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“Terrible Choices for Israel”

November 24, 2023
Notes
Transcript
Hamas triggered the Gaza war—and signed the death warrants of thousands of Palestinians—when it purposefully targeted civilians on 10/7. Israeli journalist Amir Tibon joins guest host Mona Charen to discuss how his family survived the terror attack, Netanyahu’s failures, Biden’s support, and the bad options for post-war rule in Gaza.
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08

    Welcome to the Bulwark podcast. I’m Mona Charen, host of a different Bulwark podcast called Beg to Differ, and we’re doing something a little different today I’m filling in for Charlie Sykes to do a special broadcast with Amir Tibon, who is an Israeli journalist with Hararets, who had a harrowing experience on October seventh. And so I’m thrilled that Amir, you were able to join us. Welcome.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:38

    Hi, Wanna. Thank you so much for inviting me, and it’s good to see you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:42

    So, Amir, you and I first met in Oxford, England, when we were both paving in a conference of Israeli and American journalists. It was lovely. We both wandered around Oxford the day we arrived because I think we were on the same flight. You were at the time stationed in DC for Haritz.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:04

    In DC.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:05

    And, So we got to know each other because our hotel rooms weren’t ready.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:10

    I remember. Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:11

    Yes. We wandered around, but you’ve been nice enough to join me on Bag to there for a couple of times. So I want to just begin with what happened on ten seven. So you and your family were living in a kibbutz very close to the Gaza border. And tell us what your first indication was on that morning that something unusual was happening.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:37

    So on the morning of October seven, the first thing that woke us up was the sound of a mortar that was about to land and explode right next to our house. It’s important to give some background, Mona, before I really go into the events of that morning. My wife and I had made our home in, beautiful community close to the Israeli border with Gaza called Kibbutz Nakhal Oz, It’s a small agricultural village, about five hundred people with a very interesting history, So kind of a symbol in Israel, Khibuts Nakhaloz, it has existed since the nineteen fifties, and it’s officially the closest place in Israel to Gaza. It’s located completely within the internationally recognized borders of the state of Israel. It’s not a settlement or a disputed place.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:31

    It’s really part of the borders of Israel as they are respected by international law and the entire world. But it was founded in the nineteen fifties with a clear intention to create a border community right next to Gaza because at the time, the Vivian, the founding leader of Israel, believed that in order to protect the borders of Israel, There has to be civilian life on the border, not just military outpost, but there have to be communities where people live and work, and there has to be agriculture, And so that’s why this small keyboards exists next to Gaza. It’s a place that has known a lot of war and, some tragedies over the years, but on the day, day to day level, it’s a beautiful place. With, a very kind of a green and, relaxing environment You know, if you’ve ever been to a kibbutz in Israel, so you can imagine it the small alleyways. There are no streets with cars inside a kibbutz.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:34

    Park your car outside, and inside people only walk or use their bicycle, a lot of trees, a lot of green lawns, a small kibbutz store where we would take our two daughters in the afternoon to buy popsicles after kindergarten. And a kibbutz is a place with a very strong sense of community of together. And so we made a choice to go and live in this community, Kibuts Nakhaloz, about nine years ago, after a previous war between Israel and Hamas, that ended, in the summer of two thousand and fourteen, And at the time, this community and other communities along the Gaza border were eager for young couples, young families to go and live there, And so my wife and I made a choice to to go there. There was a big ideological component to it. We wanted to go and support this border community.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:27

    But, over time, we just fell in love with the place. And we really felt this was our home.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:33

    Can I interrupt Amir, and just ask you to elaborate a little bit on the ideological component? What do you mean?
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:40

    We believe it’s important to protect the borders of the state of Israel. And we believe that communities on the border are the first line of defense for our country. And that if a place like Nakal Oz, is losing population and does not have young families and does not have a future, then Other parts of Israel will be more exposed to the kind of troubles and threats that communities like Nakalos have faced over the years. And I’ll, and I’ll get to that in a second. But Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:13

    Just to wrap up on the personal story, we made it our home. We lived there for a few years. Then I got the offer from how are it’s from my newspaper to go to Washington for three years and cover the Trump administration. And that’s when we met Mona Charen we were in DC, but I think I told you at the time. That my home in Israel is in these kibbutz on the border with Gaza, and that once we finish our stint in Washington, DC, we’re going back to these kibbutz to this small community.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:38

    And that’s what happened at the end of two thousand and twenty. We came back to Nakhaloz. By now, we were parents, and we were raising our two young daughters on this beautiful kibbutz, which for them is the only home they know in the world, and they are crazy about Nakal Oz, they they love the place. And, over the years, we have dealt with security situations and threats. When you live in Akaloes, there’s no iron dome to protect you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:03

    It is so close to Gaza, that iron dome is just not relevant. Iron dome cannot offer protection because it does not have enough time to calculate the root of a rocket and intercept it, like it can do for Tel Aviv and other parts of the country. And we always knew we were very close to Gaza. It’s less than a mile from our home to the easternmost neighborhood of Gaza City. And there were other threats that we took into consideration.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:29

    But what happened on October seven was something that we never imagined could happen. And honestly, it’s something that had we taken into consideration, we wouldn’t have lived in this community because it was a complete failure and breakdown of all of Israel’s defenses sims. And so we woke up that morning from the sound of a mortar that landed in our neighborhood. It’s like this long whistle, and then an explosion. And we ran from our bedroom to our daughter’s bedroom, which, is what we call the safe room in every home in border communities, like Nakal Oz, there is a home that is built of strong concrete, and it’s supposed to withstand a direct hit by a rocket.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:11

    And most families, Mona, that’s where you put the children to bed at night. So that if there’s a siren, you know, indicating a mortar at six in the morning, The parents have to run to the children, and not the other way around. We ran to our daughter’s bedroom. We closed the door, and we weren’t we weren’t so excited, I have to say. We we’re kind of relaxed even because when you live in a border community, these kinds of things will happen every few months.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:37

    You get used to it. And usually, we have a procedure for it. We packed a suitcase or two. And once there is a pause in the fire exchanges, We just shove the girls in the car, and we drive away from the border. And that’s what most families do.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:54

    And we were preparing for that. You know, our two daughters They are three and a half years old and one and a half years old. They were sleeping. We began to pack suitcases And we thought this is gonna be one of those days, one of those days of war that happened, unfortunately, once, twice, three times a year. But then around seven AM, we began to hear something different.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:18

    We began to hear automatic gunfire. And a bit in the distance, but getting closer and closer and closer. And that’s when we realized this is a very different kind of event. And, you know, I’m not gonna go into the entire story, but What happened eventually is we had five hamas tourists standing right outside our door, shooting bullets into our home, trying to break into our home. They failed to get in.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:43

    The the home was locked, and it’s a new home built of good standards, and so they they couldn’t get in, but they shot more than thirty bullets at our home. We heard them shouting in Arabic, and I under And Arabic, so I understood there was a commander standing outside our window shouting tactical orders at his crew. And we ended up barricading in this situation for eleven hours until eventually we we got out. Eleven hours in a dark room no electricity because the electricity fell down. No food.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:16

    With two girls, three and a half years old, one and a half years old, they were Total heroes, my wife, Mary, you you’ve met her, Mona. She was amazing. She managed to keep the girls calm, and we got out alive, and I have to say we’re the lucky ones, Mona. Fourteen people in our community were murdered five were kidnapped into Gaza. We’re still it’s been forty six days, but we’re still dealing with that day.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:44

    It’s it’s gonna be with us for a long time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:47

    I can imagine. Have the girls gotten over it? Do they show any signs of trauma, or are they excessively fearful or anything?
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:59

    At first, we thought, well, they’re they’re young, they’re small. They’re not gonna remember much we were very wrong. They’re very smart. They understood more than we thought they will. And they still speak about it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:11

    I mean, they’re in a good condition overall. They’re very strong. We’ve been evacuated all of our community, everybody who survived know, again, out of five hundred people, we we lost fourteen and five others are in Gaza right now, but everybody else, we’ve been evacuated to a kibbutz in the Haifa area, kind of like North Central, Israel. And we’re together here now. And all of us, we talk about what happened, and we began under, you know, sharing between us the parents of the young children, how much they understand, how much they share between them and talk about it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:45

    And I can tell you, the next morning, Galia, my older daughter, she’s, three and a half. So, you know, what happened is, we eventually after a very, very long day. And with a lot of dramas, we spent that night, the night of, you know, between October seven and October eight at my parents home in Tel Aviv. We got there around three in the morning. And Galia went to sleep, you know, next to her grandmother.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:12

    And when she woke up in the morning, the first thing she asked my mom, her grandma, can we get out of the room? Because the previous day, for eleven hours, she could not get out of her room.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:25

    And you had no bathroom, and you
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:27

    had no food. Nothing just stuck in the dark for eleven hours with gunshots heard all around all the time. I can tell you that, the story of our family became famous. My father is a retired military general, and he came down to the area, and he participated in the fighting against Hamas and he helped kill terrorists and save wounded soldiers and a lot of other things. And eventually, he also made it to our home.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:55

    And I’m telling you that because when he made it to our home in the afternoon, together with a group of soldiers that, you know, he went with them from house to house in our community, killing terrorists, clearing the community, and eventually getting to us as well. That’s when, you know, the first thing my girls saw that day was their grandfather with a few soldiers in uniform. And after that, my father was called to reserve duty, for a week or two to help Israel’s the southern command. And one day, he came to visit us in the kibbutz to which we’ve been evacuated, and he was in uniform. He he was in the girls are not used to see him because he’s been retired of the military before they were born.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:38

    So Galia and my older daughter know, she sees him in uniform. She runs to him and she says it was dangerous outside. There were bad people, but the grandfather came. Like, you know, seeing him in uniform reminded her. And even my younger daughter, you know, Carmel, she’s only a year and a half For the first two weeks after this, she refused to go to sleep in a room with the door shut.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:01

    She wanted the door to be open. She would ask all the time can I go outside? This has had an impact on them. And, and again, you know, compared to some of our friends, some of our neighbors, You know, we have young children in our community who lost their parents on who lost parents on that day, you know. My next door neighbor, Elon, who was the security coordinator of our community.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:25

    He died, fighting the terrorists, and he left behind a wife and three young daughters. So it’s a tough situation for us as a community, for us as a family, for Israel as a nation. These are difficult days. We we’ve been dealing with a lot of pain.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:41

    Can you help people to understand why it is that Israelis and frankly Jews worldwide have responded to this attack with a sense of existential threat. That this is something completely different from the usual skirmishes that have taken place between Hamas and Israel in the past.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:06

    It’s a really good question, Mona. I think there are several answers behind it. First of all, I think the scenes of October seven, the helplessness of people who were slaughtered in their homes, or the people who were slaughtered at a music festival that was taking place that weekend in our area a bit further away from the border, but still not that far. Young people who came to dance, and and just, you know, have a good time with friends, and more than three hundred people were murdered there. Those scenes, I think, for Jewish people, brought back memories Some people said of the Holocaust, maybe I don’t wanna go there, but certainly of the pogroms of the events in our history were, armed thugs would enter a a Jewish neighborhood or a Jewish village and just slaughter innocent people, women and children.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:05

    The Hamas, people who came into Israel that day from Gaza broke through the border, They could have easily focused only on military targets. There are many military targets along the Israel Gaza border military bases and you know, command centers and guarding posts, they could have killed two, three hundred Israeli soldiers and kidnapped some soldiers and go back into Gaza, you know, the winners of the day. And while we would have been heartbroken and angry, I wouldn’t have said, you know, what they did is is, pogrom or holocaust like behavior. But they chose deliberately not to suffice with military targets. They chose deliberately to go into civilian communities like mine and murder citizens.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:51

    And, you know, Mona, when they came to our home, and they tried to break in and they shot through the windows. They saw a baby stroller outside the door. There was a baby stroller right next to our door. They shot all these bullets into a home where they knew there was a baby inside. And that tells you something about what they were trying to do that day.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:20

    Now I think a second reason for this is the failure of our military and our government on that day. We, as citizens of Israel, and also as Jews who were raised on these stories, you know, I I’m a grandson of Holocaust survivors. Mary, my wife, is the granddaughter of survivors. Her her grandmother was in the siege of, Saint Petersburg of Leningrad, when the Nazis, you know, the German military was putting a siege on the city. And so we were raised with the notion that that’s history.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:55

    And today, we have a strong country and a strong military, and they will protect us. And I’ll tell you that in the first twenty minutes of the event on October seven, we were convinced that our life was in danger, but that we were likely to get out of it alive than not, because our thinking was, okay, probably a was able to get through the border. And now they’re outside our window, they’re in our neighborhood, but it’s a matter of minutes until the mighty military of Israel. Will get here. There are so many bases around us, and it’s just a matter of minutes until a brave group of soldiers will come here, kill these terrorists, and set us free.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:39

    We never imagined it would take eleven hours. And, I think that experience has also led to this existential, threat, feeling that the institutions that we were raised to trust, to protect us, didn’t deliver on that day. And the third reason I think is the international response. Which actually, I think some people are exaggerating, how bad it is because we’re all right now. We’re we’re really being impacted by our own fears.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:13

    I mean, for me, you know, I’m a diplomatic correspondent. I cover, Israel’s relations with other countries. I’ve been a Washington correspondent. The most important thing right now is the support of president Biden, and president Biden has been with Israel not a hundred percent, two hundred percent. I mean, he he’s, you know, the the most important Zion leader in the world today.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:33

    Sometimes I feel like he’s more committed to Israel security than some of our own leaders. I know this is a hard thing to say, but I really feel it sometimes. You know, he came here in the midst of the war Under Fire, the first ever American president to visit Israel during an active war, he met survivors of that day I I was lucky to be among them, small group of twelve people that he chose to to meet. He’s given us everything we could ask for. He sent a nuclear submarine here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:02

    I mean, you know, so so I don’t feel like we are alone in, on the world’s stage. I feel like they’re actually we have a very important, you know, friend. But the reaction that we saw in terms of you know, what was happening in academic circles, what was happening on college campuses, demonstrations in the streets, the reactions of the more vocal, more angry, elements of the, progressive left in America that really rattles people. And it reminded them of, the third of antisemitism that that that never went away. So I think those are the three reasons.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:44

    And I do want to say that we’re not helpless. We do have still a strong military, and right now, despite the terrible failures of October seven, that military has been winning in its war against Hamas inside Gaza. Very clear. I have a brother there who is doing his part. He’s an officer.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:04

    He’s a military doctor. And I hear from friends, and and I know the military is doing a very successful campaign right now against Ramos. We have the backing of Joe Biden Israel’s best friend in the world, and coincidentally, the president of the United States, it’s important to have his support. And we have each other, you know, Israelis, his early society has really been impressive at this moment and the the level of support and how people are really going out of their ways to to help and and support one another, and especially for communities like ours that were hit so hard on that day. People all over the country just wanna help us.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:43

    There is a little problem, which is that our government is a complete failure. And just this functional at this moment and not doing the right things. We can talk about that later if you want, but all the other factors are still working in our favor, and it’s important to remember that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:59

    Yeah. Let’s do talk about that. So Netanyahu, who, in my humble opinion, did make some contributions, great contributions to Israel earlier on in his career, has become corrupt and unreliable. And he sold himself to the Israeli public as Mr. Security.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:19

    Of course. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:20

    And he has failed so badly. Now my question to you is, is it perceived within Israel that that is the case and will Do you think that that people do hold him accountable? I mean, he has not apologized, he has not acknowledged his responsibility. Do you think Israeli people will hold him accountable eventually when the war is over?
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:41

    There’s a lot of, questions to unpack here. I was in the US when the tree of life synagogue massacre happened. I was covering it as a reporter. Can you imagine something like that happening in in America and attack on a synagogue And the president for more than three weeks would not say the word synagogue when he spoke about it would not address the fact that this happened. To the Jewish community.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:06

    You can’t imagine that. Right? Benjamin Netanyahu, it took him three weeks after this attack to say the word kibbutz to say the word, kibbutzim, because most of the people who live in in the kibbutzim along the Gaza border don’t vote for Benjamin, Antonio and don’t vote for Liut. It’s not a hundred percent. You know, in our community, most of the people vote for other parties, not his.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:28

    And there is a small group that those support him on that day, there was no difference between us. We were all together in this. We were all affected by this. And we’re all together now as a community. We’re not letting political opinions divide us.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:42

    But for three weeks, he didn’t even acknowledge the fact that, you know, this happened in Kibuts Nakhal Oz, fourteen of my neighbors in Kibutsk far asa, next to us, more than fifty people were murdered and in Kibbutzbeery, more than a hundred. He hasn’t met with these communities. It’s been almost fifty days I can tell you my community, we’re sitting here, you know, in, in, kibbutz next to Haifa that is hosting us. A community that lost fourteen people in one day, a community that has five members kidnapped in Gaza right now, including two young girls, fifteen and nine year old. A community that for years suffered from these rockets and mortars of Hamas, I have you know, I’m not going to, to, you know, kind of, pat my own shoulder, but speaking of my wider community, I feel, you know, good enough to say that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:40

    We were very brave. We did this for years raising our children there, marking the border of Israel with our own feet. Despite these threats that most of the population in Israel would not agree to live with, the idea that any day a mortar can fall outside your home, and you have seven seconds to reach other. Nobody from his government has come to visit us almost fifty days. We’ve had here The previous prime minister, Natalia Bennett, came to visit us, although nobody in our community ever voted for him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:12

    You know, he’s a more right wing religious politician. We are secular, left leaning kibbutz, were not his base. He came to visit us. The opposition leader, Yair lapid, came to visit us other members of Knesset from the opposition were here. Nobody from Netanyahu’s government has stepped foot here to speak with our community for almost fifty days.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:36

    Just on that basis, I think they are unworthy of holding power. But now if we go into the questions of you know, responsibility for what happened, I don’t put it solely on him. I believe a lot of the blame is also with the top military commanders and the top intelligence, officials who didn’t see the flashing red lights who didn’t understand what was happening. And, some of the blame is also on the prime minister’s you know, if there’s a company that has to fire five of its most senior executives because they badly, badly miscalculated and caused huge damage. The CEO is going to stay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:23

    You know, we’re gonna get rid of the chief of the military after this war I believe he’s just going to resign the chief of the military, the chief of of internal security, the head of the southern command, and the head of the military intelligence are have all already said, we are responsible. It’s our fault. We let you down citizens of the Gaza border area. And they basically hinted that after they finished Hamas, they are all going to resign. So a company is going to lose four if it’s top managers, oh, but the CEO, he had nothing to do with it in in what world would that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:57

    And then, of course, when we look at the actions of Netanyahu, for fifteen years, almost. The prime minister, he had a very clear policy of strengthening Hamas and weakening the Palestinian authority which controls parts of the Judean Samaria West Bank Area. You know, you can call it however you want. He had a a clear strategy, and he admitted it. He said it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:20

    In the open that he would rather cooperate with Hamas. He sent emissaries to Qatar, the rich country in the gulf, begging the qatari government to give suitcases full of millions of dollars to Hamas. Think about that situation. The prime minister of Israel sends his top advisors to another country and asks that country to send money to the hands of Hamas, a terror organization that used that money we know today to prepare this vicious attack against our communities.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:54

    So there are people on this side of the ocean who say, look, Netanyahu is a failure, and he’s corrupt. And therefore, why should we, in the United States, They say we’re not gonna back b b.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:07

    It’s terrible. Yeah. That’s Yeah. Those are two different things, though. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:11

    I understand where you wanna go with the question. Today, in public opinion polls, we see support for netanyahu collapsing, and we see most of the Israeli public wants him to resign and CCS responsible for the failure. And, I believe this will eventually manifest. It’s very important for the United States, though, to support Israel in this war. It’s not to support Netanyahu.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:34

    This is not a war for Benjamin Netanyahu. This is a war for The people of Israel, we are fighting an organization, terror organization that on that day, October seven murdered and kidnapped families, women, children, were beginning to understand that there were also cases of, rape and torture on that day of civilians. And this is a barbaric organization that if it remains standing at the end of the war, We’ll do the same thing five years from now, the next time they have an opportunity. Hamas, they knew the kind of damage that they would inflict on Gaza by doing this, and they did it anyway. And we have to win this war.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:21

    We have to eradicate Hamas. They should never ever again have the possibility to do something like this again. And it’s our job as Israelis. And it’s the I believe it’s also, the job of supporters and friends of Israel abroad. To fight the fight, we will have to fight later politically against Netanyahu.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:44

    Okay? And I think anybody who wants Israel to have a future as a democratic Jewish strong country needs to be committed to ending his rule in Israel after what happened. But for the United States strategically, Israel has to win this war because the ramifications of Israel losing this war to Hamas first of all, for Israel, there will be a disaster, but I think on the global level, there will be a message that terrorism works
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:13

    pays.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:14

    And pays off. So it’s a very difficult situation, Bonna. We have, you know, the war effort that we have to win. And we have the political battle that we also have to win because we don’t want this to ever happen again, and we don’t trust the people who led the country into this disaster to continue leading it. I know it’s it’s a lot of nuance to to to take into consideration, but this is the reality.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:37

    Perfect. No. You you’re incredibly clear in your responses. What do you say to the arguments that Sure. Everybody understands that Israel was gravely wounded by this attack and needed to alliate, but it has gone on too long, and it has caused too many innocent Palestinian civilians to suffer, and we should have a ceasefire now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:04

    First of all, I think it’s, the the the one part of it that is true is that too many innocent people in Gaza have also died And I think that is mostly the blame of Hamas. I’m sure there were cases where we could have been more cautious and done better, and we have to look into that and investigate and improve. But at the end of the day, this is a war that is being fought in a very difficult terrain. Okay? This is a war in an urban area densely populated, and Hamas is using that terrain.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:39

    To wage a Gorilla campaign that is based on the civilian infrastructure. Hospitals, clinics, schools, refugee centers, all of that is being utilized by Hamas to try to attack the soldiers, and to try to launch rockets into Israel and in some of these places to try to hide the hostages. And in a war like that, There are going to be civilian casualties. The it’s just unavoidable. We have also lost many, many soldiers in the fighting you know, if we were looking at a scenario that we said, you know what, Israel doesn’t have any casualties, because it’s just bombing and completely, you know, random ways.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:22

    First of all, it wouldn’t be effective because we wouldn’t be hitting the real targets, but I think there would also be a strong arguments that were just, you know, bombing it for revenge. Our soldiers right now are risking their lives, not for the purpose of revenge, but for the purpose of actually dismantling these terror infrastructures that and it requires them to go in to go from home to home, from door to door. And in the fighting, And, you know, if you look at the, what happened in some of these neighborhoods in Gaza, yes, people, sadly, are getting killed. It’s a war. And Hamas, triggered that war knowing what would be the response from Israel.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:02

    I have no doubt that when they came into the civilian communities and murdered women and children, they knew they were signing the death certificate of thousands and thousands of Palestinians. They just didn’t care. Yeah. Seas fire right now. You know, there is, as we speak, an attempt for a temporary ceasefire to allow the release of hostages and the entrance of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:28

    I support both purposes. I want the hostages released more than anything in the world, mostly my people, but everyone, not just from my community. And I support the entrance of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in Gaza. I I I don’t want a humanitarian disaster there. I don’t want something terrible to to happen that will, you know, cause a huge loss of lives.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:53

    But I don’t think we should have a permanent ceasefire. I think at the end of the day, we still need the military to clean some of the neighborhoods of Gaza from Hamas to try to kill the leadership of this barbaric organization And, I think it is too early now for a ceasefire. I understand. We’re not gonna be able to fight this war forever. Okay?
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:15

    I’m realistic. I understand. There are other considerations here. The winter is about to start. There’s gonna be an election in your country.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:22

    President Biden has stood by our side. He’s been paying a political price rate. I don’t expect it to go on forever. You know, we have our economic realities. How long can a country run a war without collapsing its own economy?
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:38

    I understand all that. I don’t expect it to go on forever, but I think in the next two, three weeks at least, we still have work to do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:47

    Can we talk a little bit about the way things look post war. I think it’s fair to say that no Israeli government of any ideological complexion would be okay with Hamas remaining in power in in Gaza. So there has to be something else You wrote a biography of Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the PA. What do you think of the idea of of the PA taking over. They are notably corrupt.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:17

    They are not well liked.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:19

    Terrible. Terrible.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:20

    Yeah. So what what is your sense about what happens after.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:25

    Mona, one of the things we have to realize is that in this current situation, we only have terrible choices. It’s not like there’s so wonderful plan that can be implemented and all the other alternatives are junk. We are facing terrible choices on all fronts, even the hostage agreement that was signed. And I supported it with all my heart, and I spoke in its favor, and television in Israel? It’s a terrible deal.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:51

    Yeah. But we have terrible choices right now. It’s a deal that gives Hamas four or five days to catch some breath and re and return to the fighting in a little better shape than it is today. We need it because we want to get fifty women and children out of it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:05

    Oh, and it also gives three for one. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:08

    Yeah. That for me, that’s less of the problem, but we’re releasing, you know, all these prisoners. Just the fact that they will have days to regroup and and and reposition themselves for the for the fight and and maybe kill more of our soldiers. Is is it is a disaster? But we are only facing disastrous choices.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:26

    We were surprised on October seven. We did not prepare for it. The government spent ten months igniting a civil war inside Israel over Netanyahu’s judicial power grab instead of preparing the country for war with the enemy. And we are now paying the price. Okay?
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:43

    Yeah. But we have terrible choices. And I think when it comes to the question of who will rule Gaza in the future, Look at the choices we have. Allowing Hamas to remain in power is not even an option, not even an option. Bringing in the Egyptians is a fantasy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:02

    It would be great if Egypt agreed to take over Gaza. I don’t think president Sisi wants that. No. So we can leave a power vacuum and see ISIS take over, which is a terrible option. We can try to bring some kind of an international force in there of course, the demands that would be, presented to Israel from any country in the world that would send its soldiers to protect the Israel Gaza border maybe a bit too much to stomach for this Israeli government because, you know, there’s then the question of the occupation in the West Bank and the settlement And then there’s the option of bringing in some kind of a different Palestinian government that is not Hamas.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:41

    And the only other Palestinian government that exists day is the terribly corrupt government, and sometimes also anti Semitic government of the Palestinian authority. Now I think there is a case to come and say, okay. We want the Palestinian authorities there, but we want to see it reform, the revitalized, change this was the American line About twenty years ago, when the Bush administration supported Mohammad Abbas replacing the Assur Arab, basically, Arafat was considered persona on Grata, you know, that the nobody was willing to work with him anymore because of his involvement in terrorism. And Bush said we need a different Palestinian leadership. Maybe today with Mohammad Abbas in his, you know, late eighties now, offering, an anti Semitic rant every few months, deeply disliked by his people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:30

    Maybe this could be part of the arrangement that you need a different Palestinian leadership, at least in Gaza. And again, there are, you know, there are no good options. And, you know, another option is to keep it under israeli occupation, to, to go back to our military being inside there all the time. And I think that option, first of all, I personally don’t it’s good for Israel, but I also don’t see any chance that the United States administration would support it. And this would put us on a collision course with Biden, which is not something we want right now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:59

    We rely on his support in so many other ways. So we’re only facing bad choices. And I think that among those choices, creating some kind of a Palestinian entity that governs Gaza with support of Egypt and the US is the least terrible option right now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:19

    One of the things that was feared in the immediate aftermath of the horrible attack on the seventh of October was that there would be an uprising of violence against Israel, not just from Hezbollah in Lebanon. There was a lot of fear about that, and I know there has been clashes along the northern border, but it’s not a full scale war there. So that did not happen. The Hamas probably wanted or imagined that this would lead to an uprising in the West Bank as well, And third, they may have hoped that Israel’s Arab population, Arab Israelis who make up about twenty percent of the population would also rise up against the Jews in Israel. So I’d be curious to hear you on this topic that the worst, in some ways, obviously, ten-seven was the most horrific attack, but the worst did not come to pass And I wonder if you can talk a little bit about Israeli Arabs and about the West Bank and so forth.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:25

    Yeah. So let’s start with the West Bank. The West Bank, I think the story is far from over. We have seen some terror attacks there. And I think there’s a great sense of concern within the Biden administration that if there is a second front, It will actually be there and not in Lebanon.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:46

    I reported on on it last week. They believe that the Palestinian Authority is, under great stress because of what’s happening in Gaza, and, you know, the the high number of civilian casualties, the damage they see it all day long on their television, And, of course, they don’t hear as much the stories about what Hamas did. And there is great concern that the pressure on the Palestinian theory could lead it into some kind of a breaking point. There is great concern about violence from extremists far right settlers. And, you know, when I say that, I don’t mean all of the settler population.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:23

    Most of the Israelis who live in settlements in the occupied territories, while I have a political disagreement with them. They are law abiding citizens, and many of them are now fighting in the military, and and I respect them. But there is a group within that population, relatively small, but, unfortunately, very impactful that is using violence and terror against Palestinian citizens, and that can lead to an eruption of violence you know, and and acts of revenge on one another. And there’s the financial question of the Palestinian Authority being in a very difficult, monetary situation. And if it cannot pay salaries, what you have then is more than twenty thousand armed Palestinian policemen, who are not getting paid.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:13

    All of that is very dangerous. So I think there was bandwidth far from from over. Right now, I do think that we see the Israeli military still mostly containing it, and the Palestinian authorities still, you know, waking up in the morning and functioning to some degree, we need to, to make sure it stays that way. Inside Israel, this has been the most important aspect of the war so far. The most positive aspect we’ve had nothing so far in terms of, you know, violence between Arab and Jewish citizens inside Israel.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:51

    We spoke about it, you know, two and a half years ago, in our previous war with Hamas, there were terrible acts of violence between Arabs and Jews in Israel. I had a relative who was murdered in one of those events, Eagle, who He was married to my wife’s aunt. He was an electrician living in the mixed city of Florida. It’s a city where both Jews and Arabs. Live, and he was murdered on his way home from work, left behind a wife and two sons.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:24

    So that was a very personal situation for our family. We’ve seen nothing like that so far in this war. And what we are seeing is a lot of stories that are actually heartwarming and give a sense of optimism of Arab citizens of Israel who saved people on that day on October seventh. I’ll give you two examples in a moment. There was one story in a gas station very close to my key boots, about five minutes from my home.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:54

    That morning an Arab bedouin man was working in the gas station, And people who were fleeing the massacre at the music festival stopped their cars in his gas station and ran into the store. There’s like a little store. He locked the doors of the store, and he put several, gas balloons, the kinds that you use, you know, for cooking. He put several of those on the door. And he locked everyone in, in the safe room of the store, like, you know, the shelter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:22

    And then you can see in the, in the security cameras, arriving to the gas station, trying to break in realizing that if they fire their ammunition to, to break through the doors, they’re going to blow up the place with the Caperones, they would all die as well. And they just turn around and leave. And this man saved fourteen lives. And there was another
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:43

    smart also.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:45

    Very smart. And there was another story of, four men from the bedouin city of Rahat, who heard from one of the relatives who was in the area, that there’s a massacre taking place in the music festival, took their car, came to the area and just began to rescue people, from the music festival and take them to safety. These stories give some hope that despite the terrible tragedy, and, and I think the really, really narrowing, of any window for a political compromise in the coming years between Israelis and Palestinians, there is still, a very solid core of Jewish and Arab cooperation within the state of Israel that we need to build on, and we need to expand. And these stories are very, very important. They give us some hope in a very dark situation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:37

    Finally, last question, Amir, do you think that when this is over, you will go back to your kibbutz.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:46

    We hope to go back. We, we want to go back. It requires a few things. We want a different security reality, between Israel and Gaza. And, you know, I can go into technical aspects, but I’m I’m not even sure I should.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:01

    I’m not a military tactician. I I’m a civilian. I have my own thoughts and ideas, but there has to be a different security reality. We want our community to have more means to protect ourselves You know, we had a security. I don’t think everybody needs to have a gun, like, in the United States that hasn’t been so great for
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:20

    you guys.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:20

    And I we don’t want to we don’t want to import that culture. But we do need to have our local security team, which includes twelve, people. We need them to be more highly trained We need them to have easier access to their weapons. You know, the military made it harder for them over the years to keep their weapons in their homes and things like that. We need them to be better trained, better armed, more prepared.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:46

    And we also need leadership that we can trust. We need someone up there that if they tell us, guys, it’s been a few months now. We did the work in Gaza, here is what we’re gonna do to make you safe at home, and you can go back that that we can trust them. Right now, we don’t trust these people. And that is very problematic.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:10

    We need leaders that if they tell us it’s safe to go back home, they look us in the eye, we will trust their word. And I will say, Mona, our situation is relatively better than people in Northern Israel, because as, as you may know, just like us, being refugees in our own country, there are tens of thousands of Israelis who have been evacuated from communities on the northern border with Lebanon because they fear that what happens to us could happen to them with Hezbollah. And some of them are now neighbors of ours. You know, they’ve been evacuated to the same area that we’re living in, and we meet them all the time. And I tell them, listen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:45

    I at least see the military working on the other side of the border from my home and and making it potentially possible for me to go back home in a few months. For you guys, I don’t know how you go back because we don’t want a war with Lebanon. We don’t want a war with Hezbollah. It could be disastrous. I mean, it could cost many, many lives.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:04

    But how do they go back home with Hezbollah on the other side of the border? That’s a really tough dilemma. And what I hope is that there could be some diplomatic momentum to put pressure on Hezbollah to withdraw its forces from the border with Israel to pull back. And this new neighbors of mine could then go back to their homes. But for us, like I said, you know, we want a new security reality.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:30

    We want better means to also protect ourselves on top of the military presence. And we want a leadership that can tell us, okay, guys. It’s safe now. You can send your children back to kindergarten in Akal Oz, and drive off to work with peace of mind. And that we will trust the reward.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:49

    Amir, this has been really a fantastic discussion. Cannot thank you enough. I’m sending best wishes to you and to Mary, and to your daughters, and to your whole community. And I thank you so much for taking the time to Talk with us on the Bulwark podcast.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:06

    Thank you, Mona, for inviting me and giving you the opportunity to share our story. I really appreciate it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:11

    Thank you.
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