Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Lame Duck Visits Israel

I gave the Israeli version of Survivor one more chance last night, and watched the agonizing episode. Luckily I had taped it, and was able to flip through the more tedious moments. I don't think I care who wins, in fact I hope they all get stuck in the Caribbean and don't return to Israel.

What I did notice while watching is that the behaviour of the Israeli contestants illustrate the basic flaws in our approach to a negotiation and settlement with the Arabs in our region.

Firstly, the players [in Survivor] seem to forget that this is a winner take all event, and instead, fought to keep the weakest player on board, while voting out another member of the tribe who could lead them successfully through physical challenges. Likewise, we Israelis try to apply Western values to a Muslim society which takes advantage of weakness. The more we try to give them, the more we say "they don't really mean to drive us into the sea," the more they will assail our land with bombs from the sky and terrorists from within.

Second, the Israeli Survivors talk too much, to the camera and to each other. They reveal too much of their plan to others, and the editors of the program do not have the common sense to leave out parts of the show that are noise and filler. The reason the American version of the television program works so well is because each episode has a formula, and it all fits into one hour, including commercials. On the local and international political negotiation front, we Israelis make the mistake of showing all our cards before anyone asks, we publish our secret plans on the front page of every newspaper, for all to read. It would not hurt us to selectively speak, and do more listening.

The long war that Israel and Jews have been fighting against the Arabs, and all those who would try to wipe us and our country off the map, boils down to one fact: in a winner-takes-all conflict, you lose by playing nicely with others. We must be proactive and offensive in our actions, we must protect our citizens first and foremost from those who have proven to be immediate and real threats. An idea that Prime Minister Olmert has failed to grasp, because he is too busy keeping himself out of jail.

Every other country on the planet would put their very existence and safety before others, that is a basic human right that Israel inexplicably denies itself.

Here's hoping that President Bush, when he visits Israel this week, can start to comprehend that Survivor reality.

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