Goals? What goals?defense of Rabbi Pruzansky on Sunday, two mutual acquaintances have contacted me. One, a college classmate, informed me that Rabbi Pruzansky was a college classmate of ours (a fact that I confirmed via our yearbook - he had slightly shorter hair than I did, but only slightly) at Bir Zeit on the Hudson. That's good news since I don't want you all to think that all of my college classmates were like this guy.
The other person who contacted me told me that he's a member of the rabbi's shul....
Another friend in Teaneck, whom I contacted, told me that he goes to another shul, but that the rabbi is a 'good guy.'
Frankly, I'm finding it hard to understand why so many people in Teaneck apparently have a problem with a rabbi who thinks straight and articulately presents his opinions. But maybe that's because I don't spend Shabbos in Teaneck when I'm in the New York area. Since I made aliya 21 years ago, I have been there once - for a Bat Mitzva a couple of years ago.
I will now drop this subject so as not to lose any friends.
Rabbi Pruzansky has written another very lucid post in which he discusses whether or not Israel ought to undertake a ground invasion. I think that the only thing he missed - which was pointed out in an email from Moshe Feiglin yesterday - is the fact that Israel continues to supply water and electricity to Gaza, and maybe we ought to try cutting that off before we try invading. In any event, here is some of what Rabbi Pruzansky has to say:
What are Israel’s strategic objectives in the current conflict? As always, those are more difficult to ascertain, because Israel once again was forced to respond. (From Bizarro World: Hamas claims that Israel is the aggressor here and must make concessions. Follow the logic: Hamas has been indiscriminately firing rockets at Israel for years, with an increase in the last month. Since Israel responded only last week, Israel changed the rules of the game – the passive acceptance of rockets on its civilians – and is therefore the aggressor.) Israel’s obsession with avoiding civilian casualties, even to the immoral extent of risking its own soldiers’ lives, and even though it is the only such army in the world held to such a standard, greatly limits its maneuverability. But what are its goals, ultimately?
The problem is that what those goals are and what they should be are not identical. Israel wants stability on its southern border, and an end to missile attacks on its civilian population. It wants Hamas isolated internationally. It wants the world to halt the Iranian nuclear program. It wants to avoid an escalation in the north, where Hezbollah sits atop Lebanon with even more advanced and deadly weaponry than Hamas has. It wants to avoid a propaganda victory for Hamas that a large scale death of Arab civilians would engender. It wants to avoid casualties to and the capture of its own soldiers – anytime, but certainly in an election year.
Notice how none of Israel’s strategic objectives are solely or even primarily within its control. That is why it is consistently on the defensive, reacting to events but never taking the initiative to transform its strategic situation. One Israeli general this week described the current operation as “mowing the lawn.” Every few years, Israel has to “mow the lawn,” i.e., degrade the capabilities of the enemy and thereby buy a few years’ relative tranquility. Ultimately, that is a defeatist attitude, as the enemy’s capabilities only increase. It is certainly not worth the lives of Israeli soldiers to “mow the lawn.” The grass just grows back, higher and more unruly; on the other hand, dead is dead.
A ground invasion is only worthwhile if there are strategic objectives that are achievable and can be enduring. One typical calculation involves war game theory. A war today that costs 1X casualties might be more desirable than a war in 2-3 years that will cost 3X or 5X casualties. Israel has to project the future capabilities of its enemy, as well as the reliability of the future support of its own allies (i.e., ally). A definite war today might not be sensible if casualties in a potential future war are only 2X. A war might be more beneficial today if the Obama administration two years hence is projected to be less supportive of Israel. (President Obama is in a predicament. Certainly, he has endorsed Israel’s right of self-defense, a gesture that is perceived by his supporters as unusually magnanimous, instead of what it really is: obvious. But he has also insisted that Israel not invade Gaza, which means that he prefers the status quo. But the status quo harms Israel.)
What should be Israel’s strategic objectives in a ground invasion? Nothing less than the destruction of Hamas and an end to its genocidal ambitions. (Of course, those ambitions will remain, but operating from exile, Hamas, like the PLO before Oslo planted them in the heartland of Israel, will be much less effective and an annoyance more than a threat.) It certainly can be done – although to announce it in advance would essentially pre-empt its implementation – and it is better accomplished with aerial bombing that weakens their resistance and Special Forces to capture and kill the leadership, rather than a full scale ground invasion.
Israel must re-assert its control over Gaza; it is the only way in the real world in which we live to prevent the recurrence of the same (or deadlier) quandary in another few years. Clearly, the hostile elements among the civilian population must be encouraged to find their happiness and fortunes elsewhere, and a world genuinely interested in their plight should facilitate that. In fact, an uninhabited Sinai Peninsula begs for them, and they could even live there in greater comfort with limitless land at their disposal – an end to the densely-crowded conditions in which they live and in which their problems fester.
This requires Israel to acknowledge that Hamas is their enemy, dedicated to their extermination, and so must be eliminated. There can be no rapprochement with a genocidal foe.I think that most people here are taking it for granted that there will be a ground invasion. We have 30,000 troops massed on the Gaza border, and the government has the authority to call up 70-75,000 reservists. By comparison, only 10,000 troops went into Gaza in Operation Cast Lead. Hamas is convinced that it can best advance its narrative by bringing about civilian casualties, so it's unlikely that they will even want to reach an agreement, much less abide by one that is reached. We Israelis have also had it with the constant rocket fire, that is making a huge chunk of our country essentially uninhabitable. If you think that description is exaggerated, think how well you would sleep at night if at any moment a siren can go off and you have 15 seconds to grab your kids and get them into a shelter.
People here understand that Hamas is the enemy. What they don't understand is that Fatah is also the enemy, and that nearly all 'Palestinians' support one or the other (or whichever is more effective at murdering Jews, God forbid). If you ask the average Israeli whether Hamas is the enemy, they will say yes. If you ask them whether most Gazans support Hamas, they will be less certain. That's where the delusions kick in.
It's because of those delusions that our goals are not well articulated, and all that might result from a ground invasion is 'mowing the lawn' again. That would be a shame. Unfortunately, I suspect that Rabbi Pruzansky has done a lot more thinking about what our goals ought to be than has Israel's political leadership, which seems to have at least as difficult a time confronting reality as those members of Rabbi Pruzansky's shul who felt it necessary to 'call the rabbi to order.'
Read the whole thing.