Michael's Dispatches

Yigal Zur

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Michael Yon introduces Yigal Zur and explains how they first met in India years ago.

MY: Before we talk about the situation in Israel today, I would like people to know more about you. Tell us about your television program ‘Around the World with 80 US Dollars’

YZ: The basic idea is, well, it’s like a tourist show, and I wondered: “how can I show, you know, different countries, different ideas, different places?” But not like in a stand-up ‘this is the Tour Eiffel’s or ‘this is Manhattan,’ you know, that is boring, so I asked myself what kind of activities can I combine that will make it more interesting… So I said, “okay, I will go around the world with a certain budget of money,” which will force me to make my way by working, by bargaining, by begging, by anything… The idea was not just to survive but in each place to do kind of a mission… So, basically, I left Israel with only $80…and to make my way in India, for example, I was butlering for a family…

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MY: With a war going on now, a lot of us over here would like to know more about what is going on over there. Can you tell us what you know about what is going on with the war between Israel and Hamas and Hezbollah?

YZ: We are used to it, in a way, which is, you know, very sad to say. Because it seems like we can not get, well, it seems like every time we are on the verge of breaking the cycle of, you know the differences between the Arabs and us, it seems it is starting all over again… I think most Israelis believe a direct talk is best. Because we see that a truce between us and Egypt or us and Jordan is working, so the question is only why it cannot be like that with Lebanon, with Syria, with the Palestinians.

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MY: A lot of people over here think this started with the kidnapping of 3 soldiers but in fact, there was a lot more going on, correct?

YZ: …they put Hamas and Hezbollah together, but I think we have to make a difference…because even though Hamas is a kind of terror organization, it was elected by the Palestinians. The problem with Hamas is they haven’t figured out what they are doing—on the political level, or will they still continue to fight Israel on the Army level, or on the terrorist level. Hezbollah is a completely different story because… they represent only one small party, the Shia Muslims in the South of Lebanon. Not the Christians, not the Druze, and not even all the Shia in Lebanon.

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MY: So Israel now is moving into Lebanon and…

YZ: No, the only action is from the air and the sea. Israel blocked everything, you know, airports, sea, and the border from Lebanon to Syria. Because first of all they don’t want any volunteers, any ammunition coming from Syria.

MY: I read that there was some Israeli incursion into Lebanon today, though…

YZ: Well the northern part of Israel is very hilly, and wherever you have an Army outpost, basically on the other side of the hill is a Hezbollah bunker. So what the Israeli forces are doing is basically to flatten the country on the other side. So there will be one kilometer of flat country, so they will not be able to make viewpoints, to shoot from there, to make any bases…to shoot into Israel…

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MY: What do the Israelis hope the response from the United States will be?

YZ: I would say it is the first time for many years that there is a kind of understanding for the situations that Israel is in…because normally, when Israel would respond to any aggression, in a day or two, there would be UN Sanctions, or the US consulate saying ‘Israel violated so and so’ …The only solution is to have safe borders. But to have safe borders you have to handle yourself against countries, with legitimate borders, and not just any kind of organization. This is the basic point that Egypt understood, Jordan understood, but I think not Syria, not Lebanon. Not yet.

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MY: One thing that Americans don’t understand is that a lot of Arab countries actually have made peace with Israel…

YZ: …You could see today the response to Hezbollah, the kind of very interesting collaboration between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan and Oman in the Gulf, to say Hezbollah did a very wrong thing… So it is kind of very interesting, kind of complicated, and I think… For most Israelis, this is kind of their dream. You know why? Because when I was a soldier, I was an officer in the Army, I would say “I hope my child will not be in the Army.”…but you know reality is one thing and hope is another and not very often are they matched together.”

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