The TAU Workshop is now long over; a large group of hangers-on are leaving on this morning's Continental flight, and I am departing tonight. I am not sure, but I might be the last holdover, having decided to take a very long weekend spilling into Monday to see friends, buy presents and books, hit the beach, and see a newly released movie by my favorite Israeli director Eitan Fox entitled "The Bubble" (I'll be going to th 21-screen Cinema City in Herziliya for the afternoon matinee in a few minutes and will post a review later). One of my neatest purchases, which I am working with even now, is a set of keycaps for my laptop giving me English, Hebrew, and Arabic keys, just like on my desktop keyboard at home. Last night I took my buddy Yoav and his wife Raaya to a steak place in Herziliya (which was ok, but not stupendous) as a way of expressing my thanks for their gracious hospitality.
All-in-all this was a very useful, informative, and fun 17-day trip, and I think it helped me decide where I will spend my upcoming sabbatical in 07-08. As some of you know, I've been toying with the idea of going to India (all of course due to my newly concocted obsession with all things Bollywood), but I must admit that this damn place has its bizarre attraction on my post-modern Jewish soul. So I think Mumbai is out -- Tel Aviv is in. We'll see...
We're now into week two of -- can I really call it "the hostage crisis"? It is not a hostage crisis. What is playing out now is a scenario that was probably concocted by the Israeli military in late January-early February of 2006. The abduction of a soldier has served as the trigger for an Israeli push to bring down the HAMAS government. You might remember that back in February & March there was much talk after the surprise legislative election results in Palestine about what to do with a HAMAS-led Palestinian Authority. While the eventual outcome of these deliberations was to financially embargo the PA from the international welfare of the West -- and then have the PA survive on the fickle donations of the Muslim world (which have not materialized) -- there were those who argued (remember Benjamin Netanyahu?) that a HAMAS state was intolerable and had to be taken down. Interim Israeli PM Olmert seemed to side with the "take our time" crowd and eventually brought in the Labor Party to provide the necessary cover for effecting regime change. Without Labor, no PM can do what Olmert is doing. Labor, the supposed "dovish" main party, provided the domestic political cover for "Defensive Shield" in 2002 and was actually the controllng party during "Grapes of Wrath" in 1996. I'll leave it to each of you to determine whether either of these two operations benefitted the state of Israel in the long run.
The pretense of missiles in Sderot, capped by the soldier's abduction, has given Olmert the "perfect storm" confluence of events which makes it possible for him to surround Gaza, threaten 750,000 people with a cutoff in electricity; blow up their already threadbare infrastructure; flyover a sovereign neighbor's presidential palace (and what if the Syrians had a miraculous shoot-down? where would we be today?); abduct 1/3 of a neighboring country's government; and destroy the offices of a neighboring country's PM.
Make no mistake about it -- this will end with the destruction of the HAMAS government. Olmert originally said he would wait awhile before he went to a policy of unilateralism and convergence. Rather than wait 6 months to see what would develop (and remember, we were very close to seeing a national unity government made up of Haniyeh and Abbas -- Olmert's worst nightmare), Olmert waited 6 weeks. Convergence could not occur without a further unilateral move: the unilateral move of pre-emptive warfare to effect regime change.
It certainly works to Olmert's advantage that the regime he is about to remove is a group of unresponsive ideologues who have made rhetorical defiance and civil chaos the pillars of government. Even Egypt, which has been working hard to resolve the crisis, is ready to walk away from brethren Arabs. Isolated by their own intransigence, the HAMAS government will likely go down as the 2nd greatest failure of the Bush doctrine -- "democracy for the Middle East."
Well, that is it from this side of the pond. I am certain to follow these events from back home after the requisite recovery from jetlag. Tonight I go visit friends in Mevasseret Zion, then off to the LBG airport. Hopefully I will not be hassled as were some of my workshop compatriots. Usually I have little trouble with security at LBG, because I speak-a the language, but I am concerned this time because I bought a highly inflammatory Arabic book in Nazareth and if they do hand-search my luggage it will generate an interesting discussion. Then the biggest problem will be which single-malt shall I buy in Duty Free. Decisions, decisions.....
1530 Update: Back from the movie "The Bubble" - not Fox's best movie, but it will certainly be well-received by the Israeli art crowd both here and abroad. As I said, it deserves a posting unto itself. Nevertheless, it was a 1:40 hour movie without subtitles and I completely understood it, though I may have lost about 5% of the slang related to homosexual love and the drug ecstacy. I'm all packed up and ready to shut down the computer. It's awfully hot today.