In May, Israeli papers were filled with pages about how cool it was that Israel had produced a cutting-edge company that Warren Buffett wanted to buy. It was being discussed everywhere, pushing the Tel Aviv stock exchange to an all-time high.
That is where Israel’s head was on the eve of this war — and it explains something I sensed when I visited Israel shortly after the fighting started. Nobody wanted this war, and nobody was prepared for it. Look closely at pictures of Israeli soldiers from Lebanon. There is no enthusiasm in their faces, and certainly no triumphalism. Their expressions tell the whole story: “I just don’t want to be doing this — another war with the Arabs.”
Israeli soldiers were napping when this war started — that’s why they got ambushed — for the very best reasons: They have so much more to do with their lives, and they live in a society that empowers and enables them to do it. (Unfortunately, the Buffett company is in northern Israel and had to be temporarily closed because of rocket attacks.)
Young Israelis dream of being inventors, and their role models are the Israeli innovators who made it to the Nasdaq. Hezbollah youth dream of being martyrs, and their role models are Islamic militants who made it to the Next World. Israel spent the last six years preparing for Warren Buffett, while Hezbollah spent the last six years preparing for this war.
Okay, I'm with him. The last paragraph, in particular, is very good. But how does he finish the column? With my emphasis added:
Israel wins when Warren Buffett’s company there is fully back in business — not when Nasrallah is out of business. Because that will only happen, not by war, but when Arabs wake up and realize that he is just another fraud, just another Nasser, whose strategy would condemn the flower of Arab youth — who deserve and need so much better — to another decade of making potato chips, not microchips. Nasrallah can win in the long run only if he can condemn the flower of Israel’s youth to the same fate. Don’t let it happen, Israel.
And as it often happens, Friedman ends his column with a conundrum. I'd like to know what observations Friedman has made of Arab societies that would generate the presumption that Arabs will receive this wake-up call and come to this realization, to say nothing of a presumption that it would happen with enough haste to spare citizens of Israel the terrorist attacks from the likes of Hezbollah.