January 15, 2009

On My Way to Israel

At the last minute I was invited to Israel by the American Jewish Committee and will leave first thing tomorrow (Friday) morning. I’ll be heading over there with Max Boot, Anthony Cordesman, and a handful of other foreign policy professionals. We’re scheduled to visit areas hit by Qassam and Grad rockets, and are working on arranging meetings with Palestinian leaders, Israeli intelligence officers, IDF commanders, and members of the Knesset.

I have a lot of material that needs to be written from my recent trip to Iraq and Lebanon, but none of it is as time-sensitive as the war in Gaza and Israel. So I’ll continue writing about the Middle East’s current hot spot at least for a short while.

I’ll be back home in a week.

The AJC is paying for most of this trip, but I’m going to stick around in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for two extra days so I can interview a few other people I need to see while I’m over there. Please consider a donation so I can pay for a rental car and a few extra days in my hotel room. And stay tuned for more coverage.

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Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 15, 2009 1:19 PM

Be safe, Mr. Totten. Go show JTP how its done.

Posted by: James Author Profile Page at January 15, 2009 2:08 PM

Good luck Michael. You might like to read Fisks latest effort at shilling the Islamists on The Independent. I daresay you won't find much evidence of 'tinpot rockets' over there, only real ones. Be careful.

Posted by: GT Author Profile Page at January 15, 2009 8:00 PM

Have a blast!

ooops. Bad turn of phrase. In addition to all the work and danger and anger and sorrow, I hope you can unwind and relax in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Tel Aviv -- try Goocha for seafood, on Dizengoff and Ben Gurion, I think. Not too expensive. Jerusalem try Joy Grill (Kosher, but excellent) in German Village. Business lunch was a very good deal, although prices are way high compared to 2006.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 15, 2009 9:42 PM

So, do you even bother to reset your watch between trips anymore?

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at January 15, 2009 10:32 PM

And congratulations, they have called the Weblog Awards and you have won. By a very respectable margin too.

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at January 15, 2009 11:19 PM

Hi Michael, welcome to Israel

While you are in Tel Aviv I would love to meet up with you over some coffee or a beer (your preference). I am a student of counter-terrorism and homeland security at the IDC in Herziliya and a veteran of Israel's last foray in Lebanon in 2006.

I'm currently writing my thesis on the mistakes of the 1982 and 2006 wars and I hopefully can share some insights into what is happening now as well - to my displeasure i've had to re-write major sections of my thesis, seeing as it was proven wrong in the past two weeks ;) - but that is good news for Israel.

My email is jsr2497 AT hotmail and you don't have to 'accept' this post to appear on the board

Posted by: J82 Author Profile Page at January 16, 2009 2:47 AM

Michael -- hey and to see friends!! I'm so excited you are coming and really hope there's time to get together for coffee and catching up!

Posted by: Yaeli Author Profile Page at January 16, 2009 4:01 AM


Go chat with Joe Wurzelbacher. If you can get him to climb down off the roof over ebedding reporters, Roger will owe you a lung. You have the capacity to get him to come down off the roof because you are not mainstream media and you've done it.

This is prestige action that will raise your national profile. Do it.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at January 16, 2009 7:18 AM

Congratulations, MJT, both on winning the weblog awards, and on your upcoming junket. I remember stumbling on this website when you were just a nice guy who was interested in the middle east. What an incredible long way you've come. I wonder where you'll be in another ten years.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at January 16, 2009 10:59 PM

You think the answer is more propaganda? What do you think we'll get from an AJC-paid trip?

Posted by: The Other Alan Author Profile Page at January 17, 2009 3:50 AM

The Other Alan:

What did Michael get from his Azerbaijan trip?

Posted by: Ted S., Catskills, NY Author Profile Page at January 17, 2009 5:54 AM

They'll show what they show, Michael will see what he sees. Lo oto davar.

J82 -- how much of the credit for IDF's getting its act together would you give to Gabi Ashkenazi?

I was at the Sept IDC conference -- really enjoyed it, and Herzliya. Is anyone there doing real behavioral psychology analysis of terrorism? It seemed absent from the discussions (some of which seemed overly-academic and abstracted).

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 17, 2009 6:39 AM

Michael, having been to Israel in June of 08, I hope you can put a face on the difference between Arab/Palestinians in Israel vs. those in Palestinian held territories. The differences are stark! While the group in Israel prospers, the ones in Palestinian areas, particularly the Christian Arabs must barricade themselves against the missile implacements! It is mufsidun fighting hirabah in Gaza, and the Palestinian people need to be rescued from the evil under Hamas, the mufsidun of all mufsidun! {evil fighters of the most evil fighters)

Posted by: DagneyT Author Profile Page at January 17, 2009 1:05 PM

longwarjournal.org, 18 January:

"cease-fire...rockets into southern Israel just prior to the announcement...Israeli intelligence said Hamas will resume arms smuggling to Gaza within a few months."

Endless. Hopeless.

Enough. I'll probably continue reading Michael's dispatches to learn about regions I've never visited, but I'll be taking my focus elsewhere now.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at January 18, 2009 1:55 PM


i live about 7 klicks from gaza, west of Netivot.

If you will be in the area, let me know.

Glad to have a chance to chat & maybe make you a cup of coffee

John -
Moshav Shokeda

Posted by: John Mahler Author Profile Page at January 18, 2009 2:57 PM

Look forward to your reporting as always - safe travels!

Posted by: Lisa-in-DC Author Profile Page at January 18, 2009 9:03 PM


Speaking w/ my friends who just came back from Gaza, they described the IDF ops as "a symphony". I have no doubt that Ashkenazi is largely responsible for the major improvements in IDF doctrine this time around.

As for the IDC, to be honest I am rather disappointed by the curriculum. There is almost NO attention given whatsoever to COIN, and all the case studies revolve around Israel circa the 1st and 2nd intifadas; which is ancient history in this field.

Posted by: J82 Author Profile Page at January 20, 2009 1:56 AM
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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