Wednesday, August 09, 2006

posted by Elad

The prisoner's dilemma

One of the most well-known examples in game theory is the "prisoner's dilemma". In this game there are two prisoners which committed a crime together, each having two options: to betray his friend or to stay silent. Both prisoners must make a choice without knowing what the other chose. If both prisoners stay silent, they both go to one year in prison. If one betrays and the other does not, the betrayer goes free and his friend serves 10 years. If they both stay silent, they both serve 5 years.

(for more info see this link or just search the web for "prisoner's dilemma)

On the face of it, for each player separately the best option is to betray (no matter what the other guy did, he is better of betraying). This is somewhat disturbing intuitively - if they would collaborate the "best" solution for both prisoners would be reached.

Indeed, if this scenario is repeated many iterations, and one wants to minimize his total number of years served, certainly it would be best to reach some sort of "agreement" between the players. Experiments (and by now also in theory) show that a very simple strategy called "tit-for-tat" works best. This has a very natural appeal: At first, "be nice", i.e stay silent. If the other guy betrays, then retaliate back in the next iteration (i.e. betray so to "teach him a lesson"), but after that return to being nice.

Sounds familiar ? Many of us take this approach in real life. Trying to be friendly, and if we encounter an "enemy" retaliate, and then try to "make peace" and be friendly again. Without elaborating too much, experiments in evolutionary game theory confirm this strategy to be optimal in some respect.

How does this relate to the middle east ? Well, many wonder why did Israel go to war over the Hez provocation, or why was its response "so harsh". Here is an explanation: life has taught us to retaliate. To "give the other cheek" and always be nice as Jesus preached does not work. It is not "evolutionary stable" in mathematical language.

Reminds me of a joke i read recently: why is the jew always afraid ? Because that's the only jew that remained... The Jews have tried to "give the other cheek" for two millenia, and it failed miserably. The lesson we learned at a pretty heavy price is that retaliation is necessary.

Israel was nice in the last six years. The Hezbollah tried to "itch", but Israel remained quiet. The last incident, in which two soldiers were abducted and eight killed, resulted in the war and destruction we're experiencing now. It was time for retaliation, and people felt it instinctively through generations of "strategy forming". That is why Israel reacted to the abduction of the soldiers. That is why there is a huge consensus in Israel for the war.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

(from Ofer N, Jerusalem)

First, can anyone tell me how to create hyperlinks on these blog pages?

Now, unfortunately, consistent evidence of the war crimes we are committing in Lebanon (I provided links to US based Human Rights Watch reports) has been insufficient to cracking the consensus. It seems that the latest government decision, with the growing number of casualties, will soon do the job (just cracking for now, not shattering).

I think the cheek turning issue does not reflect the true nature of Israel's conduct in Lebanon, perhaps not even in the past 6 years. Prof. Zeev Maoz, who doesn't come from radical circles (he's the former head of the Yafe centre for strategic studies) has this to say:

Morality is not on our side

By Ze'ev Maoz

There's practically a holy consensus right now that the war in the North is a just war and that morality is on our side. The bitter truth must be said: this holy consensus is based on short-range selective memory, an introverted worldview, and double standards.

This war is not a just war. Israel is using excessive force without distinguishing between civilian population and enemy, whose sole purpose is extortion. That is not to say that morality and justice are on Hezbollah's side. Most certainly not. But the fact that Hezbollah "started it" when it kidnapped soldiers from across an international border does not even begin to tilt the scales of justice toward our side.

Let's start with a few facts. We invaded a sovereign state, and occupied its capital in 1982. In the process of this occupation, we dropped several tons of bombs from the air, ground and sea, while wounding and killing thousands of civilians. Approximately 14,000 civilians were killed between June and September of 1982, according to a conservative estimate. The majority of these civilians had nothing to do with the PLO, which provided the official pretext for the war.

In Operations Accountability and Grapes of Wrath, we caused the mass flight of about 500,000 refugees from southern Lebanon on each occasion. There are no exact data on the number of casualties in these operations, but one can recall that in Operation Grapes of Wrath, we bombed a shelter in the village of Kafr Kana which killed 103 civilians. The bombing may have been accidental, but that did not make the operation any more moral.

On July 28, 1989, we kidnapped Sheikh Obeid, and on May 12, 1994, we kidnapped Mustafa Dirani, who had captured Ron Arad. Israel held these two people and another 20-odd Lebanese detainees without trial, as "negotiating chips." That which is permissible to us is, of course, forbidden to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah crossed a border that is recognized by the international community. That is true. What we are forgetting is that ever since our withdrawal from Lebanon, the Israel Air Force has conducted photo-surveillance sorties on a daily basis in Lebanese airspace. While these flights caused no casualties, border violations are border violations. Here too, morality is not on our side.

So much for the history of morality. Now, let's consider current affairs. What exactly is the difference between launching Katyushas into civilian population centers in Israel and the Israel Air Force bombing population centers in south Beirut, Tyre, Sidon and Tripoli? The IDF has fired thousands of shells into south Lebanon villages, alleging that Hezbollah men are concealed among the civilian population. Approximately 25 Israeli civilians have been killed as a result of Katyusha missiles to date. The number of dead in Lebanon, the vast majority comprised of civilians who have nothing to do with Hezbollah, is more than 300.

Worse yet, bombing infrastructure targets such as power stations, bridges and other civil facilities turns the entire Lebanese civilian population into a victim and hostage, even if we are not physically harming civilians. The use of bombings to achieve a diplomatic goal - namely, coercing the Lebanese government into implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1559 - is an attempt at political blackmail, and no less than the kidnapping of IDF soldiers by Hezbollah is the aim of bringing about a prisoner exchange.

There is a propaganda aspect to this war, and it involves a competition as to who is more miserable. Each side tries to persuade the world that it is more miserable. As in every propaganda campaign, the use of information is selective, distorted and self-righteous. If we want to base our information (or shall we call it propaganda?) policy on the assumption that the international environment is going to buy the dubious merchandise that we are selling, be it out of ignorance or hypocrisy, then fine. But in terms of our own national soul searching, we owe ourselves to confront the bitter truth - maybe we will win this conflict on the military field, maybe we will make some diplomatic gains, but on the moral plane, we have no advantage, and we have no special status.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Elad said...

Hi Ofer N,
First, I want to request from all readers of this blog to refrain from postings entire articles of others. If you have something to say, please do so in a succinct manner so all of us can enjoy a meaningful conversation. A link is sufficient (you can write html in responses with the usual way to insert links. If you can't manage that, just give the entire URL in text).

As to the content, it is not very relevant to the post, which tries to explain why israel retaliated and why it is (at least started out) with consensus.
I am not trying to explain who is morally superior, this is a separate issue (on which I also think there is a consensus).
but just to mention one obvious flaw in Maoz's article: the number of casualties issue. this was addressed in a previous post "numbers".

12:54 AM  
Blogger Yonatan said...

Game Theory, being a mathematical discipline, inevitably reduces conflict situations to very simplistic models. This is the only way we mathematicians can work our mathematical magic and derive interesting results.

In particular, in the prisoner's dilemma, you can either stay silent or betray your accomplice. It is my fear, that our leaders see things the same way. That in response to the kidnapping they thought they had but two options - stay silent, or attack with full force.

Like almost all Israelies, I am completely for an action that will "change the game rules", as people used to say when the war begun. But you have to be clever about it. You have to think about your long term goals. Tit-for-tat just doesn't cut it when you need to steer any country, let alone one such as Israel, to peace and prosperity.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Yonatan said...

Ofer N,
Putting in links is done as follows:
Suppose you want the word "Ofer" to link to the site
You need to write:
<a href=""> Ofer </a> .
Hope this helps.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Jean said...


Your vision on the start of the conflict is interesting.
But personally, I think there is much more to that than this.

iran wants to turn the international attention away from its nuclear issues, syria wants to show how bad was the idea of making it leave lebanon, the US want another example that democracy can work, after it failed in iraq (they want to make of lebanon a good example, free of HA), etc..
many factors come into account I think.
I am trying to write an more elaborate article about that that I will post soon.


12:49 PM  
Blogger Elad said...

Yonatan and Jean,

Inevitably real life is much more complex than tit-for-tat. In this conflict there are a million factors that contributed to the whole scenario, including Iran and Syria's interests.

Yet I firmly believe that simplifications have an important role: that's the only way to draw conclusions and learn from history. I think that the reason Israel reacted as it did as opposed to go to negotiations as in the previous abductions, is this intuitive need for retaliation, which is very basic (as arises even in simple scenarios).

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Israel was nice for the last 6 years? Acclording to an article by George Monbiot the other day:

Since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, there have been hundreds of violations of the "blue line" between the two countries. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) reports that Israeli aircraft crossed the line "on an almost daily basis" between 2001 and 2003, and "persistently" until 2006. These incursions "caused great concern to the civilian population, particularly low-altitude flights that break the sound barrier over populated areas". On some occasions, Hizbullah tried to shoot them down with anti-aircraft guns.

So not that nice.


6:48 PM  
Blogger ran said...

There have been minor non-aggresive violations by israel over the past 6 years. But as you can now see - there was a lot of hizbullah activity for these planes to photo... I'm sure you agree it is nicer to take pictures from the air than killing people on the ground.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

OK, Hezbollah were arming themselves, but perhaps it was chiefly for reasons of self-defence; after all, they may have had an inkling of what was going to happen...

By the way, I'd like to respond to what you said in response to my long post to you last week, but can no longer find the thread!

Regards to you


12:29 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Rasha, whoever you are, Zena is a million miles from self-centred. She is inspiring huge numbers of people with her passionate,loving and heartfelt writing, and she writes mostly of the devastation this war has brought to others, not herself. Please stop for a moment and put yourself in her place; she is living in the middle of one of the most stricken places in the world right now; her friend is ill with cancer and may lose access to her medication soon. Nobody in Lebanon knows right now whehter they'll live to see next week. It is very, very unkind to speak harshly to her so please think very hard before you post these kind of words to her again.


12:40 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Apologies- I somehow managed to post the post previous to this one on the wrong blog. Me being inept - I'm sorry. (:

Please delete it - I've tried to but there doesn't seem to be any way of doing it!


12:47 AM  
Blogger Elad said...

maybe it was the NEOCONS who took pictures from the air...

4:45 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

The point I'm trying to make is that there have been skirmishes on the border on both sides for years, with roughly equal numbers of provocations and reactions on both sides.

Then suddenly this, followed by the emergence of evidence that this whole war on Lebanon has been planned in detail for a long time, and Israel was waiting for an excuse. There would have been far more of a public outcry if they'd just started bombing Lebanon at that particular time for no particular reason except a snap decision to wipe out Hezbollah there and then no matter how many civilians had to die in the process.

My hunch is that the attempted wiping out of Hezbollah is all part of the run-up to a far wider war - on Iran and Syria, probably in the Autumn. The US fears that Hezbollah would have responded with attacks on US forces in Iraq, which would have decimated any public US support for the wars, therefore Hezbollah had to be lanced first.

This is a joint Israel/neo-con operation from start to finish and it will all come out one day.

All it takes is enough patience to sift through reams of documents until you find the official evidence that what is being presented to the public is very different to what is really going on.

There are neo-con documents available to read online that outline the whole plan to reorder the Middle East. This is what is happening right now. It's a terrible mistake, conceived by people driven by ideas not realities, and will lead to the most terrible bloodshed and fresh hatreds that will go on for generations to come.

Madness, in other words.


1:20 PM  
Blogger howie said...


I am certain your analysis is wrong.

Israel, of course, has contingency plans but in terms of "planning this for a long time".

Why did they leave Lebanon in the first place if they wanted to attack Lebanon. That makes no strategic sense.

Really...stop with all these grand conspiracy ideas. Though the situation is very complex...some things are pretty simple.

Most of Israel wants peace
Most of Israel does not want themselves nor their son's and father' uncles, cousins etc. blowing up Lebanese and being blown up by Lebanes.

Most Israeli's believe this is an existential war...get them...or they destroy us.

Most Israeli's believe...and I think it is very true...that there is no reliable party in Lebanon to make a deal with. Lebanon cannot control Hezballah with international help. If they try, the country will fall to pieces.

Israel is also has Peace Now types and Greater Israel types...but the mainstream...just want to live in peace but have little trust of our neighbors...who have attacked us again and again and again and again.

Don't forget Sarah...Hezballah did not get those rockets for defensive purposes...they have NO military value because they are not powerful and grossly inaccuate. They are solely for the purpose of killing and terrorizing civilian populations.

So...we need to think much more clearly. Israel would love peace with Lebanon...much of Lebanon, I think we enjoy and benefit greatly from a peace with Israel...but their are forces against this, and they are primarily Syrian and Iranian and, of course, Hezballahian...and Hezballah has their own vision of a united you would not like much Sarah.

9:34 PM  
Blogger howie said...


One last comment:

You say:

"There are neo-con documents available to read online that outline the whole plan to reorder the Middle East"

I say:

"I saw it on the Internet...therefore it much be true".

I also read on the Internet that Bhuddah and Jesus commuicate with austic people through facilatated communication..i.e. use of computer. It was on the Internet...therefore it must be true.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Howie, these neo-con documents aren't fairy-tales - I'm afraid they're authentic. I wish they weren't. Read and ponder a crucial and very revealing one here:

Make a note of the names and consider their current positions in the US administration (with the exception of Feith, who I believe has been marginalised)

You can't just keep writing this off as 'conspiracy theory'.


10:30 PM  
Blogger Yonatan said...

Do the Israeli actions really look like a well planned war to you? To me they seem confused, and based on gut reactions and bad intuitions. It seems to me they have a very very vague strategy, and that they make the tactics as they go along. As Howie wrote, there was probably some contingency plan for a response to a kidnapping (since Hizbollah kept announcing they intend to do this for years), but apparently it wasn't much of a contingency plan.

Saying that "there were skirmishes on both sides" is not very accurate. Like you, in cases of conflict my first assumption is that the truth is somewhere in the middle, and that both sides are to blame. In this case, the assumption holds very marginally. It's true that Israel regularly photographed southern Lebanon, but how can you compare this to firing missiles (which started before the Israeli response, to facilitate the kidnapping), and attacking - killing and kidnapping - Israeli soldiers?

I remind you that this is not the first time the Hizbollah have done so, and would also like to point out that in response to the survey flights Hizbollah used to fire anti-aircraft ammo, which often caused dammage to property in northern israel.

Your responses really look like you have a theory on how things are, and you fit the events to it (trimming them when needed). Being a scientist, this methodology seems a bit dubious to me.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Here's a more detailed timeline:

In October 2000, the Israel Defence Forces shot at unarmed Palestinian demonstrators on the border, killing three and wounding 20. In response, Hizbullah crossed the line and kidnapped three Israeli soldiers.

On several occasions, Hizbullah fired missiles and mortar rounds at IDF positions, and the IDF responded with heavy artillery and sometimes aerial bombardment. Incidents like this killed three Israelis and three Lebanese in 2003; one Israeli soldier and two Hizbullah fighters in 2005; and two Lebanese people and three Israeli soldiers in February 2006.

Rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel several times in 2004, 2005 and 2006, on some occasions by Hizbullah. But, the UN records, "none of the incidents resulted in a military escalation".

On May 26 this year, two officials of Islamic Jihad - Nidal and Mahmoud Majzoub - were killed by a car bomb in the Lebanese city of Sidon. This was widely assumed in Lebanon and Israel to be the work of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. In June, a man named Mahmoud Rafeh confessed to the killings and admitted that he had been working for Mossad since 1994. Militants in southern Lebanon responded, on the day of the bombing, by launching eight rockets into Israel. One soldier was lightly wounded. There was a major bust-up on the border, during which one member of Hizbullah was killed and several wounded, and one Israeli soldier wounded. But while the border region "remained tense and volatile", Unifil says it was "generally quiet" until July 12.'

So - these skirmishes resulted in 13 Lebanese killed, with about 35 wounded, and 7 Israelis killed, with 2 wounded.

'But there is no serious debate about why the two soldiers were captured: Hizbullah was seeking to exchange them for the 15 prisoners of war taken by the Israelis during the occupation of Lebanon and (in breach of article 118 of the third Geneva convention) never released.

It seems clear that if Israel had handed over the prisoners, it would - without the spillage of any more blood - have retrieved its men and reduced the likelihood of further kidnappings.'

You also claim the war is based on a contingency plan, but there's also this:

'The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "more than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to US and other diplomats, journalists and thinktanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail".

The attack, he said, would last for three weeks. It would begin with bombing and culminate in a ground invasion. Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University, told the paper that "of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared ... By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board".

A "senior Israeli official" told the Washington Post that the raid by Hizbullah provided Israel with a "unique moment" for wiping out the organisation. The New Statesman's editor, John Kampfner, says he was told by more than one official source that the US government knew in advance of Israel's intention to take military action in Lebanon. The Bush administration told the British government.

Israel's assault, then, was premeditated: it was simply waiting for an appropriate excuse. It was also unnecessary. It is true that Hizbullah had been building up munitions close to the border, as its current rocket attacks show. But so had Israel. Just as Israel could assert that it was seeking to deter incursions by Hizbullah, Hizbullah could claim - also with justification - that it was trying to deter incursions by Israel. The Lebanese army is certainly incapable of doing so. Yes, Hizbullah should have been pulled back from the Israeli border by the Lebanese government and disarmed. Yes, the raid and the rocket attack on July 12 were unjustified, stupid and provocative, like just about everything that has taken place around the border for the past six years. But the suggestion that Hizbullah could launch an invasion of Israel or that it constitutes an existential threat to the state is preposterous. Since the occupation ended, all its acts of war have been minor ones, and nearly all of them reactive.'

George Monbiot, earlier this week.

This does look like a long-term, rather than a contingency plan.


2:07 AM  
Blogger howie said...


Where do you start your timelines!!!

I remember in 1994 we stayed at a cute little family "camping" place called "Achziv" near Nahariya. No bunkers or hidden weapons...just a little pool and some cabins and little recreation room. Lots of families with little kids.

A couple years was a random rocket. But this is just a small example. The timeline starts over 3000 years ago. How can you start with the year 2000, which by the way was the beginning of an enormous string of horrible murders of innocents perpetrated by Palestinians who you mention.

I assume you infer Israel kills Palestinians for sport or something. The soldiers here will tell you their training is much different than what you assume at risk of court martial and jail for improperly using a weapon, even under threat, and the Palestinians know it and exploit.

But I wandered. Yes these are conspiracy plots that are totally out of touch and anything on the Internet is very questionable...except the fact that I, Howie, am the Messiah and I am ordering world peace with my humos, pita and chips.

3:59 AM  
Blogger Yonatan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

My timeline starts in 2000, which is when Israel withdrew from Lebanon. Before that, surely you can understand hostile actions from Hezbollah while Lebanon was under Israeli occupation?

So how about explaining why 19 Lebanese are still being held by Israel? Is this or is it not provocative?

And why have Israeli forces killed 150 Palestinians in Gaza in the last month, many of them civilians? Is this not provocative? It's hardly in the interests of peace.

As for the document you keep writing off as internet nonsense, it's called 'A Clean Break - A New Strategy for Securing the Realm' (1996)and was prepared by a group led by Richard Perle, a leading US neo-con with close ties to Israel.

The report was prepared as a proposed new policy for the government of Israel, and presented to then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in July of 1996.

On July 10, two days after receiving the document, Netanyahu delivered a speech before the US Congress, which reflected the recommendations made in the report.

The principle recommendations were:

1 A repudiation of the concept of "Land for Peace," which was the basis for the Oslo Accords
Armed incursions into Palestinian areas under the rubric of the "right of hot pursuit".

2 Armed incursions into Lebanon, and possible strikes against Syria and Iran.

3 The removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

4 A repudiation of the tenets of Labor Zionism, and a change to Economic liberalism.

Since then, land for peace has been forgotten.

An armed incursion into Lebanon began last month and is still underway.

Strikes against Iran and Syria are in the pipeline.

Saddam Hussein has already been removed from power in Iraq.

Surely you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the parallels?

Time to read the document yourself, I think.


4:09 PM  
Blogger howie said...


"since then land for peace has been forgotten"

At enormous expense; social, political, economic and lives, Israel left Gaza as a starter. I guess Gaza is not considered is ah...air?

Israel was rewarded with an onslaught of Kassam rockets and continued terror attacks.

Why are people being killed in Gaza? Because people in Gaza keep firing rockets into Israel and committing other atrocities and killed soldiers and kidnapped and held another.

Lebanese is Israeli jails? Maybe they did something wrong. Where is the pilot Ran Arad, whom Lebanon SO barbarically will not even reveal what happened to him...leaving his family to suffer for nearly 25 years. Utter cruelty.

You see many of your ilk, you ignore some very obvious facts. Marking time from 2000 is so widely off track that you are already lost if you care about truth.

Overall, Israel sees herself as constantly under threat and attack...which has been true forever...we can even go back to the Babylonian fact...Israel and Lebanon have several things in common. Israel is a tiny country with a tiny population and we not willing to take a tit-for-tat approach. If you chose to attack and kill three...well we will hit you back much harder.

Sadat was rewarded with land and peace, though much of Egypt still hates us...a very cold peace. Jordan has a peace treat that both honor...though a recent INTERNET poll indicates that almost all Jordanians hate Jews..a peace that probably won't hold.

So Sarah, we are alone with no place to go, so yes...we are rather careful and, unfortunately, we have to always be ready to fight very hard, because violence and rejection are the routes the Arabs have chosen...starting at least in 1948, including Lebanon, and have continued since.

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Answer me this: how many Israelis have been killed by Palestinians since the pull-out, and how many Palestinians have been killed by the Israelis? And how many on both sides have been civilians?

And you still haven't commented on the neo-con document or retracted your implication that it's just more internet nonsense..


8:39 PM  
Blogger Elad said...

It is a common mistake to take sides according to the number of casualties, see previous post "Numbers".

10:20 PM  
Blogger ran said...

Hi Sarah,
1. Israel and lebanon do not have a peace agreement with each other. Israel has peace with jordan, egypt and good relations with other muslim countries (morocco, some of the gulf countries, etc.). So let's not blame israel as a peace-hating state. This is just not the case. Israel wants peace with lebanon and has no land claims (the israeli position regarding shaba fars is that they belong to syria and thus will be negotiated with them).
2. Hizbullah is a terrorist organization. Like many other organizations of this type they hide behind legitimate or pseudo-legitimte justifications. In this case it is a pseudo-legitimate one. They claim to be the protectors of lebanon, but the truth is that if it weren't for them Israel would never have attacked lebanon (the 1982 war was a similar story but with the PLO), because Israel has no claim from the lebanese people except peace. 6 years ago Israel decided that it is time to try to test the option of withdrawing from lebanon while hostilities (including katyushas) are still going. This had some success in the short term, because hizbullah didn't want to be pictured as the only hostile side. So they decided to launch infrequent attacks, such that will show that they still have a military reasom to exist, while not pushing it too hard. In the meantime they gained more weapons, built a militray infrastructure, and prepared for the next war with Israel. I heard that there is intelligence evidence they were planning an occupation of an Israeli city/village. But for now they were building power. The other lebanese were too busy trying to rid themselves of syria, and for now decided it was not time to ask the hizbullah to lay down their arms. Unfortunaelty for them they did not prepare for what happend in 12 July 2006. They thought they had time, but Israel's message is: "please do what is required of you as a soveriegn state which has a border with us and take care of this threat to Israel's security and to lebanon's regime".
3. I beleive what the Israeli army had was more than a contingency plan. It was an attack plan for the desruction of hizbullah. This is the military way of handling them. The israeli governments since 2000 decided time and time again it was not ready to open a second front (the first is with the palestinians), and also wanted to enjoy the international support gained from the 2000 withdrawal. But last month Israeli decided it was the right time to fight the hizbullah threat (they calim they want to destroy israel, it is not something I read in some website ;-): we had the legitimate cause (abductions and killing across the border). Also it was in tune with olmert's plan for unilateral withdrawal in the west bank: to convey the message that although we are willing to withdraw we will retaliate if provoked. So I agree there was a plan, and probably the neo-cons supported it because they like wars against arabs. But it doesn't mean it had no logic to it, or that it was not justified. If the neo-con support me eating a Quarter Pounder with cheese doesn't mean me choosing to eat one is because of them, or that it is not justified. In both cases (the war and the burger...) I think it is a wrong choice - but it is not outrageously wrong. It makes some sense. It is a choice many people would have done. It is reasonable.

11:59 PM  
Blogger howie said...


I will answer you question about numbers...though it is a horrible question;

Isarel has had lower causualities because:

1. Palestians and low power and very bad aim with their rockets

2. High population areas are not near Gaza

3. Israel has excellent security and many many more terror attempts are thwarted than succeed, but that is never noted by most people.

4. And the Palestinian casuality rate is extremely low because of Israeli morality and restraint.

2:43 AM  
Blogger howie said...


I should add that the Palestinians have been trying very hard to raise the Israeli numbers...very hard. That is why Israel finally had to attack Gaza.

I guess you feel we should wait until their aim gets longer and better?

3:35 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Howie, you may think it a mistake to compare casualties, but however you look at it and for whatever reason there have always been far greater numbers of civilian casualties on the Palestinian side, which inevitably leads to increased grievances and a never-ending perpetuation of hostilities.

What kind of end do you see to this unless the Palestinians get their own viable homeland with access to their religious sites and as much water as they can need?

And you still don't repond to my plea to you to read the neo-con plans!

Yes the Palestinians were stupid to keep attacking after you withdrew from Gaza, but when you consider the fact that Israel's cabinet then quietly approved a decision to extend the so-called security fence well into East Jerusalem, and in violation of international law, expelling maximum numbers of Christians and Muslims by building the giant border wall right through the middle the center of unwanted, non-Jewish neighborhoods..

The Palestinians in Gaza could have hardly been expected to trust Israel's intentions at that point. I'm not trying to justify their attacks - just trying to illustrate how a lasting peace will never be possible until they have their homeland.

Going back to Lebanon, one of your posters affirms that Hezbollah was actually declining before this war, so what was the point of all these deaths? And all the new emnity which will have inevitably arisen?

The whole thing seems like madness and not even ultimately in Israel's political interests, or in the interests of the Israelis who actually live there. Which is another reason to suspect that America has been driving all this, which is another reason to study that document. You may get a shock.



2:53 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

And Ran, I've read and considered your post and can accept some of your points but when you said:

'I think it is a wrong choice - but it is not outrageously wrong. It makes some sense. It is a choice many people would have done. It is reasonable.'

But in the light of a poster's assertion here that Hezbollah was actually in decline? And in light of the the deaths of all those hundreds of children, the destruction of entire heritages, the countless billions of dollars it will now cost to reconstruct Lebanon (where on earth are they going to get the money from) not to mention the now unfathomable hatred that will have been created towards you as they survey their country and see the magnitude of what has been done to them...

How can you possibly expect them to lie down quietly now??? And how can you expect Israel to live in more peace than before?

If it's even over yet...

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Not so good for Israel...

I've just seen this:

'Amid the political and diplomatic fallout from Israel's faltering invasion of Lebanon, some Israeli officials are privately blaming President George W. Bush for egging Prime Minister Ehud Olmert into the ill-conceived military adventure against the Hezbollah militia in south Lebanon.

Bush conveyed his strong personal support for the military offensive during a White House meeting with Olmert on May 23, according to sources familiar with the thinking of senior Israeli leaders.

Olmert, who like Bush lacks direct wartime experience, agreed that a dose of military force against Hezbollah might damage the guerrilla group's influence in Lebanon and intimidate its allies, Iran and Syria, countries that Bush has identified as the chief obstacles to U.S. interests in the Middle East.

As part of Bush's determination to create a "new Middle East" – one that is more amenable to U.S. policies and desires – Bush even urged Israel to attack Syria, but the Olmert government refused to go that far, according to Israeli sources.

One source said some Israeli officials thought Bush's attack-Syria idea was "nuts" since much of the world would have seen the bombing campaign as overt aggression.

In an article on July 30, the Jerusalem Post referred to Bush's interest in a wider war involving Syria. Israeli "defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the US that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria," the newspaper reported.

While balking at an expanded war into Syria, Olmert did agree on the need to show military muscle in Lebanon as a prelude to facing down Iran over its nuclear program, which Olmert has called an "existential" threat to Israel.

With U.S. forces bogged down in Iraq, Bush and his neoconservative advisers saw the inclusion of Israeli forces as crucial for advancing a strategy that would punish Syria for supporting Iraqi insurgents, advance the confrontation with Iran and isolate Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

But the month-long war has failed to achieve its goals of destroying Hezbollah forces in south Lebanon or intimidating Iran and Syria.

Instead, Hezbollah guerrillas fought Israeli troops to a virtual standstill in villages near the border and much of the world saw Israel's bombing raids across Lebanon – which killed hundreds of civilians – as "disproportionate."

Now, as the conflict winds down, some Israeli officials are ruing the Olmert-Bush pact on May 23 and fault Bush for pushing Olmert into the conflict.'

Something to ponder on,perhaps.


3:44 PM  
Blogger Yonatan said...

By writing that Hizbollah's power was declining, I refered to its political power. Its military power has clearly been constantly on the rise.

I think the attack and kidnapping was aimed to reestablish its power by depicting it as the only force who truly cares about the Lebanese held in Israel, the only force apable of facing up to Israel. (And I also believe that the timing was chosen to draw attention from the G8's decision regarding Iran.)

But from all your posts, I still don't understand what you would have done in Olmert's shoes. If you simply do what the Hizbollah asked for, the Hizbollah becomes a hero in Lebanese eyes, and, moreover, as Eldad wrote in the original post here - there is no motivation for the other player to cooperate with you in the next iteration.

I think the ultimate question on which you disagree with the rest of the posters here is what would happen if Israel freed all the Palestinian and Lebanese it hold, and withdrew from the OTs and Shaba'a. Would the Hamas and Hizbollah make peace with us? Will the Lebanese and Palestinians force them to do so?

I seriously doubt it. You must carry a big stick if you want to survive in the middle east. You should certainly act more cleverly and less arrogantly then recent Israeli governments. You should speak softly, but you do need that big stick.

11:26 PM  
Blogger howie said...


You probably have a huge heart, but you are, I believe, very very naive.

Yonatan is right. Israel must be clever, even gracious...but without that big would be almost immediate doom. Of this, I have absolutely no doubts.

2:24 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

OK, Hezbollah's military power may have been increasing but you have no evidence that they were going to use it in a pre-emptive attack. The Soviet Union had nuclear armoury but never used it; France has nuclear weapons and so do many other countries but they don't use them, all stating they need them for self-defence. Even America claims its massive arsenal is for self-defence, although in their case I would be disinclined to believe them. :)

As you have more Lebanese prisoners than they have Israelis, why did you not just exchange some prisoners? It might have saved an awfullot of bloodshed on both sides, and Hezbollah would not now be seen as quite the heroes they may be seen as now in the Arab world. If I had been Olmert I would certainly have exchanged some prisoners; I would also be pressing ahead for some sort of decent deal for the Palestinians.

As for lasting peace there have been many signals over the last few years that the majority of Arabs now want to recognise Israel and will renounce hostility if you sort something viable out for the Palestinians.

A viable peace deal was about to be sorted out a few weeks ago in a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli officials, but plans for the meeting were disrupted by Shin Bet. Excuse my cynicism but there are forces that don't want a peace deal at any price, not because they don't see the possibility of peace arising from it but because it doesn't fit in with neo-con plans.

And what about this:

The veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh writes in the current issue of the New Yorker magazine that Israeli government officials travelled to the US in May to share plans for attacking Hizbullah.

Quoting a US government consultant, Hersh said: "Earlier this summer ... several Israeli officials visited Washington, separately, 'to get a green light for the bombing operation and to find out how much the United States would bear'."

The Israeli action, current and former government officials told Hersh, chimed with the Bush administration's desire to reduce the threat of possible Hizbullah retaliation against Israel should the US launch a military strike against Iran.

"A successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign ... could ease Israel's security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American pre-emptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations," sources told Hersh.

Yesterday Mr Hersh told CNN: "July was a pretext for a major offensive that had been in the works for a long time. Israel's attack was going to be a model for the attack they really want to do. They really want to go after Iran."

An unnamed Pentagon consultant told Hersh: "It was our intention to have Hizbullah diminished and now we have someone else doing it."

Yet you still persist in believing that this war was a response to an unprovoked Hezbollah attack. But on May 26 this year, two officials of Islamic Jihad - Nidal and Mahmoud Majzoub - were killed by a car bomb Lebanon, and in June, one Mahmoud Rafeh confessed to the killings and admitted that he had been working for Mossad since 1994.

Not to mention the fact Israel's refusal to give the Lebanese government a map of Israeli landmines in southern Lebanon: Many Lebanese have been killed or gravely injured because of these landmines, since 2000.

This war was a completely disporportionate major offensive, killing obscene numbers of civilians and destroying a vast amount of Lebanon's infrastructure in the process and has achived nothing towards peace in the region; neither was it meant to.

There's just too much evidence that this was an American idea, planned in secret along with certain members of your government, and without the knowledge of the vast majority of Israeli citizens. It's all aprt of the preparation for a major war on Iran and Syria which will probably be carried out in the Autumn, under one pretext or another.

For pity's sake read that neo-con document for the origin of the plans. Sadly, you're being used by the lunatics who have taken over the US administration since 2000. No good will come of it.



12:11 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Oh, and the truth always has a way of slipping out, as illustrated by Condoleeza Rice's recent decription of the war as 'the birth-pangs of a new Middle East'.



12:48 PM  
Blogger Yonatan said...

Even if all the sources you quote are utterly truthfull, it just amounts to saying that the US had an interest in Israel attacking Lebanon, and that, as a response to the Hizbollah attack, they may have influenced Israel into taking the offensive.

In other words, when Israel had to decide how to respond to the Hizbollah attack, one of the factors may have been a "green light" or even an encouragement from the US. I don't understand why this seems like the major issue in your eyes.

Your suggestion that the attack came as a response to the car bombing - which, with all the internal strife and anti-syrian feeling in Lebanon may very well not have been by the Mossad - was not, to the best my knowledge, raised by the Hizbollah. In Nasrallah's speach after the attack he said that its goal was to free the Lebanese prisoners, and in particular Samir Quntar.

You say that in Olmert's shoes you'd have done so. I ask you again - what do you think this would have done to the popularity of Hizbollah? What implications do you think this would have had on the next Hizbollah attack? What do you think this would do to Olmert's credability in Israel, and his ability to withdraw from the West Bank? And, honestly, would you really free someone like Samir Quntar?

You compare the situation here with the cold war. There is a big difference - Iran and Hizbollah openly state that their goal is to destroy Israel. If this is their goal, then what do you think the missiles are for?

I ask you again - suppose Israel freed all Lebanese and withdrew from Shaba'a, in your honest opinion, will Hizbollah refrain from hostilities?

The palestinian problem is very different, but even there you put too much blame on Israel. In 2000, in Taba, Israel offered them what at the very least is a good basis for negotiation of a viable solution. I seriously doubt they'll get a better opening offer in our life time.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

I still think you seriously underestimate the amount of US involvement in the planning of the war. You see it as a 'green light' - I see it as something rather more sinister and part of a far wider neo-con agenda that may well have serious implications for the near future.

You say exchanging prisoners only 'encourages them' but many governments have quietly exchanged prisoners in the past without a subsequent increase in kidnappings. Wasn't it worth a try?

Please read this BBC article re Lebanese prisoners held by Israel without charge for many years; there are too many of them there and it's been going on too long.

Also, check this article re the car bombing in Lebanon:,20867,19494999-601,00.html

Hezbollah and Iran say they'd like to destroy Israel, but some of this may well be sabre-rattling rhetoric, and Ahmadinejad's pronouncements have sometimes been translated in a manner to which the term 'disingenuous' could be applied. In other words, it's in the interests of certain power-mongers to make the Muslim world look as irrationally bloodthirsty as possible, in order to justify certain foreign policy ends.

Has it not occurred to you that Hezbollah and Iran may be arming themselves in self-defence? After all,they have every reason to fear Israel with its massive nuclear armoury, and the US with its stated intentions to 're-order the Middle East'!

As for peace with the Palestinians, in truth it's never too late so why did the Shin Bet Security Forces break up and prevent a meeting recently that could have actually kick-started a new peace deal with the Palestinians? Who ordered them to break up the meeting and why? You haven't answered this question before so I'm asking it again.

OK, here's a big,important question:

Suppose the hypothesis of a joint US/Israeli inititaive to reorder the Middle East were really true. Suppose the intention is: war on Syria, Iran, then later Saudi Arabia and even Egypt, resulting in the deaths of millions but in the end a reshaped Middle East with each country above governed by a US-friendly regime - what would you say to a plan like that?

Would you have mixed feelings about it, would you be for it, or would you be against it?



2:31 PM  
Blogger Yonatan said...

As to exchanging prisoners being "worth a try", that's exactly what Elad's original post is about. It's worth a try, but only once.

I agree that people should not be held without fair trial (and not the mock trials where the palestinian defendant is not allowed to see the evidence against him, and sometimes even the accusation, for security reasons). But that doesn't mean they should be freed as a reward to the Hizbollah.

As far the conspiracy described in your last paragraph, I'd say its crazy. Not you - the conspiracy. Even if it is being conspired somewhere it'll never happen.

About the Shabak (they haven't been called shin-beit for over a decade...) breaking up a peace meeting - I have no idea what it's about. As I wrote before the Palestinian issue is completely different, and I resent many (most?) of the Israeli actions. I only pointed out that the Palestinians have done a lot to themselves escalate the situation. Being very much the victims here, they can't afford to be as irresponsible and stupid as Israel.

As for the sabre-rattling, I'd love to believe that, but I simply can't. Everything I see and read suggests that the simplest explanation is true.

I hope I answered all your questions. Will you now answer mine?

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Just to let you know I have a friend staying at the moment so it's very hard to get to the computer for long enough to respond properly, so please bear with me till late tomorrow when I will have more time.

Regards to all


5:55 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...


OK, I'll try and answer all your questions. You asked:

'In Nasrallah's speach after the attack he said that its goal was to free the Lebanese prisoners, and in particular Samir Quntar.

You say that in Olmert's shoes you'd have done so. I ask you again - what do you think this would have done to the popularity of Hizbollah?'

Have all negotiations with terrorists automatically led to an increase in terrorist kidnappings? Historically, I don't think so. And if Israel really is holding at least 15 Lebanese without trial, then is it so unreasonable for Hezbollah to snatch Israelis? Why is Israel holding these Lebanese anyway? Are they all guilty of something? Or are some of them quite possibly completely innocent of anything? What is Lebanon supposed to do about them?

As for the popularity of Hezbollah, I would have thought this recent war has caused a huge leap in Hezbollah's popularity across Lebanon, which wasn't really the desired effect.

You also ask:

'What implications do you think this (prisoner exchange) would have had on the next Hizbollah attack?'

You're assuming a prisoner exchange would only embolden them, but as I just pointed out,this war has most certainly emboldened them, whereas a prisoner exchange may or may not have emboldened them, well over a thousand people would still be alive, and Lebanon's infrastructure would still be intact. Hezbollah's grievances against Israel have now multiplied a thousandfold - surely this isn't what you would have wanted?

Then you asked:

'What do you think this (a prisoner exchange) would do to Olmert's credibility in Israel?'

If killing a thousand Lebanese people including countless babies helps to shore up Olmert's credbility amongst Israelis then I truly fear for the moral compass of the majority of Israelis. This carnage was massively disproprtionate and anyway plenty of evidence has emerged that the snatch was the pretext for a well-planned war and not the real reason.

No I wouldn't free a man like Samir Quntar, but your own Mossad agents have killed the wives and children of their targets by your own admission,and yet they are running around free! Neither side looks good in this respect.

Iran and Hezbollah state that their goal is to destroy Israel but sometimes words are twisted to make statements look more beligerent than they really are. Iran's president's words were recently twisted when what he meant was an end to the current Israeli regime, not necessarily Israel itself. And if he/they'd like to see an end to the State of Israel, they wouldn't be alone - even some Orthodox rabbis would like to see an end to the State of Israel, calling Zionism itself unJewish and against precepts in the Talmud.

As for their missiles, don't you think they need to be able to defend themselves? Especially after Israel's previous invasion and then occupation of Lebanon? If you lived next door to Israel with all its massive weaponry wouldn't you want to defend yourself?

If Israel returned all prisoners and handed over the Shaba farms it would certainly be a good beginning. However, Israel chose to take a different route and now Hezbollah have more support in Lebanon than ever. A bit of an own goal really.

Now please answer my previous question about a war on Iran and Syria properly. You wrote the very idea off as preposterous, but I wasn't asking you whether you thought it was a ridiculous hypothesis or not, I was asking you to imagine how you'd feel if it were on the cards. Would you think it a good idea, a bad idea, or would you have mixed feelings about it?

Please answer this - I'd really like to know what you'd think.



3:21 PM  
Blogger Yonatan said...

You didn't really answer any of my questions - you only explain why the end result of this war is a pretty bad one. I agree. Arguably, it's as bad as exchanging prisoners in the first place would have been. But this is with hindsight.

About Hezbollah needing the missles to defend themselves - I'm sure the Lebanese army, and most Lebanese people would be happy to see the Hizbollah disbanded, and their weapons being given to the Lebanese army. Lebanon has a right to arm in order to defend themselves. Not the Hizbollah.

About the war on Iran and Syria, I think it's a very bad idea. In this war, when reservists were being called in, Israeli media overdid itself explaining how this is not meant to threaten Syria.

I am sure a war with Syria is something even the arrogant IDF generals fear. And a war with Iran would be even worse (though I don't see how it could be fought exactly, having no border with us).

Even for the US a war on Iran is a bad idea. Iran is very different from Iraq, and even in Iraq the americans are not exactly having their way.

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

I'm sorry I didn't answer your questions properly - I did try, honest! Please tell me which ones you want answered and I'll have another go.

Re Iran, yes this is my view too, and I'm very afraid the US are going to attempt this and also involve Israel. They've already tried to cook up intel that Iran was importing uranium from Congo, however it has turned out that the mine they say they have evidence it's coming from has been defunct for years...

Unless they're somehow stopped it does seem sadly on the cards that the US want a war on Iran. I think they will go to the most ruthless ends to get this war, and like you I'm afraid it could have the most dire consequences. I wonder if these neo-cons would be so keen for this war if they had to live in the Middle East, or if their own children had to go and fight?

I somehow doubt it.



2:28 PM  

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