Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
LEARNING FROM OUR MISTAKES
by Boris Shusteff
It is well known among chess players that one can learn much more from one’s lost games than from the games that were won. But this is true only under one condition: it is necessary to thoroughly analyze the games that were lost and to find the mistakes, in order not to repeat them in future games.
This practice of analyzing past mistakes is desperately needed for the citizens of Israel. Otherwise, they will continue piling one mistake on top of another, until the day when the avalanche of mistakes and blunders buries the whole Jewish state. Alas, leaders are prone to mistakes no less than anyone else. But their mistakes are thousands of times more dangerous.
Nothing can be a better example of this than Olmert\'s recent declarations that a victory in the current war against Hezbollah will create appropriate conditions for retreat from Judea and Samaria. As Olmert said on August 2 in an interview with the Associated Press,
“I’ll surprise you. I genuinely believe that the outcome of the present (conflict) and the emergence of a new order that will provide more stability and will defeat the forces of terror will help create the necessary environment that will allow me ... to create a new momentum between us and the Palestinians. …We want to separate from the Palestinians, …I\'m ready to do it.”
One should not be surprised. One must be stunned! Israel is in the midst of a war that was started exactly from territories that not long ago were unilaterally abandoned by Israel and given to her enemies. Moreover, prior to obtaining this land these enemies openly declared their hatred towards Israel and promised to use all their might to achieve Israel’s destruction. The events that followed were extremely straightforward. Rejecting Israel’s good will gestures, both Hamas and Hezbollah grabbed the territories voluntarily relinquished by Israel, stockpiled tons of weapons there and transformed the land into a bridgehead in their war against Israel.
So what conclusion does the Israeli prime minister draw? He decides to stick to his guns and keeps promoting new retreats and relinquishment of more land to the same enemy!
The fact that Olmert categorically does not want to learn from his own blunders is especially troubling. It was he, who was entirely convinced that the arrangement existing between Israel and Hezbollah after Barak’s flight from Lebanon was absolutely correct, was working perfectly, and should serve as a shining example for all future Israeli policies. Speaking on February 18th 2005 during a public presentation for the annual Jerusalem meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Olmert pounded the podium with his fist and declared:
“Israel\'s withdrawal from Lebanon is a model which Israel would apply to Gaza and Samaria. [Although Hezbollah had accumulated 15,000 missiles and mortars in Lebanon] they have never, never, never used missiles against Israel on the northern border since Israel\'s withdrawal from Lebanon in May, 2000.”
To put it in a politically incorrect way – Olmert simply lied. The common perception that the Israeli Lebanese border was calm after Israel’s retreat in 2000 is completely wrong and Olmert knew this. Israeli journalist David Bedein, who was present during Olmert’s speech on February 18th showed him an official IDF document. It stated that in just four years Israel was attacked 34 times with mortar shells and anti-tank missiles, 127 times with anti-aircraft missiles, 5 times with Katyusha rockets, and experienced 7 shooting attacks with light arms. During this time Hezbollah also planted 8 roadside bombs in northern Israel, conducted 10 infiltrations, killed 11 soldiers, kidnapped and murdered three more soldiers, while 50 soldiers were wounded and 14 civilians were killed as a result of firing missiles in northern Israel.
Bedein wrote in his article in March 2005: “Olmert glanced at the IDF report, … and reiterated his stand that ‘I meant to say that they have not fired into Israel in the last five years.’ When the reporter showed … that the Arab terrorists had continued firing missiles into Israel, killing 28
people, Olmert walked away, saying that he did not want to discuss it.”
It was easy to walk away from a journalist but not from Hezbollah. Israel’s initial un-preparedness for the current war proves that Olmert was not alone in his mistaken evaluation of the situation. It is hard to understand people’s naďve arguments that preceded current events, but it seems that the logic they followed can be summarized in one sentence: “Look, since Hezbollah is not shooting now, it will never shoot in the future.” Apparently they thought that Hezbollah was stockpiling the Katyushas and other missiles just for fun, perhaps to crack nuts with them and never-ever dreamt of firing them into Israel.
This absurdity and failure of logical thinking originates from the paternalistic approach taken by the Jews towards the Arabs from the very first days of settling in Palestine. We the Jews always knew what the Arabs wanted. We told ourselves that they want us to develop the land for them, to dry up the swamps, to grow new forests for them, to supply their houses with electricity and water, to build universities for them, to increase their life expectancy, to decrease their infants’ mortality rates.
We did all of these and much, much more, continuing to ask the Arabs if they are happy at last, and could we be allowed to exist next to them, please? It never occurred to us that their original desire – to get rid of us – never disappeared. They did not need our first class medicine, our modern housing, and our scientific discoveries. All they needed was to see the day when the last Jew would board an ocean liner departing from Palestine.
But we were stubborn. We did not want to look the truth in the eyes. We kept inventing new and new freebies for the Arabs. The pinnacle of our folly was our idea of becoming contractors on the construction of the second Palestinian Arab state (the first one, of course, being Jordan). We decided to build it next to Israel. As always, it never came to our mind that they, the Arabs, wanted it not next to Israel but in lieu of Israel.
The infamous Oslo “peace process” that commenced building the foundation of this state proved to be a disaster of monstrous proportions. 1300 murdered and more than 7000 maimed and wounded Jews was the Arabs’ reward for Israel’s good intentions. Did the Jews learn their lesson? Of course not! And as if two intifadas were not enough, Israel is now bogged down in yet another war, and Olmert keeps saying that after the war is won new retreats will undoubtedly follow.
The Israeli prime minister would be much better served if, instead of listening to his advisers, he listened to the Arabs themselves. They have no special agendas and are usually very honest. Just recently one of them made a declaration that must shatter into small pieces the Israeli “peace camp”. Though, it is quite possible that the clear voice of Ziyad Abu Ein, one of the Fatah’s leaders, who candidly enumerated all the ills that the Oslo accords have brought upon Israel, was not heard. Perhaps it drowned in the constant wailing of sirens and the thunder of exploding missiles raining on Israel.
Ziyad Abu Ein made his “revelations” in an interview aired on Al-Alam TV on July 4th and published by MEMRI [http://www.memritv.org/search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=1205 ]. He candidly admitted that if it were not for the Oslo process, Israel would not have known the second Intifada. What he said is so important that we quote him verbatim at length,
“There would have been no resistance in Palestine if not for Oslo. It was Oslo that strongly embraced the Palestinian resistance. All the occupied territories - and I was one of the activists in the first and second Intifadas, and I was arrested by Israel several times... If not for Oslo, there would have been no resistance. Throughout the occupied territories, we could not move a single pistol from one place to another. If not for Oslo, the weapons we got through Oslo, and if not for the ‘A’ areas of the Palestinian Authority, if not for the training, the camps, the protection provided by Oslo, and if not for the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners through Oslo - this Palestinian resistance could not have carried out this great Palestinian Intifada, with which we confronted the Israeli occupation.”
How painful it is to hear these words from a Palestinian Arab. It is one of our greatest mistakes to shut our ears to the truths spoken by the enemy. This ostrich policy brings us each day closer to the edge of the abyss. Ziyad Abu Ein is indisputably right. We ourselves gave the weapons to the Arabs. We ourselves allowed Hezbollah to stockpile 15,000 rockets at our border. We ourselves created the conditions for the military training of Hamas and Hezbollah. It is from the land that we ourselves gave them that the Arabs brought down on us the fire of their missiles. To know this and still talk about future retreats is a terrible folly unto itself. But to actually allow it to happen would be suicidal. The time is long overdue to finally learn from our mistakes.
Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.