Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Israel's Far-Right in its own Words: Part II

Here's the rest of the interview. Man, this was a long one...

Ben Kaspit, Ma'ariv, 9/15/06
Hebrew original here.

Just Kill Citizens

What are your conclusions from the war?

"The Lebanon arena is not a unique case. It exposed basic flaws in the conceptualization of security."

What do you mean?

"The moment massive missile fire into Israeli territory began, and the civilian population in the rear was attacked, there were two options open to Israel to stop it. One was attempting to hit the launchers, in the wider meaning of the word. To hit Hizbollah's military infrastructure. That was done with partial success, since it seems it was impossible to achieve without a ground operation. The second option was to exact such a large toll from the civilian infrastructure of the state, so that the state itself would do all it could to stop that firepower."

Half of Beirut is destroyed, as is most of Southern Lebanon. Is that not enough?

"No, not at all. We attacked command posts, a little communication infrastructure, in Dahya the 'pit' of the Hizbollah high command. OK. Under no circumstances did we exact a toll from Lebanese infrastructure, from the Lebanese government, from the Lebanese people."

What have the Lebanese people done to you? 3,000 civilians dead is not enough?

"What's 3,000? Those are the same Lebanese, some of whom were Hizbollah, some of whom were in Hizbollah's bases. I'm not talking about those. To make a state capitulate and to exact a sufficient price so that it would do anything to stop the fire or surrender, you need to hit its three components: the government, the physical infrastructure - water, electricity and fuel, and its people, namely civilians."

Just kill civilians?

"Yes. That must be the equation and none other. It's cruel, it's cold, but that's the fact. Until now, in all the wars of Israel we avoided doing that. We hit and won by targeting military infrastructure, the Egyptian, the Syrian. We never hit the state infrastructure. This time we didn't hit the state infrastructure of Lebanon, and also didn't execute the complementary ground operation whose meaning was hard fighting between the houses, in the bushes, in the nature reserves, in a long cleansing operation that could have resulted in many casualties."

So what we do?

"The question is what happens from now on. In future wars, in the arenas we expect to fight in, can we allow ourselves to be trapped in the current mode of thinking? It's totally clear that Syria poses the same dilemma, but on a bigger scale. Much bigger. If tomorrow Syria launches missiles against Israel, what will we do? We will bomb the Syrian high-command, they will continue to fire into Tel Aviv and Haifa, and we will hit some fuel reserves, and what then? We will face the dilemma. Will we exact a toll on the Syrian state?"

"Olmert says that we will do so, that against Syria there will be no hesitations in the use of air power. But what does he mean? The hesitations are not in the physical realm, but in the morals of war, in our mentality. Are we willing to take up an option that says that we, instead of moving our tank divisions in the direction of Damascus through three strips of defenses full of anti-tank missiles and lose 2,000 soldiers? That will exact a toll from those who fire on our civilian population by hitting their civilian population? We must ask ourselves if we are willing to change to such a different security conceptualization. We need to find out if we've been deceiving ourselves until now, leaving a wide-open gap in our conceptualization of security. I think so."

Are we able to be cruel?

What does hitting the civilian population mean? Killing tens of thousands of civilians?

"Possibly yes. I don't know to detail it. Are we able to cause a state, using our firepower, to stop firing on us, without going on an expensive hunt after every launcher? During the war in Lebanon, a significant change occurred in the way the public sees our use of aerial fire power on South Lebanese villages. People said that instead of endangering our soldiers, we should drop bombs. People are starting to understand that the hard ground fighting, under every bush, from house to house and mosque to mosque, with all the casualties, is not necessarily what we want to do while our civilian rear is being held hostage. That's a existential change in our mentality and conceptualization."

In what battle arenas is this relevant?

"It's totally clear that regarding the Iranian area, we have no way of getting there with ground forces. As for the Syrian arena, a ground operation would be difficult, complicated, very bloody, unclear in its goals and aims - and I'm of the opinion that it's impossible to conclude any war whatsoever without a ground operation, only through air power. The question is whether we are able to perform military operations and political ones that would simply collapse the state. Are we able to bring ourselves to such cruelty and get consensus on that sort of fighting, when we are talking about tens of thousands of casualties? That is really a dilemma. Our society is not as on-board with the program as it once was. Our sensitivity to those hurt is enormous, almost extreme, and I understand that. I don't think that will change in a hurry. Hence that nature of the fighting must become a serious topic of debate."

Is this question relevant to the fighting in Gaza too?

"We will face the same thing if we do nothing in Gaza. Will we fight from house to house inside the built-up areas of Gaza, or will we act otherwise? Those are questions we must face. Will Israel add a layer of accumulating deterrent, which means that a state from whose territory there is fire on our civilians will pay in that we will shoot at its civilians?"

The Balance of Blood

So 30,000 rather than 3,000?

"I don't want to get into the required number of dead. That's not the way it's measured. The prime minister and the head of the air-force said that if we had used the entire power of the air-force against the state infrastructure of Lebanon, it would have looked totally different. Is our thinking, our military ethos, able to see such a thing as legitimate? Until today, we didn't do that. But against what we are being presented with, against the alternative prices, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Gaza, this becomes a serious question."

"This combination of extremism and determination on the other side, with our the very high sensitivity to human life and the fact that our army is made up of civilians, reservists, fathers of sons, sharpens the dilemma. The Lebanon war opened a very wide debate on our morals of war and our ethos of war, against the alternatives, when the other side violates the taboo and turns a civilian population into the central target of the war."

And from your point of view, there is no dilemma.

"We must understand that it will all be legitimate. The other side will turn our civilians into targets, and therefore its civilians must become targets. Until now, that didn't happen. Not the Egyptians, not the the Syrians and not the Jordanians bombarded Haifa or Tiberius as a target. It's a type of escalation. The long-range, medium-range and short-range missile abilities has left us in the lowered position of they who need to find a needle in a haystack."

"What will we do? Invest a huge sum in protecting the rear, in Nautilus, in Arrow [7], and turn our entire military doctrine into some sort of technological shield against fire power? A state cannot exist when its military doctrine is a flak jacket. A fence against terrorists, Nautilus against Katyushas, Arrow against missiles. That's an essential layer, it should all exist, but it cannot exist without the other side knowing that firing on our civilians will result in an extreme and expensive action, in terms of human life and their citizens."

How much more Allah will we need?

What about peace? Don't you think sometimes, just a little bit, about peace?

"God willing. Until today we walked around with a huge checkbook called 'the Occupied Territories', and we said to ourselves that if we write a big enough check, the problem will be solved. Who cares that Efi Eitam and Uri Ariel don't want to sign the check? One day they will be convinced of land for everything, love, peace, the end of the conflict, the next world. But suddenly it was made clear that this check isn't valid. There is no question here of land. It's totally clear that what the Iranians want, and what Hizbollah want, and what Syria wants, is the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state."

"I was asked if this is a religious war. Yes, it is. If an organization is called Hizbollah, and the leader Nasrallah, and the fighters shout Allah is great into their radios, how much more Allah will we need until we understand? That's an ideology that is impossible to tame or suppress using material components, as we used to think and according to the narrative we told ourselves."

And still, from that to what you said in the memorial for Lieutenant Amihai Merhavia this week, there is a big gap. Expel all Arabs? To call Israeli Arabs a fifth column? The Rabbi Kahane is turning in his grave.

"I said those things at the memorial for Amihai Merhavia from a general point of view, and I don't think I'm exaggerating or disconnected. I'm on the foreign and security affairs committee and am up to date with the smallest details, and I'm very worried. I'm not worried because of one isolated component of the problem, but from the accumulated weight of the problems, towards which we act as if they are insoluble, or as if we have no will to face them."

"Those problems come to three things in the final reckoning. From afar, it's the Iranian threat. It's alive and getting closer to us every day. Anyone who tells you it's ok, that it's something for the distant future and surrounded by all sorts of question marks, don't believe him. We are talking about a concrete danger that is getting closer and closer."

You're avoiding the question. Iran is a danger to the entire world, we're not alone on that. I asked you about Israeli Arabs.

"You are wrong. The world, as usual, is confused and slow when it come across such a determined evil, when we are talking about duplicity. And Iran is a superpower in the sense that it's the fourth largest oil exporter in the world, its land mass is about the same as Western Europe, and it's steering with all its financial power towards becoming a nuclear power, whose aim is to destroy Israel or to create a cloud of depression and an eternal question mark regarding Israel's existence."

"If the Iranians will have nuclear weapons, Israel may become, instead of a shelter and a symbol of hope for the Jewish people, a trap, a concentrated goal for the destruction of the Jewish people. That cannot be allowed to happen. International activity is failing to deal with the pace of the development of the threat. So saying that the problem is international, that the Americans need to solve it may be the expression of a certain diplomatic wisdom, but it's also makes for a great danger that we will really convince ourselves that someone else will solve our problem. No one will solve it. Just us."

And what do we need to do?

"Everything."

Expel a Million

You said there were three problems.

"The second problem is the overall issue of the terror organizations that surround us. The problem of Hizbollah is not solved. Like the attempt to export the Iranian issue to international responsibility, we deposited our problem in the North in the hands of an international force. Does some think that the Italian carbinierri or the French gendarmes will take care of the problem of Hizbollah in the long-run?"

"Hizbollah needs protection right now, and it needs to be restrained. The moment it feels sufficiently comfortable, two serious attacks on the international force and they will all run home. We must say the truth, the problem has not been solved. All the international forces in the world cannot stand against the determination of Islamic terror. So the problem hasn't been solved, rather the way in which the war ended turns into a model of victory for them, that is already adopted in Northern Samaria and Gaza."

From this I understand that the third problem from your point of view is the Arabs of Judea and Samaria and those inside Israel?

"Correct. The third problem is the territory of Judea and Samaria. It has been seen that land that we pass into the hands of the Palestinians or of Hizbollah doesn't create a trigger for calming, but a springboard for preparation for the next attack. So we are facing a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, it's clear that in Judea and Samaria we can't give the land to the Palestinians. The Palestinians today are Hamas, and Hamas is Hizbollah, and Hizbollah is Iran. It's clear that we cannot give up that land. On the other hand, it's impossible to manage the lives of the residents of those territories for long, like some of the people want."

So your solution is expulsion?

"What I said at the memorial in that context is that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria need to know that if their land undergoes a process of Lebanonization, then our reaction will be similar to what it was in Lebanon. What did we do in Lebanon a month ago? We expelled a million people and destroyed 15,000 houses."

And such an extreme scenario is possible in Judea and Samaria in your opinion?

"If in Judea and Samaria such a process occurs, like what is already happening in Northern Samaria and in Gaza, it is certainly possible that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria will find themselves experiencing something similar to what happened to the population of Southern Lebanon."

Israeli Arabs are Burdensome

And what about Israeli Arabs?

"The circle of Israeli Arabs is burdensome too. Their leaders are a fifth column, I don't retract those words. That chutzpah of enjoying themselves right now in Damascus [8], while our sons are fighting in Al-Manar, and to give advice to the enemy, it's unbelievable. Israeli Arabs have developed for themselves some mental territory, that enables them to stop identifying with the state of Israel, in the sense of the state of the Jewish people that allows a minority within it to live as long as it recognizes that it is the Jewish state. They are undermining that foundation, that is the basis of our existence."

"In this sense they will have to decide among themselves, and quickly, in what way they want to continue this partnership. Is it a respectable partnership, born out of the recognition that this is the Jewish state, in which they live with full equality, or do they want to become a subversive element that dances on the roofs and is happy for the misfortune of the state, and that plays an active part in weakening it in the face of its enemies?"

"A type of civil uprising is developing among Israeli Arabs against the state of Israel in its role as a Jewish state. All this talk of a state of all its citizens is a dangerous element like no other. Confronted with all that, I said what I said not in a storm, not in a moment of excitement, but in a state of great worry. The accumulating weight of these problems, against the background of the other weaknesses in our society, will be too great. And slowly, perhaps not within one day, it will be too heavy for us to deal with. It will create all sorts of difficult feelings."

So what, Rabbi Kahane finally has a worthy heir?

"No. I won't get into the man and his philosophy. I think that civilian status is a conglomerate, it is a combination of rights and duties. And when a member of Knesset identifies with the enemies of the state and acts to changes its Jewish nature, and an entire public votes for him time after time, that public slow positions itself as an element that disturbs the state of Israel. Even if we assume for a moment that this is the nature of the relationship between Jews and Arabs in the state, you are ignoring the world around us. They will tar and feather you and ostracize you for such words. As far as the Israel-Arabs are concerned, this is not about legitimization, but a new definition of our relations with them. The first condition we must present to them is that they recognize that they are living in the state of the Jewish people - its nature, symbols and its determination to remain as such."

"As far as the [Arab] MKs are concerned, I think the Knesset needs to set boundaries. MKs who behave in a treacherous manner and encourage the enemy at a time of war, cannot sit in the Israeli Knesset, that is the sovereign. The sovereign cannot act against itself at a time of war. That is de-facto identification with our enemy. The katyushas that killed eight people in the train shop in Haifa, the ball bearings that killed those civilians, are Syrian ball bearings."

Are you aware that you have slipped to the margins, that it will again be said that you are crazy?

"Yes. They will shout that Efi is crazy, wishing for war, I'm not afraid of that. The future of the state is more important to me than my image. Whoever wants to deal with the facts, with the data, with the problems, with the dilemmas, be my guest. I don't want to be a prophet of doom. I'm trying to present a sober alternative."

Jews, sign up!

The problem is in the Israeli leadership, that doesn't see the problems that you see?

"The problem is the leadership. The fact is that the second generation of leaders, Ehud Olmert, Bibi Netanyahu, is a generation that is currently at some sort of crossroads."

And the solution is to crown Efi Eitam?

"No. Suppose there were elections. My camp, and even myself, would gain significantly. So what? There would be a right-wing government, that will once again be back by 67 MKs, and again there will be countless obstacles. We have no time or energy for that. We are in a rare moment of survival. The dilemmas and threats are very hard, and it's difficult to take the necessary decisions with a combative opposition. It will exhaust the nation further. The only correct way today to stabilize the leadership is to unite."

Are you engaged in contacts?

"Yes. Intensive ones. I am talking with Olmert. I am talking with Bibi. I am calling for us to unite, to return to be a society of people who sign up, not a follower society."

What really happens with these contact?

"I meet Ehud a lot. I meet Bibi. I try to convince both of them to go for a national security government for a defined period of time, two to two-and-a-half years, during which no controversial issues are dealt with. We need to rebuild our military capability, to rebuild the rear, to reduce the tension between us."

Is it making progress?

"I think so."

What will Bibi be in this government?

"Whatever he chooses, except prime minister. I don't deal in placements. Ministers according to talents. That's the principle. There are a number of ministries where it is important for their heads to have proven abilities. A record, a relative advantage over others. Part of the reality test of all this is ministers by capabilities."

Does that mean a new defense minister?

"If you're looking for a headline, that's not the intention. But yes, anyone who led this war in senior key positions, will have a very hard time regaining the system's trust and leading it to a real recovery. Taking responsibility is not a punishment or revenge, it's a natural result of the situation in which the system malfunctioned."

Including the head of the army?

"Danny is a good friend of mine and has been for many years. What I had to say to him I did, and still continue to. I don't want to directly address the issue of the head of the army. He is still in that position, the lives of soldiers are in his hands, I don't want to get into it. This state-ship, it's about time you all understand, is not a pose, it's real. Because there is no alternative. The Jews need to unite right now. They have no choice."

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Notes:

[7]: Arrow and Nautilus are missile-defense systems designed to counter ballistic missiles and katyushas respectively.

[8]: A number of Arab MKs recently visited Syria and Lebanon on a solidarity visit. This has happened before and has resulted in police and security services interrogations, but no charges, despite the ban on visiting enemy states.


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