Rhonda, USA

December 21, 2012

Question 1 – David, I am very much interested in what you have to say about the topic of the settlements but that is so big that maybe you could focus on E1. I have my own opinions about this but I’m keeping them to myself because I really want to hear what you think and how you and your friends are talking about this when you sit down over coffee. If the reason Netanyahu moved forward with his remarks is a retribution for the world’s behavior at the UN, how worried are you about the consequences of these remarks (and if they are acted on) downstream? There is so much in the press over here highlighting the international outcry about E1 undoing any possibility of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. (Again, keeping my opinions to myself for now.) World reaction seems to be deteriorating into Israel has, “whatever punishment she gets, she is getting what she deserves.” We are hearing “talk” by some about sanctions against Israel (and now the activity in the Security Council). Do you think that the world could ultimately isolate Israel using the same means as was used against South Africa? If things start going that badly, what can we do to survive economically? There is so much I could ask you about all of this and more but I will stop here. Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to reading what you say. As long as I have followed this project, I don’t recall a time when I was more desperate to talk with Israelis as I have been in the past two months.

Hey Rhonda,

Heavy question, where to begin. Poor timing on Netanyahu’s part. I’m not sure what his reasons were, possibly domestic ones, but I think the immediate announcement to build in a controversial region after the U.N vote didn’t go as he would have liked was a counter strike to the Palestinians after their U.N bid. The U.N bid was a major story in the news, something the whole world was focusing on. He could have waited until things blew over and the dust settled, but he decided to react sooner rather than later, and now governments around the world are once again condemning Israel and threatening economic sanctions. Waiting a month or two could have taken the spice off it.

I don’t think Jerusalem, or half of it, will be capital to a Palestinian country.

Israel’s population is growing, so is Jerusalem’s. They need to build somewhere, and it makes sense to connect Jerusalem to Maale Adumim. That being said, the construction is being used as a political tool and not solely as a part of natural growth. I live in the north of the country, the “Periphery” as it’s known, 3 hours away from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Only 3 hours away from the centres but 30 years behind in every other manner. The government is neglecting regions such as mine and pumping money into the territories/West Bank/Judea and Samaria or however you want to call it, subsidising housing there, places that could one day be out of Israel’s control, instead of the North and South. A misallocation of funds and resources in my opinion

On the other hand however, Israelis should be able to live anywhere they want in their own country. You would never tell an American they shouldn’t or can’t live in Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana or California because it’s Mexican or French land. Just like the US, this is land that was purchased or won, and not to forget continually inhabited by Jews for more than 2000 years.

The world could isolate Israel, but I don’t think it would happen like in the case of South Africa. Let’s not forget that despite claims that Israel is an apartheid state, it is far from it, and anyone who says so is grossly misinformed or a liar.
Some exporters have felt the pinch from some of these boycotts, they are struggling and have lost a lot of income and my heart goes out to them. I’m not sure how Israel would deal with a total boycott. We could see a change in policy.

I hope this answers a few of your questions. As you could probably tell from this response I, myself am quite conflicted about it all. It’s a tricky issue.
Here is a link to a interesting article. I liked the sarcasm. http://sultanknish.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/the-deadly-israeli-house.html

Regards,
David

 

Question 1 – Shalom David. I hope all is well with you. Your sketch says you served as a tank driver. When time permits, I’d appreciate your perspective on an Israeli movie that I saw recently. The movie was, “Lebanon.” It came out a few years ago. If you didn’t see it perhaps you can comment on what I’ll describe. First, I’d like to know if this movie is something that a real Israeli soldier would find an accurate representation of how Israeli soldiers relate to each other and to their superiors. Or, is it mostly the creative license of a director trying to communicate the horror of what happened in Lebanon? The soldiers in the tank constantly challenge the officer which you can see is wearing him down. Is it common for soldiers to relate to each other and to their officer in this way? There is also backtalk between this group and the infantry commander who pretty much looks like he could kill them all just with his stare. 
Question 2 – Second. The environmental conditions in the tank are fetid. There is liquid all over the floor with cigarette butts, empty cans and other decaying materials floating about. There is smoke in this enclosed space when the cannon (right terminology?) is discharged. The perspiration on these guys is dripping all over them because it’s so hot. Their lives are under threat and they’re trying to support a group of infantry soldiers. The battle scenes, the interaction with the civilian population, the uncertainty and chaos in the field, the psychological/emotional toll on the soldiers, the moral ambiguities, the scenes of death and destruction are horrifying. The commanding officer and the soldiers are inexperienced, insecure and in a critical moment one of them freezes and doesn’t fire the tank’s canon. Things just go from bad to worse. An infantry soldier is killed and placed in the tank until a helicopter can come for him. A Syrian soldier or terrorist (not sure which) is put in the tank as a “holding” environment. The soldiers in the tank constantly challenge the officer which you can see is wearing him down. 
Question 3 – In the years since FaS went live, I’ve never really asked too much about war itself. One time I thought about it but decided that was way too intrusive. It’s with great reluctance that I’m posting this…asking if this is how war really is. I know a movie isn’t the same as a war but just this insulated piece of celluloid was very disturbing. I look forward to anything you have to say about any of this. If this is something that you don’t want to get into, I respect that too. These are very naïve questions, I realize that. I ask for your tolerance. Thank you. Rhonda 
Hi Rhonda,
I’ll gladly answer your questions.
I had seen the movie a few years ago, whilst still a soldier and once again now to refresh myself.
The reason I watched it the first time around was because of a few of the guys in my company had seen it and were complaining about its accuracy, the main thing being the amount of space in the tank. Those guys in the movie had it good. There is no way that three people fit comfortably in the turret (the part excluding the drive) let  alone five. Israeli tanks house four men. You can cram extra people in there but it is dangerous and there is not a centimetre to move. I’m not sure which tank they were in either as a few different tanks were in operation. The character/attitudes of the soldiers could very well have been like that. So yes, in answer to your questions, soldiers do talk back; nothing was really too out of the ordinary here. Soldiers complain all the time to their commanders and officers and as you could imagine it is extremely tiring. However, I do think that some creative license was taken. They seemed to lose control of themselves rather quickly. The whole movie took place in less than 24 on the first day of the war and they were behaving as if they had been at it for weeks. The team dynamic was poor and they had a weak commander. The director of the movie was the gunner in real life and this was his account. It could have actually been like that for him.
The environmental conditions depicted are accurate. It gets filthy in there, especially the older tanks that heavily relied on hydraulics and thus oil. They would have baked in the summer heat without air conditioning just sitting in their steel house. I was lucky enough to be in a tank that has air-con which makes a huge difference. You cannot physically operate when it gets so hot and you become very lethargic and operate not well at all. We also tried to keep all of our rubbish in one spot or tucked away but it doesn’t really matter. The dust, gun powder, gas from the cannon fire, grease and sweat build up and you look like chimney cleaners rather quickly. The Syrian soldier in the tank could have also being some creative license. There is no way that we would take prisoners with us.
The movie frustrated me on both viewings for the exact same reasons each time. The team was dreadful, the gunner and the commander infuriated me. The camera shots looking through the cannon sights were unrealistic and the way things unravelled so quickly for me made it seem over dramatised.
I hope this answered your questions. If you have any more feel free to ask.
Regards,
David

Question 1 – How are you? I hope you have been well and that your studies are coming along. This evening I read an article in the Times of Israel about all reserve soldier training being cut for the remainder of 2013. What do you think of this? It sounds scary…like people won’t have their skills adequately fresh and therefore be more at risk. Do you think there was an alternative solution that the government didn’t impose? Thank you very much.

Hi Rhonda,
I’m well, thanks.

They actually cut it for the remainder of 2013 and all of 2014, as well as training programs for the regular army. I agree, it is a little bit worrying. One of the main problems and criticism of the army after the Second Lebanon War was the lack of preparedness. It would be devastating for something similar to happen again. In contrast, the army was very well prepared for Operation Cast Lead. I don’t think that the value of combat readiness can be understated, especially with what is going on around us right now.

I don’t think there is an alternate solution. The government needs to reduce a 40 billion Shekel deficit and has made cut backs from many sectors. Maybe a different tax policy to reduce the margin but the figure is too large just for that. The IDF is not immune from economic setbacks. Hopefully we can ride this wave out without any calamity.

Thanks for your question and I hope you are well, too.
David

 

Question 1 – Hi David. Ive been following the news without so much as a pause. How do you think Israel should handle the latest announcement regarding the Golan, Judea/Samaria and Eastern Jerusalem?
Question 2 – It seems like there is increasing crime in Israel (rapes, etc). Is this true or are these things being overblown by the media? Thank you very much for your time.

Hi there Rhonda,

Are you referring to the EU decision saying they will no longer purchase Israeli goods that come from post-67 lines?
I don’t really know how this will hasten peace or peace talks. As soon as it was announced the right wingers and their rhetoric got fired up once more.
This will hurt the Israeli economy but I don’t think it will force any major (or minor for that matter) change. Those living and working in post-67 borders are not going to pack up and leave because things are getting harder. Living there is part of an ideology that they very much believe in. They give their lives for this. A boycott will not change their opinion on the matter or that of a government that represents them. I think it just gives them a reason to keep on battling.

How should Israel handle it? They should do nothing. Nothing Israel will do here will bring peace and it will only hurt Israelis that work in the territories and the Palestinians that they employ.

I saw recently a story on one of the news channels about violence on the rise. A lot of what they covered was violent crime, some pretty horrible things really.
Often people talk about the crimes of the refugees in southern Tel Aviv, especially rape and other sexual assaults. People like to focus on this particularly so they have a reason to kick them out of the country. I saw official statistics that reported the rate of crime as a percent amongst the refugee population is on par with that of the local Israel population.
Here is a link from the central bureau of statistics on crime: http://www1.cbs.gov.il/reader/?MIval=cw_usr_view_SHTML&ID=192

Have a great week,

David

Thank you!

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