Tuesday, February 19 was no ordinary day in Israel. We began the day with a multi-hour briefing on the Gaza Strip by former Colonel Grisha Yukobovich of the Israeli Defense Forces (“IDF”). Colonel Yukobovich could not have laid out better what a mess the Gaza Strip has become — with Hamas desperate to maintain control at all costs, and the prospect of a 3 state, instead of 2 state, solution — the West Bank led by the Palestinian Authority, the Gaza Strip by Hamas, and Israel by Israel. What a mess. The United Stars should stay out of this as much as possible.
We subsequently had a traditional Israeli lunch at a Kibbutz region near the Gaza Strip, the toured the secret underground bunker where the IDF made bullets in the 1948 war for independence underneath a bakery in a Kibbutz.
The highlight of the day was a briefing over dinner by Effi Eitam, a conservative Army General, Knesset member, and cabinet member thrice over, who served Israel on the front lines of the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War, was the #2 commando seal team member on the mission that liberated Israeli hostages during the raid on Entebbe, rose to the rank of General, then served in the Knesset and Prime Minister’s cabinet. He had some exceptional war stories and lessons learned for Israel and freedom loving democracies everywhere. What a way to close the day. This has been quite a day, to celebrate Israel, the only parliamentary democracy in the Middle East, and its tragic, long quest for autonomy and liberty, but also to recognize the complexity of Middle East politics, race relations, and the abject poverty in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, which lies at the feet of the Israelis, Palestinians, Hamas and Hezbollah. It’s quite the joint effort. And sad, for the people who suffer through it and just want normal lives. Here’s to a bright future for Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, all three.