I haven’t put out a special bulletin in years, but I saw that my notes on this subject were piling up fast and people are asking me what I make of all this. Since this whole thing started, I’ve been reading a lot about what happened and didn’t happen and why. What I’m not reading is what might happen or what should happen in strategic terms. The Economist had a good article on that subject today, but that’s only one of a few I’ve come across. Global Thoughts will not let you down. I will also not waste your time telling you stuff you’ve probably read elsewhere and I’m not going to whine on about the horribleness of it all. After the commentary will be my recommendations. I’m not sitting on my butt waiting to see which way the wind blows. I will either be right or wrong and it won’t take but a few weeks to find out, but at least I’ll stick my neck out and game this out for you.
Imagine the irony – my parents stuck in Israel when this whole thing started, and then getting on an Emirates flight to Dubai to get out of a war against Arabs in Israel.
Do you feel sorry for Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman? He’s one of those oligarchs who has been on the run since the Ukraine war started. A week ago he moved to Israel from the UK. Now he’s moved back to Russia and says he’ll stay there till this war is over.
I was worried all day today that I would be called up to the reserves. My son’s friend’s father is away for the weekend, and I was afraid that I would be called up as the reserve quarterback for their Saturday afternoon football session. Given that I’m a really lousy quarterback, they’d have to be pretty desperate to bring me in and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Fortunately, it rained all day.
My kids tonight had the best suggestion I’ve heard all week. Whenever I bring gefilte fish (stuffed carp, a Jewish East European food dish) to the table, the kids reel back in disgust and move away from me. My wife found it nauseating when she was pregnant. Their suggestion was to issue an ultimatum to Hamas that unless they withdraw, the Israelis will drop gefilte fish bombs all over Gaza.
America’s national security advisor said 2 weeks ago that the Middle East was quieter than at any time in the last 20 years. Makes me feel how I wrote shortly before 9/11 that the region had become boring for me to cover.
So let’s set the table here.
For 80 years, the world has been saying Never Again and the walk does not equal the talk. The Chinese are trying to eradicate a race of people, the Russians are trying to eradicate a neighboring state, in Africa people go around trying to eradicate each other, and I am still trying to figure out what is going on in Bosnia and Armenia. If Israel is going to be a light unto the nations, it will need to show the world what is the meaning of Never Again as the Iranians hover over the nuclear horizon. It will also need to help restore a form of deterrence to the world that is being lost – meaning the loss of mutuality to the conventions of the rules of war. This will be explained later. What will the Israelis do? I don’t know, but I imagine the objective is to make anyone who would do what Hamas did think really hard before trying to do it again, at least to the Israelis. The Israelis are shocked to the core; I wouldn’t want to be a lawyer talking about the laws of warfare there right now. But I think that no matter what the Israelis do, it will be unprecedented, but it still won’t be what the Hamas people did.
The biggest argument against such retribution is that 2 million Palestinians live in wretched distress and are stuck in the middle. Their civilians are not entirely innocent; they have celebrated their resistance and they voted for Hamas in an election, and they have never resisted Hamas and they will back Hamas now and they by and large emotionally support their resistance aims. But let’s grant the fact that these people have been living under the barrel of a gun and told since the day they were born all sorts of horrible things about Jews and Israelis. And wouldn’t you hate anybody who occupied your land and turned you into a refugee for 2 generations already and run out and celebrate a military victory against the other side? These people are victims of crappy leaders who never put them first. The problem is what do you do? If the Israelis carve out a safe zone for civilians, the militants will all go straight to that area. I’ll also grant you the argument that Israel helped to create this mess in Gaza because it was convenient for successive governments to have Hamas rule Gaza and divide the Palestinians. Any way you slice it, the only path forward that will benefit Palestinians in Gaza is to get rid of Hamas which has shown that it is not interested in the welfare of Palestinians or in administering Gaza. It is simply a band of troublemakers using Gaza as a launching pad against Israel knowing full well that Gazan civilians will pay the price for their warfare. So it will be painful but necessary because there is no other choice. Simply put, whatever follows is the fate of Gaza, but the faster the deed be done, if done properly and if normalization with regional actors can follow, the better the chance that finally something decent could happen here. At least Hamas might have shuffled the deck too much for its own good, that something good might actually happen for the people of Gaza and eventually the West Bank. But it must be said on an analytical basis that the options are poor and the odds are stacked against any positive future for the Palestinians coming from any source other than within their own community. So far, nobody sees anything forthcoming from within and that is part of the despair. The Palestinian Authority is headed by an 87-year-old who nobody respects and there isn’t a single person in the senior leadership that has popular support. But it is not Israel’s problem to solve and no Arab wants them to. You have to hope that fellow Arabs would somehow step up to the plate and help their brothers solve this problem.
I have a stupid question that requires an answer: Israel has hostile borders with Gaza and Lebanon. Why are there no buffer zones? Even if the buffer zone is part of Israel and they just remove civilians from that area? Wouldn’t it be common sense to have a buffer zone several miles wide with Israeli troops in there, so that at least the Israelis could detect incursions before it comes to these incidents every so often with people crossing over into Israel and making trouble? I suppose that within a year you will find buffer zones being created on both borders because otherwise we just keep seeing the same old shit with incidents, Israel mowing the lawn and bombing them back to the stone age with declarations of how many “high value” targets and “senior terrorists” they destroyed and how it will never happen again, a cease fire with monitoring provisions that is always violated, rinse, lather and repeat….. Maybe we’re tired of the same movie we’ve watched at least half a dozen times? I’ve never been impressed with the last few Israeli campaigns with Gaza and Lebanon and I hope we’re not in for more of the same useless activity.
I remember the initial shock of 9/11 and the first reaction people had here in the USA was how other humans could do the things the terrorists did. I remember what I wrote in Global Thoughts and the reactions I got from Arabs who felt I was too naïve. Seems like we are in the same territory again now with Israelis doing the same thing.
Global Thoughts has been warning for months that the Palestinian issue is about to flare up again and that Israelis are on another planet if they think the Palestinians are going to just keep sitting there and taking it from them. No doubt that October 7, 2023 will be one of the greatest days of Arab celebration in their history. This is like a rag tag army from Luxembourg bringing Belgium to a standstill. It’s not just that David beats Goliath, but now Arabs can “legally” go out on the streets across the Middle East and vent their frustrations against their own Goliaths that rule over them.
An Arab friend once said to me years ago that it doesn’t take many people to cause chaos. Less than 2,000 Gazan fighters crossed the border and caused utter chaos almost 20 miles inside Israel proper. They spent several months coordinating this attack which was brilliant – sophisticated (use of drones to hit military targets and rockets as a diversion) and yet very simple (sending people right over the border). The Israelis were worried about tunnels and spent a billion dollars building a border barrier that was supposedly impenetrable; these guys came in paragliders and landed in the middle of a dance festival where they gunned down over 250 people, and bulldozed right across the border for over a hour without being stopped at the border, and fanned out in roughly 25 different directions. Cheap drones took out firing systems along the border and deactivated battle tanks. It was almost as if somebody left the front door open. The whole thing doesn’t smell right to me (ie: that the intelligence failure was so massive especially on the 50th anniversary of a major war), but it will take some time to see what Israel does in order to fully understand how this all started. The operational malfeasance was massive according to the stories coming to light, but remember that in the USA the same thing happened before 9/11. You have to look beyond the operational to explain this failure. The Israeli response, which I heard at a briefing from someone who used to be at the most senior level of its Mossad intelligence service, said that they couldn’t believe that Hamas fighters would cross into Israel, take elderly people and babies into jeeps and cross back with them into Gaza and burn houses near the border with people inside them. They just didn’t expect humans to operate at that level and didn’t plan for it. But they are very upset now and said that the world would see stuff it hasn’t seen before; the Israelis want to restore their deterrence.
Here’s an example of what I mean when I say that the whole thing doesn’t smell right. Remember that in April 2023 I wrote on Global Thoughts that I was concerned about a joint Hamas-Hizbullah control center in Lebanon. They didn’t belong there. Well, it turns out that these groups have been meeting biweekly in Lebanon for months planning this operation. Somebody from Israel should have monitored these meetings. Thomas Friedman wrote that for the past several weeks Hamas had been rehearsing this invasion right under the noses of the Israelis along the border. It seems the Israeli commanders figured that Hamas was playing mindgames with them, but they didn’t actually believe they were going to do these things. Everyone was focusing on the Islamic Jihad group which was small fry while the much larger Hamas group was being left alone, figuring that they were “deterred” and more interested in how much money Qatar would be sending to them and how many Gazans could work in Israel. This was a whole concept that turned out to be a false negative and which obscured the simple narrative everyone could see but nobody wanted to believe even though Hamas proudly proclaimed it – Hamas wants to destroy Israel and that’s it’s whole reason for being. It is not there to be a responsible party governing Gaza. By now, you have probably read this view elsewhere and I tend to agree with it.
I had been wondering why the Egyptians hadn’t warned Israel. In 1973, they did and Israel ignored them. A disturbing report that has been widely cited says that the head of Egyptian intelligence called up Netanyahu 10 days in advance and warned him that “something big was coming from Gaza.” The report says that Netanyahu shluffed him off saying he had more pressing problems to deal with. Not to mention the warning calls the night before the attacks to front line officers that went ignored or never reached them. Some kind of balloon defense system along the border that has been out of whack for weeks and wasn’t repaired. Each day brings more devastating reports of Israeli malfeasance and the press is doing a great job of reporting it. This is a strength of the resilience of democratic societies, not a weakness.
What should be concerning at this point is that America, like Israel, should take another look at things going on around them that they are discounting as background noise and ask themselves if what they see is actually what it appears to be. One of the failures here may be that the Israelis refused to see what they saw because it didn’t fit in with their preconceived notions of what they expected from the other side. Ukraine’s Zelensky refused to believe the Russians were going to invade despite many warnings. This is a human flaw and it happens more often than you think. So maybe Iran getting the bomb is not a fait accompli that we should just learn to live with. People are trying to create a conception that Iran with the bomb will be deterred and that all its rhetoric is just rhetoric. Maybe they should reconsider. Iran is likely to use the bomb and to care less about the consequences than other states do.
At the cabinet meeting the day after, the ministers sat there and squabbled proving to analysts that the clowns now running the government are in this way over their pay grade. This is what you get when you have a prime minister much more worried about staying out of jail than running the country. And a country that is so divided that nobody trusts anyone else. The right-wingers now want to say that the Leftists left the door open on purpose to embarrass Netanyahu.
The Israelis will blame the government, army, intelligence, etc. but they also share in this blame. They kept voting for ridiculous parties with leaders talking out of their asses, and got the government they deserved. Messianic Jews with huge skullcaps and guns slung over their shoulders wrapped in a tallis (Jewish prayer shawl) strutting around at weddings and shopping malls like in a theme park – all fun and great as long as it was just make believe. Now all these guys have to go and actually fight. Israelis across the spectrum were arrogant and blasé about the Palestinian problem – they figured they had the Arabs’ necks under their feet and the status quo could be maintained for the next 50 years, even when conditions favored them and things were quiet. They were sure the military and intelligence had everything under control, even as they neglected various programs and couldn’t pass a budget for 3 years. I’ve been hearing these thoughts for the past 20-30 years and I never thought it would stand the test of time and it did not.
In a small settlement near the southern border, one of the residents who was an ex-general, insisted for years that the settlement have a defense plan in case something crazy happened and the army couldn’t reach them for backup. He was treated as an old crank but worthy of respect, so they had a backup plan. Turns out that this settlement was under Arab siege for 24 hours and there was no backup coming from the military. They would have been easy prey had they not listened to this guy.
USA take notice — what goes on in Israel is often a preview of coming attractions that will soon face America. Want to continue having a political system in complete dysfunction? Want to have Fox News, Twitter and Facebook out there spreading false news and dividing the country in search of profit? A price will be paid for this because China, Iran and Russia will at some point take advantage. A police detective I saw the day this war started said he was really afraid that America is not ready for the same kind of surprise the Israelis were then experiencing. America’s enemies have convinced themselves that America is in decline and when they see a House of Representatives in complete chaos and the government shutting down more than once a year they will seek to take advantage just like Hamas thought they could. Mark my words. Yes, they will underestimate America’s resolve but in the meanwhile they will inflict massive damage just like 9/11 all over again. Israel had not gotten the message 50 years after 1973, and America hasn’t gotten it 22 years later either. America is so arrogant like Israel that it cannot picture enemies being strong enough to take advantage of its weak points. America and its big aircraft carriers are not as impenetrable as you would think and all the warning indicators are there.
What might come of this? Perhaps Israel reoccupies Gaza for a while and decimates Hamas, then normalizes with the Saudis and the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians and Jordanians agree to send in an Arab military force to patrol the Gaza border and the Emiratis agree to come in and run the civil sector. They have a good reputation for running a good show. Netanyahu declares that Gaza will be the laboratory for a future Palestinian state. If Gaza works, they will bring the show to the West Bank. The Arab population might be excited for this because what they really want more than anything else is an end to the corruption within that governs their life. They want that even more than an end to the Israeli occupation, which was also corrupt, which is an important reason why it was hated. Whoever can make that happen will win their hearts. It’s a nice thought which occurred to Brett Stephens of the NY Times and myself, but the Economist says the Arabs will not be interested. The Israelis and Americans probably know whether or not there is interest. The answer is really important.
I think that if Israel wants good relations with the Saudis, they need to come down hard on Hamas. MBS couldn’t care less if they kill 100,000 Palestinians because he would do exactly that himself; he wants to see that the Israelis get the job done because he wants to know that if he takes the risk of normalizing with Israel that he can count on a strong government and military partner. Iran and Hamas may have miscalculated if they think that bringing this on will put an end to the normalization process. It will end it if Israel looks weak. Time will tell with this one and I suppose that even the Russians and Iranians will be impressed with the Israeli response.
Remember how I said on Global Thoughts in September that if the Arabs come and attack Israel that American Jews under 40 are not going to get all that upset? My son had about 15 teenagers over at lunch the day this new war started (it was a Jewish holiday) and I mentioned it at the table. Not one of them seemed the least bit interested. There will be virtue signaling with demonstrations and social media posts, but today’s kids are mostly interested in going to a demonstration to see their friends from other schools show up. I think though as the week has gone on, kids are becoming more concerned about all this especially as people tell them that there might be attacks against Jews where they live. At the same time, the messages coming from schools about distressed students and the closing of Jewish community centers afraid of being targeted make you wonder just how snowflake everyone is. I think it is embarrassing to see how soft American people are, but hey, we live in a city where a quarter of the people are worried about catching a covid cold and walking around with masks.
I’m sorry if I’m being so cynical about some of this but I’ve seen this movie before several times. People Love Dead Jews. I’m all for the sympathy, but Israel will find out who its friends really are when they fight back. Meanwhile, I never thought I’d hear the words of support toward Israel that the US President Biden gave this past week. We’ll see if it holds up past a week when the war starts. If you recall, I criticized Netanyahu repeatedly for sidling up to the Chinese and Russians at the expense of the United States. When I read the statements of those countries this week, it showed that they are no friends of Israel. Their statements said nothing about Israeli casualties and only talked about Palestinian rights. Europe follows America and if it weren’t for America moving aircraft carriers around and having a public that is sympathetic, Israel would be almost friendless when it counts.
One thing that drives some of this cynicism and that bothers me from a religious perspective is that most synagogues say a weekly prayer for the security of Israel and its military. I don’t think God is listening. Maybe it’s because He’s bored because these prayers drone on forever repeating the same thing 15x. Rabbis writing prayers just can’t edit. Anyone who is not Israeli usually doesn’t understand the prayer anyway because it is in Hebrew, sort of how Catholics who don’t speak Latin feel about their mass in churches that still pray in Latin. When I hear it, I just sit or stand there waiting for it to end. My kids think that if God has a brain, He would prefer much shorter prayers that get to the point and that people who say it actually mean it. Maybe they should rethink these prayers because whatever we’re doing in synagogue ain’t working. In defense of God, I am hopeful that we do not yet know what Allah’s plans are and that we will find out in due time what God is engineering. Israel and Saudi Arabia were getting closer to an agreement and openly dissing the Palestinians. Iran wanted it stopped. The Iranians were getting close to the bomb. Everything has been suddenly turned upside down in a way nobody on any side of this expected. Is God overseeing this?
We were supposed to visit Egypt in November for a family trip but this might not be the best time to go. A policeman shooting and killing several tourists and a tourist guide the day after the Gaza invasion does not fill us with confidence. It also didn’t help that the Egyptian government still hasn’t opened its Grand Egyptian Museum even after years of promising to open it, but lately I have discovered something. Why should they open it to the public when they are offering tourists private tours at $3,000 a person or 12K for a family of 4 (no kids discounts)? The museum doesn’t even have the bulk of its collection in place yet, such as the King Tut stuff, so you are basically paying for the right to walk around in semi-empty buildings just to say you were there first. Want to go see the sphinx’s paws in a private visit? That’s another $3,300. I’m not happy being shaken down to pay ransoms to see tourist sites in Egypt; you could pay far less for private tours in Western Europe. And I don’t want to contribute to giving them an incentive to never open their museums to the general public. It’s become like feeding the birds and giving out bribes to the government that more than double the cost of a trip. The best reason to go there now is that it would be like being at a Disney theme park that is 90% empty. That might not be good enough at this time.
So here are my recommendations:
I have Plan A and Plan B. Plan B depends on the answer to an important question. So let’s first ask the question: Can Hamas be destroyed? My answer is Yes, but only if Israel retakes all of Gaza at least initially. There is no way that Hamas can be destroyed if it remains in control of territory and the Israelis ceasefire. No matter what is agreed to or said, they will rebuild and try again. This is what they have always done and now the world actually believes that they mean what they say. If Hamas doesn’t do it, Iran will find someone else who will. Iran wants instability in that region and can afford to pay for it. Unless someone is in a position to bomb Iran into submission or until they become a different kind of country, we will have to live with their proxies and make them think before they act.
Second, Hamas like Hizbullah positions itself as a resistance movement to liberate territory. The punishment for this incursion must be the loss of territory. Hamas must be seen to have produced a counterproductive result. This is the only way to deter them and to deter Hizbullah and anyone else who might try again.
If you agree that Hamas can be destroyed, then I would retake Gaza and then turn it over to an Arab consortia as outlined above. That would be my Plan A. It will involve more dead Israelis as well as dead Palestinians, but it might be the war to end war and it would probably be worth it. If the end game is declared at the start though by the Israelis, the world will buy into it because there is a happy ending that could come from it. The world is going to want Israel to declare early on what its goals are so this is one possibility.
If you believe that Hamas cannot be destroyed or that it is not worth it to have the Israelis stomping all over Gaza in search of militants who will be hiding among civilians, then we turn to Plan B which takes into account my above considerations. Plan B means Israel literally incinerates a buffer zone however wide that zone needs to be and gets rid of every single thing on the ground and then reoccupies that area as a no-man’s land buffer zone to make sure that nothing is crossing the international border. If Hamas wants to keep missiles around, then the buffer zone ought to come very close to Gaza City so that they will have to sit there and militarize a city with 2 million residents in it, which will be very uncomfortable for them, especially if Israel has to then retaliate by striking cities. Hizbullah will come to know that Southern Lebanon could be lost to a buffer zone as well. The fact that Israel is telling 1.1 million civilians to evacuate northern Gaza might be an indication that Plan B is the way to go; Netanyahu in 2009 is the likely source of leaks about the high death toll involved in invading Gaza because this is something he really doesn’t want to do. People change over years and intelligence analysts have been burned assuming people will act in the future similarly to the past (ie: Putin), but we do know that Netanyahu has generally acted in a risk averse manner.
Post Script to this: I don’t know if any of the Arab states want to get involved in running Gaza and none of the Arab countries except for Qatar is a fan of Hamas which is an extension of the Moslem Brotherhood, an organization they all detest. Truth be told, they are not really interested in doing anything for the Palestinians except sending some occasional money their way. They have not exactly been disguising this distaste either. Egypt has a border with Gaza and they are happy to gang up with the Israelis on Gaza’s siege not letting petrol, food or anyone cross the border. The last thing they want is refugees in Egypt when they are broke and can’t even keep their own lights on. And Sisi doesn’t want anyone from the Moslem Brotherhood that will make trouble in his country after throwing out the previous ruler who got elected through the Brotherhood. The last time Israel went into Gaza, Sisi reportedly told the Israelis he would prefer for them to knock down every last door in Gaza to get rid of Hamas. As I said above, The Economist does not think that any Arab state wants to get involved in Gaza and the Americans and Israelis probably know what they can expect from the various Arab parties. The answer to that question will inform the choice of Plan A or B above. It would just totally suck to do Plan A, wind up with the booby prize of reoccupying Gaza which nobody in Israel wants, and then have nobody to turn it over to. That’s why Plan B makes sense to me if there is no good ending with Plan A.
A big open question is whether Hizbullah in Lebanon will enter this war. Many arguments exist for why they would want to stay out of it. Hamas is a dispensable pawn that Iran uses, but Iran is much more concerned about its assets in Lebanon than Gaza and it may not want to risk those assets. It may not have expected Hamas to be so successful and thus drive an outsized Israeli response. Remember how Nasrallah in Lebanon admitted that he overreached a number of years ago bringing on a devastating Israeli response. But Hamas would not have gone into this war without assurances that Hizbullah would back it up. And the fear of taking losses does not necessarily enter into Iranian or Hizbullah calculations. Israel presumably does not want to fight on a second front, we are told. But maybe they do want to take out Hizbullah right now, especially with an American aircraft carrier sitting offshore ready to help. Hizbullah has been allowed to grow too large for comfort on the northern border and it’s been a can kicked down the road too much. The Lebanese threat to Israel is potentially much larger than that of Hamas in Gaza. Better perhaps to deal with them on Israel’s terms than at a time and place of their choosing.
My last recommendation is whatever the Israelis intend to do in Gaza – worry less about the consequences and the lawyers, and do it fast. History shows that the world will lay on the pressure to stop and the criticism will be there even if the Israelis apply the same level of pressure they used to, which was not all that much in comparison as to what is to come. No matter what everyone says, the Israelis will not have the fortune to take their time doing things right. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good lest the clock run out on them. The Egyptians also want Israel to get rid of Hamas, but they want the job done fast. Nobody really cares how bad it is for Gaza; what they care about is how long the rest of the world has to endure the bad photos and videos coming out of Gaza. Israel may talk about a long war, but I don’t think the rest of the world will allow it and Israel cannot go on forever when the whole world gangs up on it.
Two more thoughts. There is an important reason why Israel needs to strike hard and to win here and to push the envelope while doing it if it must. All over the world, the conventions that were agreed to at the end of World War II are crumbling. People are not honoring agreements they made about the laws of war such as the Geneva Conventions for Prisoners. This is because America, the strongest country that could have enforced these agreements, is viewed as weak and is letting actors such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea flout these conventions. These conventions were entered into for mutual benefit, but if one side thinks the other will fight with its hands behind its back even if it fights without restraint, then there is no point to the convention. That’s not a fair fight that anyone should have to engage in. I’ve never been in the military and if you gave me a gun or a knife, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I’m also not a doctor or a contractor, and I don’t pretend to tell my doctor or a contractor how to do their job. Anything I say here is based on my own sense of my common sense, not as a military expert. But common sense tells me that if we want to restore these conventions, the way to do it is not to ask Israel to unilaterally act according to the rules of war and somehow be the better behaved party to the conflict. It is to exact such a high price on the other side that the other side sees the value to restoring mutuality of the laws of war. It is not a matter of maintaining purity of arms or keeping the world’s sympathy – it is a matter of restoring deterrence in a world that is getting ever more dangerous precisely because the bad actors don’t see the value to them of setting limits. It’s been shown in world history that sometimes the other guy has to see that you are willing to be as crazy as he is, and that’s what gets him to become reasonable.
Another thought – I’ve said for years that Gaza and Lebanon are the manifestations of a cancer that exists in Iran. Israel can keep retaliating against Iranian proxies but until Iran feels the heat nothing is going to change. Maybe they need to start bombing Teheran. Maybe this is not the time because after all, it doesn’t look like Iran meant for Hamas to push Israel to the wall with this attack. But it’s out there. Keep in mind that both Israel and the US have been careful not to blame Iran for this. It’s pretty obvious to me that Iran is the funder and instigator behind this. Maybe they don’t want to alarm Iran but are planning a response just like their opponents kept their mouth shut in order to divert Israel’s attention to other frontiers instead of Gaza. Let’s see what happens, but clearly the Israelis have sent many troops to the north and are not going to be surprised. Hamas got in the first punch and they caught the Israelis with their pants down, but that was probably their high point in this episode and the rest of this show is likely to be their downfall. Hizbullah cannot expect the same benefit of surprise.
Well, that’s the best estimate I have from my desk at this point and it’s almost showtime at the OK Corral. Now it’s up to the parties to fight this out and we’ll see where it goes. And remember, if all else fails, there’s always the nuclear option — gefilte fish bombs.