Negev Desert, from an apartment in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem to Bedouin villages in the north and south, from university campuses to military bases, from faculty to students, from Jews to Muslims … I can’t say we saw it all, but we saw a lot.
I’ve documented most of our big events in daily posts, with the exception of our emotional meetings with the families of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, students killed in the 1969 Supersol supermarket bombing by Rasmea Odeh; that post is coming, but I still have new photos, documents and information I have to work through.
Here are my 5 Big Takeaways from the trip:
1. Our Revenge Is That “We Are Still Here”
Near the start of our trip, we visited Moshav Avivim on the Lebanese border, where we met Shimon Biton, a survivor of the 1970 bazooka attack on a school bus by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Biton, who was six and one-half years old, lost his father in the attack, and himself was shot point blank range by the terrorists when they realized he survived the bazooka attack. Ten days before we met Biton, he was reunited for the first time in 45 years with the nurse who helped save him. (Featured Image)
When we asked whether he ever wanted revenge, Biton told us that the revenge was that “we are still here and building for another 70 families.”When we related that story to numerous people we met along the rest of the trip, heads vigorously shook up and down. It struck a chord, since almost every Israeli has a relative or friend impacted by terror.
Despite several decades of terrorism, particularly intense during the Second Intifada, and a world campaign against it, the People of Israel are still there.
The will to resist is underestimated. Israel has a longer-term view, and a history. It will not give in to boycotts, or Obama, or outside pressure that puts its security at risk.
2. “I don’t like Bibi, BUT….”
For whatever the reason, most of the people with whom we interacted self-identified as center-left or left.
There was no shortage of criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: He’s egotistical, he doesn’t keep his tough promises, he is only interested in his own political survival, he’s a liar, his pre-election comment about Arab voting was shameful, and so on.
Yet with only a couple of exceptions, the negative comments always were followed with a big BUT.But he is the only Israeli politician who has the stature to handle the world pressure; but I don’t envy the position he is in with so many forces against us; but [opposition leader Yitzhak “Bougie” Herzog] Bougie is weak and no one will fear him; and so on.
These opinions pretty much were reflected in polling and the election results — Many people may not like Netanyahu, but he is the only Israeli politician capable of standing up for Israel in a hostile world.
3. I don’t like Obama, no BUTs about it
Polling in Israel shows Obama is hugely unpopular. Our anecdotal interactions with Israelis confirmed that polling.
I can’t recall anyone, from left to right, who had anything nice to say about Obama. The most consistent theme was that Obama is naive and weak, and that naïveté and weakness had resulted in disaster in the Arab world as it encouraged the most aggressive Islamist elements.
They see Syria falling apart with al-Qaeda or ISIS groups likely to control large parts of the country; or if not, then Iran in control. There are no good outcomes for Israel’s Golan Heights border. Along the Lebanese border there is Hezbollah, and in Gaza Hamas and increasingly even more radical Salafist-ISIS groups.
Against this background of being surrounded by a sea of increasing threats resulting from Obama administration policy, not a single person thought the Iran nuclear deal made any sense, or trusted the Obama administration on it.
In other words, Israelis live in the real world, not the world of Obama’s delusional hope. And they don’t appreciate Obama taking risks with their lives.
4. Are we really that popular in the United States?
The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was a frequent topic of conversation, almost always brought up by us as part of describing the type of coverage at Legal Insurrection. This coincided with what I consider an irrational panic the past two weeks in the Israeli press and political discourse about BDS (more on that in a later post.)
I tried to explain that there is a complete disconnect between the BDS movement in the U.S. and the vast majority of Americans. Gallup and Pew polling shows Israel at or near historical highs in terms of Israel’s favorability both abolutely and relative to favorability of Palestinians. The gap between those who pick Israel over Palestinians when the question forces a choice, also is historically high.
Virtually every Israeli we met was shocked that Israel is actually so popular in the United States. Even Israelis who have extensive American contacts and visit the U.S.
That’s not all so surprising. Both the U.S. and Israeli media focus on the negative, though for different reasons. The U.S. media long has had an implicit anti-Israel bias, compounded by the rise of left-leaning new media, while the Israeli media competes for readers with a “sky is falling” outlook.
(added) Israel’s enormous popularity among Americans is a strategic asset. That strategic asset needs to be used more effectively to minimize the damage from the narrow but influential slices of the American population — radical faculty, some students, and mainstream journalists — who have explicit or implicit anti-Israel biases. The American people as a whole are the “Israeli Lobby.”
5. The Next War is Only a Matter of Time
While we were in Jerusalem, Israel underwent a national defense drill, including sirens warning of incoming rockets.
Our tour along the Gaza border, particularly near Sderot, also reflected preparation for the next round of rocket fire through reinforcing key civilian infrastructures, such as schools.There was a pervasive feeling that the calm cannot last. And sure enough, while we were there and just after we left, rockets were fired from Gaza to Israel by Salafists suffering from a Hamas crackdown, and groups competing with Hamas for control.
That’s the logic of the region in which Israel lives: Radical groups retaliate against each other by firing rockets at … Israel.
The next war is coming. Every Israeli knows it. It’s only a matter of time.
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Those are my big takeaways. I hope you enjoyed the coverage.
We will be back in Israel, hopefully next year.
Israel Trip 2015 posts in chronological order:
- My Apology Tour to Israel
- Let My Apology Tour To Israel begin
- Remembering Haifa Bus 37 Suicide Bombing
- Meet an Israeli Doctor Saving Syrian Lives and Limbs
- Israeli school bus bombing survivor reunites with nurse who saved him – 45 years later
- Khawaled Village – Bedouin Pride in Israel
- Look who I found
- Yet another reason to move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
- The “Good” Samaritans of Mount Gerizim
- Israelis shelter in place near Gaza
- VIDEO: Israel National Defense Drill
- Negev Bedouin problems – real and imagined
- Last Days in The Jerusalem Suburbs
- Rasmea Odeh’s victims – then and now [added]
Also see, Israel Trip 2013.