A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
March 22, 2009--Actions in Gaza Criticized by Soldiers. Fight in the Labor Party
The news at the end of last week was filled with stories about the actions of some Israeli soldiers in Gaza. There was a story on the front page of the New York Times this morning explaining much of the behavior was due to the impact of the religious soldiers, many of whom come from settlements. I listened carefully to the major story shown on Israeli television on Saturday night on the subject. Although some of the actions are inexcusable and some are justified by the cynical way Hamas used civilians as shields, much of the problem comes down to something much simpler that I observed almost 29 years ago when I spent "summer vacation" doing reserve duty in Gaza.
In Gaza, I saw the difference between my reserve brigade and the regular units serving. The regular units serving were filled with 18 and 19 year olds who were for the first time in their lives placed in a position of authority (over the Arabs in Gaza) and acted in ways that 18 and 19 year olds act. The difference between the action of soldiers in their mid 20's and 30's was totally different from the young soldiers we saw. The war in Gaza was fought almost entirely by the standing army. That had many tactical advantages since they are bettering prepared and trained. However, when it comes to one area, how they act when placed in positions to deal with civilians, I believe they are poorly prepared emotionally than the older soldiers in reserve units.
The big political news in Israel was Minister of Defense Ehud Barak's decision to appoint a negotiating team made up of those closest to him to begin negotiating with Likud for a coalition agreement. There was an outcry by the opponents claiming he had no right to do so before the vote that is scheduled for Tuesday. Barak, for his part, wants to bring the central committee of the Labor party a finished agreement that will convince the members of vote his way. Observers are not willing to guess if Barak will receive enough votes to approve labors entering the government.
The Syrian Foreign Minister stated to Al Jazerra that they were willing to have direct negotiations with Israel, as long as Israel agrees to return to the 1967 borders. Of course negotiation broke down with both with Rabin and Barak over the difference between the international borders and the 1967 borders. The Syrian Foreign Minister also stated in his interview that in order for there to be true peace, Israel has to come to an agreement with the Palestinians that will include the return of the refugees. Those who want to be hopeful state that those are only words, when it comes down to it they are only interested in the Golan. Others of course state that we should take the Syrians at their word.