Evacuate Tehran, not Metropolitan Tel-Aviv

The articles that appeared during the last week is several Israeli and foreign media channels and that did shed light on the plans of the Israeli home command to carry out a mass evacuation of the population of metropolitan Tel-Aviv and the adjoining cities to the south of Israel in case of a future missile war prove again how detached from reality is the political and defence leadership of the state of Israel and how bankrupt is its deterrence ability.

Let’s start with the fact that this evacuation is a paper plan that has no basis in reality. Imagine that tomorrow morning, during peace time, an exercise would be held simulating the mass evacuation of millions of people and their staying for a prolonged period of time in temporary accommodation in the Arava and in Eilat. Imagine the huge traffic jams, the confusion, the lack of control, and the logistical difficulties in providing basic needs like water, food, medicines and sanitation, and all this in an exercise held during peace time, without salvos of thousands of missiles a day hitting all parts of the country, the collapse of communication systems, the need to use the roads that will remain open to move army units, and violent the actions that would be taken by hostile populations inside the country. The evacuation of the residents of metropolitan Tel-Aviv to the south of Israel during war is in my opinion a dangerous illusion that has no proven operational basis in reality.

The illusion that the Israeli home front is capable of withstanding long weeks of a missile war with an intensity similar only to the heavy bombardment of European cities during the second world war is so dangerous that it could cost us the survival of the state. So is the illusion that infrastructure of supreme strategic  national importance, from air force bases to power stations and water pumping installations would somehow be able to continue functioning under these conditions. Israel must change its national security doctrine immediately, and ensure that the world, and in particular its enemies who increase daily the size of their missile arsenals, are clearly aware of this change.

Israel must recognise publicly that its civil population, and indeed its armed forces, have not got the ability to survive a prolonged missile war that would destroy its vital infrastructure. To know this, there is no need to wait for the post-war board of investigation – one can come out of the thought paralysis and activate the brain right now. Israel must clarify that such a war would not last weeks, not even days. Israel would act with total determination to bring about the halting of a missile attack on its territory within a period of three hours, at any cost, and using all means necessary. Its enemies must understand that starting such a missile attack amounts to signing an immediate suicide letter. It must be ensured that the plans are for the evacuation of what would remain of Tehran, not metropolitan Tel-Aviv.

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Syrian MIGs in the Skies of Lebanon

It is Tuesday, June the 8th 1982. Thirty years ago today. IDF forces are advancing into southern Lebanon. On a hill located south east of Sidon, the division headquarters of Lieutenant-General Avigdor Kahalani, the hero of the desperate battle to hold the north of the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur war, is parked. He is hosting in his command tent another division commander, Lieutenant-General Yitzhak Mordechai. At the bottom of the hill, soldiers manning an improvised road block stop a Lebanese vehicle and find in it a pilot seat taken from the crashed Cobra helicopter of Yossi Keler, RIP. The inhabitants of the car are taken for questioning. Near the tent I identify a familiar face. Unbelievable, but this is a childhood friend I have not seen for 20 years. He is a Lieutenant Colonel now. We settle into a conversation about days gone by.

Suddenly something attracts my attention. From the corner of my eye I see something which for a second I think is a gliding bird, but realise immediately is a fighter jet. It enters a shallow dive from north to south with its nose aimed directly at us. Automatically I try to identify the aircraft, assuming it is one of ours. Upper wing, rectangular air intakes to the sides of the body, but unlike an F-15, only one vertical fin… something does not make sense to me. The aircraft continues descending directly towards us and then turns elegantly eastwards at a low speed and performs an Independence Day style fly-past. It exposes its right side which is painted in brown and green camouflage and is adorned with the markings of the Syrian air force. This is, without doubt, a MIG-23. A second aircraft is diving behind it.

Someone pushes aside the tent’s flap and shouts into it “MIGs!”. “MIGs?” shouts Kahalni back. He jumps to his feet with his right hand grabbing his assault rifle and his left hand placing his helmet on his head. Perfect drill, I think to myself. Everyone hurries out. The planes make another wide turn and prepare to what looks like a bombing run. “Where are the anti-aircraft guys?” shouts someone. “They have gone down for lunch…” answers someone else. Whoever makes it jumps onto the vehicles and the armoured personnel carriers and grabs a machine gun. The others take cover wherever possible. The MIGs approach and dozens of medium and heavy machine guns open fire at them, unleashing hell. The noise is incredible. The planes drop their ordnance at the bottom of the hill near the artillery regiment, turn east and flee the area flying at low level. “That’s it.” says someone. “Syria is in the war.”

“Where is the air force?” asks someone angrily. There is no answer, but after a short while we hear an approaching Bell 212 helicopter. It lands, and out of it emerges the IDF’s assistant head of operations, air force man Lieutenant General Giora Furman. Those present gather around him. “We were just attacked by Syrian MIGs.” someone tells him. Furman does not seem surprised. “How many MIGs were there?” he asks. “Two.” comes the answer. “Interesting…” says Furman. “There should have been eight…” Great, I think. You knew about this and nobody warned us. But the question “Where is the air force?” receives an appropriate answer within 24 hours. Next day, the air force, under the command of General David Ivri, carries out its operation ‘Mole-Cricket 19’. The Syrian anti-aircraft missile batteries array in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley is completely destroyed. In the ensuing air battle over the area, IAF fighter jets shoot down eighty Syrian warplanes of all types, possibly including the two MIG-23s that attacked us the day before. All ninety participating IAF jets return safely. A long term deterrence is probably achieved there – the silence along the Syrian front has been maintained for the last 30 years.

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Forty Five Years to the Ammunition Hill

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“And nobody asked where to

Whoever went first fell

You needed a lot of luck

On the ammunition hill”

(Yoram Teharlev)

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The Ammunition Hill

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Rusting iron tendons strain out

of the crumbling, bullet ridden concrete

and down the slope high thorns and barbed wire.

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From the entrance of a dark bunker in the deserted trenches

I see through the firing slits little red buses

moving to and fro

and the houses of Jerusalem standing around in a large circle.

The mountain can always erupt again

spitting sulphur and flames.

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Through a thin blue curtain hanging in the heat of the day

the battle picture is frozen, blurring in the distance

the sounds of war are weakening,

and only the footsteps of the tourists

a baby falling asleep in the pram

and birds.

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June the 5th, 1967

The convoy of fuel tankers left a few nights ago. The road leading to the village is deserted. The days are hot and are getting longer. The waiting continues. I arrive at school in the morning. This is the last month of the last year before moving to high school. Nobody concentrates any more on anything – only on the question: Will there be a war? When? The teacher does not yet finish reading the list of pupils from the diary when the little loudspeaker hanging in the corner of the room, which is normally used for messages and for the broadcasting of educational programmes, wakes up to life. In the head teacher’s room, someone places a radio receiver in front of the microphone. From the loudspeaker comes the voice of the news reader Yoram Arbel: “This is the voice of Israel from Jerusalem. The time is ten minutes past eight. Listen to the announcement of the IDF spokesman. Since the early hours of the morning heavy armour and air battles are taking place between Egyptian forces that advanced towards our territory and our forces that went out to hold them back. Our aircraft are engaged in bitter air battles with enemy planes…” The held breath is released at once. The accumulating tension of the long weeks of waiting is discharged. The war has begun, and for better or worse, it will not be very long.

Sirens are heard across the area. We go down to the school’s bomb shelter a few times. After an hour or two we’ve had enough and we take our bags and go home. A feeling of each one to their fate. My parents are also at home after their workplaces were dispersed. My father is too old for military service and is serving as a civil defence volunteer. The announcement of the IDF spokesman is broadcasted again and again, with no facts or commentary. My father, who experienced a large war many years ago, frowns and says to us quietly: “If it is to hold them back – then it is not good.” My mother, who came from a country that never knew war, looks out of our window, worried, at the distant west bank hills, and says suddenly with anxiety in her eyes: “Now the Arabs will slaughter us all.” We shut her up angrily.

Another siren. We have no bomb shelter and we ran to a zigzagging trench fortified by sand bags that was dug by a tractor behind the vegetable garden. Many families crowd into it. Someone switches on a transistor radio: “The Arab Legion is shelling Jerusalem…  Ein HaMifratz was attacked from the air…” A young girl begins to sob. The radio adds misleading reports about the location of the falling shells of the Jordanian ‘Long Tom’ cannon in the area of Tel Baruch, causing the enemy gunners to increase range and to the shells to fall into the sea. I look around from inside the trench. In the distance, my eye spots a twin engine jet aircraft flying very low and at a high speed westwards. It is hard to identify but it is too small to be a Soviet Iiyushin 28 which serves in the Egyptian and Syrian air forces and that a cardboard model of is hanging in our room. The aircraft approaches fast and passes north of us with its engines screaming. It is a French made IAF ‘Vautour’ bomber jet. Why it is flying at this uncharacteristic altitude, heading and speed is not clear, but at least it is one of ours.

U, who was a paratrooper in Unit 101 until he was badly wounded and became disabled, and now serves as a reserve instructor, returns from one of the air force bases. He meets my father on the road under our house and tells him that our air force has already achieved a huge success this morning against the air forces of the Arab countries, and that the war has already been practically decided in our favour, My father returns home, passes the information carefully to us and adds his own doubts, in case it is inaccurate. Evening falls. All the windows are covered and a heavy darkness descends outside. We all lie in our clothes along the width of my parent’s folding bed which my father lowers from the wall wardrobe storing it during the day, and we listen to the radio. Towards midnight the IDF spokesman begins to release information. The fog of battle is beginning to disperse. The commander of the Israeli air force, General Moti Hod, informs the people of Israel about the destruction of the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian air forces on the ground at their air bases. IDF forces are advancing in to the Sinai and around Jerusalem. The first day of the Six Days War is coming to an end.

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“Grovelling State, Castrated Leadership, Trampled National Pride…” Said Ancido the Mud Man

Yesterday, Israel’s media channels carried out descriptions of the disgraceful ‘gesture’ made by Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Abu Mazen – the return of the bodies of 100 Palestinian murderers, the worst of the human beasts these miserable people brought forth during the last 40 years or so. Below one of the articles, amongst the rest of the angry responses, a man calling himself ‘Ancido the Mud Man’ wrote the following words: “Grovelling state, castrated leadership, trampled national pride…” (which rhymes and sounds much better in Hebrew: “Medina mitrapeset, hanhaga mesoreset, gaava leumit nirmeset…”). Dear Ancido, I thought that your comment was so sharp and precise that, with your permission, I used it as the title for this article.

Israel’s leaders during the last 10-15 years autisticcally refuse to understand and take in the severe and long term significance of each disgraceful surrender Israel makes in the face of its sworn enemies who etched its destruction on their flags. What a huge morale boost the murderers from Lebanon, the west bank and Gaza receive when Israel folds, retreats, returns live prisoners in return for dead bodies and dead bodies in return for nothing. The speeches that were heard in Ramallah were not speeches of gratitude, reconciliation and peace – they promised more of the same. More murderers, more blood, more bodies. Already this morning we received the thanks of the Palestinians when the IDF soldier Netanel Moshiashvilli was murdered by a terrorist who infiltrated Israeli territory from Gaza.

The prime minister has already tried to carry out this idiotic gesture a year ago, but the idea was put on hold. Now, using his loyal messenger the lawyer Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu passed a letter to Abu Mazen in which he informed him of the implementation of the ingenious idea. Will Mr Netanyahu stand up in front of the cameras and the microphones and explain to the Israeli voters why this gesture was made, and in return for what.

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Egypt – on the Road to a Hundred Years of Darkness

My heart goes out to the Egyptian minority of young, educated, freedom and progress seeking liberals. One year since the Arab spring and there is not one of them who still believes that the revolution that demolished Mubarak’s regime has brought or will bring the future of which they were dreaming when they went out to the streets and the squares. The burning down of Ahmed Shafik’s election headquarters will change nothing – events have long gone out of their control, and if they will fail Shafik, who exactly will they get in his place? Mursi, the Islamic Brother? This is what happens when you give democratic tools in the hands of 80 million people of which 70% still live in the tenth century. Like handing out machine guns to kindergarten children before play time and be surprised by the bloody outcome.

Egypt is marching down the certain path towards a hundred years of darkness, ignorance, illiteracy and suppression. The Muslim Brotherhood will teach every intractable man and especially woman how one should behave in an extremist Islamist state that implements Sharia law at its best. The army will continue to keep its separate and preferred status, enjoying the flow of American money and keeping the stability of the regime in return. One hand washing another murderous hand.

And the enlightened leaders of the western world that so praised the fall of Mubarak’s regime, from US president Barak Hussein Obama to Israel’s president Shimon Peres and his new Middle East, are keeping very quiet now. Softening and smoothing the bad news, trying to cast a positive light on them, including the fact that the Israel – Egypt peace agreement is a dead duck floating in the water. How blind can one be, even if you are a president?

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A Kid with a Guitar on the Eve of War

Rewinding the reel of memories in my imagination, 45 years back. The time is the end of May 1967. Around the state of Israel, not yet twenty years old, clouds of war are gathering again. This is the middle of what was later termed ‘the waiting period’ that preceded the Six Days War. Egypt’s president, colonel Nasser, had closed the Strait of Tiran on the Red Sea, and is streaming large military forces into the Sinai. The Syrians and Jordanians are also gearing up for war, backed politically and militarily by several other countries. In Israel there is tense stillness. And apprehension.

I am not yet 14. I go to school in the morning and discover that alongside the tree lined road leading from the highway into our village, on the dirt track used by the tractors on their way to the farms’ fields, a long convoy of heavy fuel tankers appeared overnight. They are parked in a long line, nose to tail. Near an old building at the end of the road the drivers are gathered to drink coffee, tell stories and try and guess what is about to happen during this hot summer.

The residents of the village get organised quickly, as the people of Israel do when the sword is on the throat. Each family invites two drivers home for dinner. My parents get busy in the kitchen and prepare a large table loaded with good food. Two large built men, with thick moustaches and sun bleached forelocks of hair, kibbutznicks from the upper Galilee in their forties, appear at the door, with towels and wash bags. After a hot shower they sit down for dinner with our family. They tell us about the Independence War and the Sinai campaign. They inspire confidence. They believe that all will be well, that we will stand up to them, and that we have been through worse before. The conversation around the table flows and morale is improving dramatically.

The days get longer. The convoy is still parked in the shade of the trees. I adopt the bunch of drivers. Go down to them every evening after school, bringing with me my simple little guitar and trying to arrange some sing along for them. One of the drivers that visited our house, the one with the blond moustache, gathers his friends in a typical style: “Yalla, Khevre, there is a boy here with a will and a guitar, more will than a guitar. Come along and sing.” And the drivers gather. Lighting a campfire is out of the question – the huge quantities of fuel around us preclude that. One of the drivers toys with a lighter and an insect repellent spray and shoots a small flame into the air. He gets a sharp rebuke from the others. Night falls and we sing every song I, or they, can think of. If I don’t know the chords I turn the guitar around and drum on its back side.

A few more days pass. I get up in the morning, go down to the road on my way to school and discover that it is empty and deserted. As it appeared suddenly during that night, so did the convoy of fuel takers left last night with no warning, on its way to the front. Something is about to happen soon, it is clear. Farewell, dear kibbutznicks from the upper Galilee, with your overgrown bodies, moustaches and hair, the sons of the men of ‘HaShomer’ defence organisation. Salt of the earth. Take care and return safely.

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