The Confidence Game

Well, today President Obama is going to turn his keen intellect on the intractable problems of the Middle East, hoping to bring about the same wonderful results he’s brought domestically in the fields of health care reform, the economy, and race relations.

Those lucky, lucky Middle Easterners.

As part of the “process,” he and a bunch of others are calling on Israel to make certain “good faith gestures” beforehand — concessions where they demonstrate that they really, really want peace before negotiations can start in earnest.

Whoops, my bad. That phrase has developed a justified stench, as every time Israel has done that, it’s ended up with their situation being worse. So they’ve abandoned that term, and now want to talk about “confidence building measures.” Or, as Meryl Yourish’s co-blogger Soccerdad calls them, “CBMs.”

Ya know, the fact that Israel has not waged open war in the past month or so ought to be enough of a “confidence building measure” or “good faith gesture” for anyone.

On July 31, yet another rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. This one struck the roof of a building on the campus of Sapir College in Sderot. More specifically, the children’s hydrotherapy therapy center, which was completely destroyed.

Fortunately, the rocket hit on a Friday, right after the Jewish Sabbath had commenced. Had it been fired even a few hours earlier, it would have likely killed hundreds of already-victimized Israeli children and their caregivers.

Remember, Hamas is the legally elected government of the Gaza Strip, from whence the rocket came.

On August 3 of this year, Israel engaged in some tree trimming along their border with Israel to make it harder for terrorists to infiltrate Israel. This was nothing new; it happens so often that there’s a protocol established. Israel notifies the Lebanese and the United Nations peacekeepers of their plan, gets their assent, and then — at a very carefully coordinated time and place — trims down the offending trees.

This time, however, there was a twist. As an Israeli soldier was trimming the tree, a Lebanese Army sniper — acting under the direct orders of his superior officer — shot and killed an Israeli officer overseeing the whole operation. An officer standing well back from the actual border.

And several representatives of the international press were present on the Lebanon side. They had been told, in advance, that something highly newsworthy would be happening during the tree-trimming — but not any details.

Oh, and the trees in question were on the Lebanese side of the border fence, but in Israel proper — Israel’s fence is set back from the border a bit.

Israel exercised considerable restraint at this act of war by not immediately leveling several Lebanese Army installations. Further, they also did not announce that all future tree-trimmings would be conducted by mortar fire.

Finally, the incident my colleague Rick discussed this morning, when two Israeli couples — including a pregnant woman — were ambushed and killed by Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank for the crime of driving while Jewish. “Credit” for the attack has already been claimed by Hamas, the aforementioned legally elected government of the Gaza Strip.

Three actions, all of which clearly fall under the category of “Acts Of War” when carried out by a government. Three actions, none of which triggered a warlike response from Israel.

Once again, Israel has made “good faith gestures” and “confidence-building measures” that prove that it is not interested in war, but peace and survival.

One would think that at some point, any point, in the interest of fairness and balance, the Palestinians would be asked to make their own “good faith gestures” and “confidence building measures” to show that they, too, are actually interested in peace and not genocide. But if the Obama administration does push for that, it would be the first time — ever.

And of all the administrations I’ve lived through (technically, since the Johnson administration, but I’ve only been politically aware since the dreadful Carter days), this one is the least likely to ask the Palestinians to do anything.

Fortunately, just like all of Obama’s promises, his tenure in office also comes with an expiration date. And like the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan know, when the other side has a firm deadline, all you have to do is hunker down and outlast them in order to win.

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