[The two retired Israeli generals] were avid students of military history, including of the Vietnam conflict. They applied for visas and made a special request to the Vietnamese authorities: to meet General Vo Nguyen Giap.
Unexpectedly, the request was approved. Giap agreed to meet them. When the Israelis arrived in Vietnam, they sat down with the man who by then had spent decades as his country’s defense minister. It was a long meeting, as [Gen.] Ben Hanan would later recall to Eran Lerman, a former top-ranked IDF intelligence officer and later deputy national security adviser. Lerman, now at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told the story to this writer.
When the Israelis rose to leave, Giap suddenly turned to the Palestinian issue. “Listen,” he said, “the Palestinians are always coming here and saying to me, ‘You expelled the French and the Americans. How do we expel the Jews?’”
The generals were intrigued. “And what do you tell them?”
“I tell them,” Giap replied, “that the French went back to France and the Americans to America. But the Jews have nowhere to go. You will not expel them.”
The war abroad and the war at home
It’s no accident that Giap’s final observation stuck so vividly in Ben Hanan’s mind, or in Lerman’s.
There is a profound tragedy here for the Palestinian cause. Even as it gains overseas support at levels unseen since the 1970s, those supporters, largely ignorant of the strategic discourse within the Palestinian national movement, have spent the past 11 days lining up squarely behind the very party that has driven the Palestinian cause into a brick wall.