High Morale


As Israeli-Palestinian violence hits the six-month mark, Israeli military officials report that soldiers remain motivated to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Senior military officials report that reservists, who account for 70 percent of the army’s 639,150 troops, are reporting for duty at higher rates than before the intifada began. This contrasts with past years, when reservists often found excuses to evade service.

According to Brig. Gen. Avinoam Laufer, head of the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) planning and logistics division, about 95 percent of reservists who have recently been drafted have reported for duty.

This compares to about 85 percent who reported for duty before Palestinian violence began last September.

“The feeling among reservists, like in the public at large, is that something must be done,” Laufer said, adding that in recent years soldiers’ motivation has tended to rise when times got tougher.

The army does not yet have clear indications about how the intifada is affecting new recruits or conscripted soldiers.

Soldiers currently being drafted were polled about their attitudes last year, before the wave of violence began.

Those polls indicated that there had then been a 4 percent decline in the motivation of young Israelis to serve in combat units.

That decline came against the backdrop of political developments in which Israel appeared to be on the brink of peace deals, Laufer said.

“When there is a feeling that we are moving toward a good peace, motivation tends to decline,” he said. “When the situation deteriorates, motivation goes up.”

Nevertheless, Laufer admits that during the first intifada, between 1987 and 1993, there was a clear deterioration in the motivation of reservists to serve as the conflict dragged on and soldiers were called repeatedly to police the Palestinians.

The apparent increase in motivation, as measured in terms of reserve turnout, comes amid a rising death toll.

Since the violence began in late September, 67 Israelis — 38 civilians and 29 soldiers — have been killed by the Palestinians.

Israel has killed at least 348 Palestinians over the same period.

For Israel, the death toll is very high when compared with the number killed by Hezbollah gunmen during the last five years of the Israeli presence in southern Lebanon.

Between 1995 and 1999, about 25 Israeli soldiers were killed in Lebanon. Even that death toll was enough to break the Israeli consensus over maintaining a presence there.

Palestinians were jubilant when Israel withdrew from Lebanon last year, citing Hezbollah’s war as a model the Palestinians themselves should follow.

Israeli military officials, however, said the Palestinians were making a “crude miscalculation” if they hope to copy Hezbollah tactics and wear down Israeli society and military morale through a war of attrition.

If the Palestinians concluded from the Lebanon case “that with a big enough pile of bodies we will go home or go somewhere else,” they misunderstood Israeli policy, said one military official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“If that’s the logic, if they think they will pile up the numbers and get a Lebanon outcome, it’s a historic confusion of the accidental and the existential,” the official said.

Military assessments of Israel’s staying power come amid reports that the Palestinians may be reassessing their strategy.

Some Palestinians are said to be calling for public protests with a lower level of violence, alongside the guerrilla-style warfare by armed militias that has been the staple in recent months — and that has cost the Palestinians a degree of international sympathy.

As recently as Sunday, however, another Israeli was wounded in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank.

While the continued violence appears to have rallied Israeli soldiers and society behind the national unity government’s refusal to negotiate under fire, there are some signs of cracks in the consensus.

Yesh Gvul, the movement that supports soldiers who refuse to serve in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, says it has handled 10 cases of conscripted soldiers and fielded calls from up to 80 reservists who refuse to help suppress the current intifada, including a “high proportion” of junior officers.

Yesh Gvul — Hebrew for “there’s a limit” — was created to protest Israel’s presence in Lebanon.

The group says 168 reservists went to prison during the 1982 Lebanon War for refusing to serve, while another 200 went to prison during the 1987-1993 Palestinian intifada.

Even the relatively small numbers are significant, however, since in the past, young conscripted soldiers almost never dared to challenge military discipline by refusing to serve, according to Peretz Kidron, a Yesh Gvul activist.

Kidron also said that most reservists who refuse to serve in the territories have been given other assignments instead of jail time, as the army wants to avoid public controversies that might affect morale.

“Outright refusal is the tip of the iceberg, and that has an enormous impact on army morale far beyond the numbers involved,” Kidron said. “They know that every time they throw one guy in jail, another 10 get the idea.”

Kidron also said Yesh Gvul has found in the past that many reservists will heed the call of duty the first time around but will think twice if called up again.

Tamar Hermann, director of the Tami Steinmitz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, said Israelis from across the political spectrum are rallying around the flag.

“Even those Israelis who supported unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon are now much more skeptical of such a move so close to home in the West Bank,” she said.

But Hermann’s polls also show that while Israelis have a high level of confidence in the IDF, 50 percent of the respondents do not believe there is a military solution to the current conflict, compared with only 41 percent who think more force would help.

“Israelis think some force should be used to suppress rising Palestinian violence, but they do not see it as a way out of the conflict,” she said.

Dear Deborah


Detail from the cover of “Boy MeetsGirl,” a romance comic book, 1947

Suffocating Sweetheart

Dear Deborah,

I am engaged to a wonderful man whose “littleproblem” has become very, very big during the course of our two-yearcourtship and has grown acute during our engagement. He was always alittle possessive when we dated, but, then, it made me feel loved. Iactually thought it was sort of sweet and sexy, and it made me feelprotected.

His possessiveness has grown into what I feel isan invasion of my privacy that seems, to me, to be not sweet at all.It feels controlling — as if he thinks of me as an incompetentchild. He’ll show up uninvited to a girlfriend-only lunch; he’ll tryto find me a job with a friend of his before I even open theemployment ads; he calls my doctors and asks about test results forme.

When I complain, he says that he is just trying tobe helpful, and asks why I don’t appreciate his love and caring. Ido, but I’m worried about feeling more and more “devoured” by his”caring,” and I’m asking for help in how to deal with it because, atthis point, I feel inclined to hide my whereabouts and activities sothat he cannot butt in so freely — even though I have nothing tohide.

Feels Devoured

Dear Devoured,

“As wolves love lambs, so lovers love theirloves,” wrote Socrates. While you found the wolf at first to becompelling, you are now beginning to feel more like a lamb chop thana lamb. Should you marry him without resolving this now, youundoubtedly will be devoured by his controlling nature.

You must tell him that this issue is seriousenough to cause you to call off the whole deal if it is not resolvedimmediately. Explain in as concrete a manner as possible thebehaviors that are not acceptable to you, and why. Listen to what hesays — whether he is defensive or truly understands you. He may beinsecure and need a little help in some areas, he may have somecharacterological issues that are deeply entrenched, or he may notsee the need to change. If you get nowhere with him, get counselingtogether immediately.

It will take courage to face these issues squarelyand at once, but not to do so will ultimately reduce you from lamb tolamb chop to mucky, little divorce statistic.

Mommie Dearest?

Dear Deborah,

My 7- and 10-year-old sons recently sat me downand told me what I was like when I got angry. They said that Iscreamed a lot, acted like a “monster,” frightened them, and wasentirely different from the “sweet mommy” who usually takes care ofthem. I always knew I had a temper, but I had no idea I was havingsuch an effect. My husband thinks they are just spoiled and don’twant to hear about it when they do wrong.

I am a little confused about how to handlethis.

Chicago Mom

Dear Mom,

The Talmud states that if one person tells youthat you have ass’s ears, pay no attention. But if two tell you,you’d better saddle up.

Whether or not your children are spoiled is notthe issue. Whether or not they don’t like criticism is not the issue(who does?). Rather, the fact that both your children experience yourrage as frightening and deemed it important enough to approach you iswhat counts — that, and your ability to hear them with an openheart.

Yelling is not an effective way to discipline.Either children get scared or feel bad about themselves, and,eventually, they become so inured to yelling that they tune you out.Also, they will learn to be yellers from your example. Learning tomanage anger is the task at hand.

First, when you feel the rage coming on, stop.Notice the buildup of anger. Catch yourself before you hit rage.Collect your thoughts before you speak. Then choose a differentmethod, preferably quieter and with less blame. Use consequencesrather than fear. “You may not go out and play until your rooms areclean.” “No TV until the homework is done.” “Here is ashmatte. Now goclean up what you spilled.” In other words, actions should havelogical consequences that teach children responsibility.

If you lack the necessary self-control to stopyelling, there are anger-management and parenting books and classes.If that fails, there is counseling. The fact that you are taking yourchildren’s feelings to heart is a good prognosis.

Mother-in-Law Blues

Dear Deborah,

My mother-in-law has been in the hospital,recovering from surgery for a week. She is a widow and has alwaysbeen an unpleasant, demanding and self-absorbed woman, but she is myhusband’s mother and children’s grandmother, and because I have noremaining parents, I do want to be a good daughter-in-law.Furthermore, my husband is an only child, so there is no one else totake care of her. He works more than full time, and since my job ispart-time, I feel it is my duty.

I visit her every day, bring her anything she asksfor, and, when she is well, take her shopping and to doctorsappointments. I try. Yet she barrages me with complaints about how noone cares about her, no one visits her, and so forth.

She doesn’t understand that I do work, havechildren (which is another full-time job) and have a life. She thinksthat I am her servant, which would be OK if she showed anyappreciation whatsoever. I am at my wit’s end with her complainingand sometimes want to say what’s on my mind, and yet I never say aword.

At Wit’s End

Dear Wit’s End,

There seems to be a rather fine line between”honor thy parents” and “kick me.” I mean, Martyr of the Year is arotten, low-paying job with no benefits and zero glory.

Have you said anything at all when she complainsabout the dearth of visitors, such as: “What am I? Chopped liver? Ihave visited you every day. It hurts my feelings when you say thingslike that.”

Although you are a true mensch for your efforts, thereis no law against directly and kindly saying how you feel. You neednot be abused to be a dutiful daughter-in-law.

Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angelespsychotherapist. All letters toDear Deborahrequire a name, address and telephone number for purposes ofverification. Names will, of course, be withheld upon request. Ourreaders should know that when names are used in a letter, they arefictitious.

Dear Deborah welcomes your letters. Responses canbe given only in the newspaper. Send letters to Deborah Berger-Reiss,1800 S. Robertson Blvd., Ste. 927, Los Angeles, CA 90035. You canalso send E-mail: deborahb@primenet.com