What's Tony Thinking

What A Dream I Had


There’s an old “Simon and Garfunkel” song, “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” which is about all the world agreeing to put an end to war.

The other night I had fitful dream in which I saw the Israeli army massed on the Gaza border, but doing nothing, not invading. I thought, in my dream, that such inaction would be the most confusing — if not alarming — thing Israel could do at this point to Hamas and to Iran.

Lately there have been a number of articles about our 9/11 essentially saying, “Don’t make the mistakes we did.” Don’t, Israel, that is, do exactly, what the terrorists want you to do. That is, unleash an all out attack, which leads you to be bogged down for years in Gaza. You would suffer both untenable short and long-term costs.

After our 9/11 I wrote in my column at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper along these lines, begging us not to walk into the trap of full-on engagement and occupation that Al Qaeda had set. The paper’s headline writer titled my column, “Let Our Response Be Decent and Noble,” which I admit sounded naive. Foolishly, I accepted an invitation to appear on a Seattle conservative’s call-in show where I was pummeled as a parson who knew nothing of “the real world.”

But restraint, though I admit it is unlikely, might just be Israel’s secret weapon at this point. Continued bombing of Gaza is a loser in the media war. And full-scale invasion would likely end up as Colin Powell said back then, “you break it, you own it.” I hope that President Biden’s trip to Israel will manage an incredibly difficult two-step. “We stand with you . . . and don’t launch an invasion you will come to regret.”

Tom Friedman argues much the same in a very good piece in the NYT. Here’s Friedman:

“If Israel were to announce today that it has decided for now to forgo an invasion of Gaza and will look for more surgical means to eliminate or capture Hamas’s leadership while trying to engineer a trade for the more than 150 Israeli and other hostages whom Hamas is holding, it would not only avoid further traumatizing its own society, as well as Palestinian civilians in Gaza; it would also give Israel and its allies time to think through how to build — with Palestinians — a legitimate alternative to Hamas.

Such a move would earn Israel a lot of support globally and enable the world to see Hamas for what it is: the ISIS of the Palestinian territories.”

Moreover, Friedman asks, in the event of a full-scale ground invasion, who wins and who loses?

“My bottom line? Just ask this question: If Israel announced today that it was forgoing, for now, a full-blown invasion of Gaza, who would be happy, and who would be relieved, and who would be upset? Iran would be totally frustrated, Hezbollah would be disappointed, Hamas would feel devastated — its whole war plan came to naught — and Vladimir Putin would be crushed, because Israel would not be burning up ammunition and weapons the U.S. needs to be sending to Ukraine. The settlers in the West Bank would be enraged.

“Meanwhile, the parents of every Israeli soldier and every Israeli held hostage would be relieved, every Palestinian in Gaza caught in the crossfire would be relieved, and every friend and ally Israel has in the world — starting with one Joseph R. Biden — would be relieved. I rest my case.”

Asking for restraint when you have been so brutally attacked is a long shot. But how different things might be in the Middle East and the U.S. had we chosen that path back in 2001.

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