My Melancholy Bibi

I have lost a couple of Palestinian friends due to what they perceive as my Israeli bias. I will no doubt see the opposite effect among my Jewish friends. But politics is politics, here or there.

My Melancholy Bibi

We were just 3 days into the Presidential election year of 2020. A small convoy of vehicles was traveling near the airport in Baghdad, Iraq when a missile fired from a US drone blew the entire group into paradise. In one of the vehicles was the primary reason for the attack, General Qassem Suleimani.

A particularly nasty piece of work, Suleimani was head of the so-called Kuds Force, the gang of wacky Iranian fighters who carry out what are euphemistically called acts of "asymmetrical warfare." That's an academic way of describing sneaking into some place and blowing crap up. Along with the crap, blowing up as many people as possible was an additional goal. He was very good at it, dating back to the original Iranian Revolution in the 70's and everything that followed.

"I didn't get a Harumph out of that guy!"

After the assassination, there was the usual loud, public mourning and promises of "Death to America." Well, America survived and what the Ayatollah ended up doing was launching a revenge attack 5 days later. Iranian missiles hit bases in Iraq where US forces were stationed. According to CBS, the attack was the largest ballistic missile strike against American forces in history.

Iran claimed over 100 American dead, but that was an exaggeration by a factor of, well, pretty much all. No one was killed, though several US personnel suffered what are termed "closed head injuries" which means more than a simple concussion that requires treatment and in some severe cases, rehab. Roughly 80% of the American casualties from the missile attack were able to return to duty within days, but dozens had to be evacuated to Germany and then the US for treatment.

Former Trump spokesperson Alyssa Farah said there was a push to minimize the effects of the attack. She said it was Pentagon policy to release the facts as they arrived and were verified, and as a result the total reported number of casualties climbed throughout January 2020, irritating the White House.

“We did get pushback from the White House of, ‘Can you guys report this differently? Can it be every 10 days or two weeks, or we do a wrap-up after the fact?’” Farah said. “The White House would prefer if we did not give regular updates on it. It was this drip, drip of quote unquote bad news.”

But here is the surprise in all this. And by surprise I also mean, me saying something positive about Donald Trump. So, what did he do in the wake of the Iranian missile attacks? Basically, nothing. Despite the voices who, like today, were urging the United States into a big, splashy attack on Iran, he or his advisors resisted any further tit for tat. I couldn't find any statement back then from Senator Lindsay Graham (R-Tara), but Saturday, he jumped at the chance to issue a truly butch warning to Joe Biden that Iran needs to be blowed up real good.

That, of course, is in reaction to the latest incarnation of this tiresome Middle East plot wherein we or Israel or someone blows up someone real good and then the blow up targets try to blow up the perps real good. But, in this case, as perhaps in 2020, politics just might be at the root. Ya, think? And I don't mean our politics, though everyone here has weighed in on whether Joe Biden is playing it correctly, or is a dime-store Neville Chamberlain. And as I write this, the attack was just last night, for crying out loud.

Even Donald Trump says, predictably, that this wouldn't have happened if he were President, though as I mentioned, it did. But then again, Pearl Harbor wouldn't have happened either if only he had been born sooner.

You see, Benjamin Netanyahu is in a pickle. Being what is euphemistically called a "political survivor," which is a fancy way of saying he will ally himself with whomever will help him stay in office, any office, he has a dilemma. He has double-harnessed himself to the most radical, right-wing crowd in Israeli politics. And there, right and left is usually determined by your attitude toward the "Palestinian Issue." That crowd's proposals for changing the Israeli judiciary to make it basically more political, as I have written before, are immensely unpopular. They caused riots in the streets, huge demonstrations, near mutiny in the armed forces and calls for either resignations, or early elections. He was on the ropes.

Then came October 7th and the brutal, barbaric attack by Hamas. The public didn't like him any better, but they were united in the necessity of response. It has been called the Israel/Hamas war, and some have even called it an existential fight for the survival of the country. It was nothing of the sort since the outcome was never in doubt. It has been a systematic re-conquest of Gaza with the completely understandable aim of ridding the area of Hamas once and for all. And who could blame them? However ham-handed some of the tactics have been, the goal of rooting out this collection of horrendous characters is necessary.

What is less known is the Israeli support for Hamas in the beginning. From the Wikipedia entry on Hamas...

On October 8, 2023, Tal Schneider claimed in an op-ed article in The Times of Israel that Netanyahu's policy for years had been to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by treating Hamas as a partner at the expense of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority and its West Bank government, resulting in "wounds that would take Israel years to heal from." For years, she wrote, Netanyahu divided power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, bringing Abbas to his knees while propping up Hamas.
One method she described was collaborating with Hamas to increase the number of Israeli work permits granted to Gazan laborers, from approximately 2,000-3,000 work permits in 2021 to 20,000 after Netanyahu's return to power in 2023. She also wrote that "While Netanyahu does not make these kind of statements publicly or officially, his words are in line with the policy that he implemented." 
On December 10, 2023, the New York Times reported that Qatari officials had delivered millions of dollars per month in cash to Gaza, "billions of dollars over roughly a decade" to help prop up the Hamas government there. Dan Margalit, an Israeli journalist, stated in an interview that "Mr. Netanyahu told him that having two strong rivals, including Hamas, would lessen pressure on him to negotiate toward a Palestinian state". Just weeks before October 7, the head of Mossad told Qatari officials that "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel not only tolerated those payments, he had encouraged them."

So, a very good example of "be careful what you wish for." Or...


I have quoted before, an old Israeli friend, a former reporter I first met when we covered German reunification back in the early 90's, Nitzan Horowitz.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz promotes abortion reform - Israel News -  The Jerusalem Post
"Hey, don't hold me responsible for what that guy Gray writes."

He was a reporter for Haaretz newspaper when we met in Germany, and when I was in the Middle East during the first Gulf War, he was my guide as well as my entrée to some political interviews in Israel.

No photo description available.
Nitzan showing me bomb damage from SCUD missiles in Tel Aviv.

He later moved to television and still later was elected to parliament. When discussing the Palestinian issues he made a comment that has stuck with me all this time.

"We didn't survive the Holocaust, WWII and the battle for independence just so WE could now be the jailers."

But, back to Bibi. So, you have the populace behind you, at least for now, after the bloody massacre of October 7th. You prosecuted the progressive campaign in Gaza and while the public was originally all in with you, they too, are now starting to look at the results with growing unease. The world is imploring you to stop, or at least feed the starving. A private group trying to help with that were bombed by the IAF. And, there were still ostensibly 130 some-odd hostages still in the hands of Hamas. Though it appears most are now dead, since during negotiations, Hamas admitted they couldn't produce 40 live hostages for a cease-fire. In short, these bastards killed the rest.

With all that on the line, and facing elections when the dust settles, what did Bibi choose to do?

Iran vows revenge after two generals killed in Israeli strike on Syria  consulate | Syria | The Guardian

He fired a missile at the Iranian Consulate in Damascus, Syria. The strike destroyed the consulate building in the capital Damascus, killing at least seven officials including Mohammed Reza Zahedi, a top commander in Iran’s "elite" Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and senior commander Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi. Are these bad guys? Why, of course, the answer is, yes. Will the world be better off without them? Again the show of hands is unanimous. A demonstrably evil man is gone and good riddance.

But, the question is, or was, why now? Knowing, as President Trump did in 2020, that Iran will retaliate somehow, why in the middle of all the other threats Israel confronts and with at least some hostage lives, and their angry families still in the balance, do this? This was a diplomatic compound, supposedly off-limits under international law, in a sovereign nation, again the international law thing. And it drew a predictable response from Iran in the form of missiles, just like before. And as of now, as before, there appear to be no real casualties.

The G7, the United Nations and the Israeli public, at least for now, are all on your side. Yes, you poked the bear, but then that is a particularly unpopular bear. President Biden summed up the attitudes of NATO and the others by saying that since no real damage was done, no one died that we know of, and Iran says it's over then, "Take the win." We're with you, but move on.

Back in 2020, President Trump announced tough sanctions on Iran that, no matter what you are hearing, continue. But he chose to stand down. No doubt, the international community will take action economically on Iran now as well, but the question remains, what will Bibi do?

When I was in Israel during the Gulf War, SCUD missiles were sent from Iraq with the sole purpose of luring the Israelis into retaliating, knowing their involvement would break up the Arab coalition President Bush put together. As hard as it was, Prime Minister Shamir resisted the retaliatory urge, and I can attest, the temptation was great.

The damage caused by the 39 Iraqi Scud missiles that landed in Tel Aviv and Haifa was extensive. Approximately 3,300 apartments and other buildings were affected in the greater Tel Aviv area. Some 1,150 people who were evacuated had to be housed at a dozen hotels at a cost of $20,000 per night. But Shamir bit his lip and resisted the natural human urge to retaliate.

So, what will Benjamin Netanyahu's choice be?

Here is an April 9th headline from my friend's old paper, Haaretz...

"Polls Show Netanyahu Crashing to Defeat in Elections. But What Could Still Save Him?
Will Israelis vote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out? It depends on what the next elections are about, when they are called and what happens with both the Gaza war and hostages still being held by Hamas"

As to his choice, there was a song written in the middle of the Civil War that is running through my head right now. "Rally 'Round the Flag."

I have lost a couple of Palestinian friends due to what they perceive as my Israeli bias. I will no doubt see the opposite effect among my Jewish friends. But politics is politics, here or there. Criticizing Arab organizations, or Israeli government actions is neither Islamophobia or anti-Semitism. I can vouch for the fact that political debate is alive, healthy and vibrant in Israel as my friend Nitzan demonstrates daily. That is as it should be, however uncomfortable it may be here.

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Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.