That phrase is from Ethan Bronner’s NYT analysis this morning of Israel’s strategy going into the Gaza campaign, which has now been suspended. It is meant to be a boast of sorts, not recognition of a mistake. It comes from a Hebrew phrase, “baal habayit hishtageya,” or “the boss has lost it,” and as Bronner writes, “It evokes the image of a madman who cannot be controlled.”
“This phrase means that if our civilians are attacked by you, we are not going to respond in proportion but will use all means we have to cause you such damage that you will think twice in the future,” said Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser.
It is a calculated rage. The phrase comes from business and refers to a decision by a shop owner to cut prices so drastically that he appears crazy to the consumer even though he knows he has actually made a shrewd business decision.
Trying to out-crazy each other in the Middle East doesn’t sound like a promising strategy (nor is it always good business–look what happened to “Crazy Eddie” Antar). And as the two sides pause after the carnage, it appears Israel did not accomplish what it wanted, which is not especially surprising.
Then again, it depends what you were looking to get out of it. At TNR, Nahum Barnea, a political columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s largest daily newspaper, has a column titled “The War at Home” in which he parses the domestic political maneuvering among Israel’s leaders and how their personal political calculations ahead of Feb. 10 elections helped shape the strategy on the war, which has been enormously popular in Israel. Barnea concludes:
“The political jockeying will only intensify as Israel enters what looks to be the last days of its operation in Gaza, influencing the final outcome as much–if not more than–security concerns. These personal and electoral calculations must be taken into consideration by the international community if they want to be successful in their efforts to negotiate a ceasefire.”