Tom hopes that Israel will once again become a country he can get behind

For the vast majority of my life, if someone had asked me what my favorite country in the world was (other than the good old USA), my answer would have been quick and decisive: Israel. As a high-school kid, I pored over the novel-length accounts of the Six-Day War in the Los Angeles Times, marveling at how such a small country, surrounded on all sides by bitter enemies, could do such amazing things to survive.

For example, it was 60 years ago this past weekend that Adolf Eichmann, the notorious architect of the "Final Solution" (the killing of six million Jews), was identified by the Israeli spy agency, the Mossad, as living in a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina. How Eichmann had gotten there is a sordid tale, indeed.

Eichmann was the quintessential Nazi—efficient, ruthless, blood-thirsty. He rose through the ranks quickly and, at the height of his power, he was in charge of transporting millions of Jews to the death camps. He is reported to have said that he would "leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had five million people on his conscience would be for him the source of great satisfaction." While he would later claim that he had just been following orders, his actions spoke otherwise. After the government of Hungary suspended the deportation of Jews to the camps, Eichmann surreptitiously sent more trainloads of victims to their deaths. And, later, when Heinrich Himmler suspended the operation altogether, a frustrated Eichmann requested a reassignment.

After the war ended, Eichmann was actually in Allied custody, but he was using forged papers and going by Otto Eckmann. He escaped custody and then, for the next five years, he lived in Germany under the name Otto Heninger. Finally, with the help of the Catholic Church, he left Europe and moved to Argentina and became Ricardo Klement, shop foreman.

Famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal got a tip and after years of dead ends and false leads, they finally tracked him down. On March 1, 1960, Israel sent their top man from the Shin Bet (the Israeli Security Service that has the cool motto of "The Defender That Shall Not Be Seen"). Zvi Aharoni positively identified Eichmann and a plan was set in motion. Since Argentina routinely turned down requests for the extradition of former Nazis, Israel decided to kidnap Eichmann and take him back to Israel for trial.

A squad of Mossad operatives grabbed Eichmann off the street and held him in a safe house. An alarm immediately went out among the network of former Nazis living in Argentina and the manhunt was on. The Israelis had (bad) information that Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called Angel of Death, was also in the Buenos Aires area so they decided to stick around and go for the two-for-one deal.

With the Nazi network closing in, the Mossad agents stopped looking for Mengele. They drugged Eichmann and dressed him in the uniform of an airline co-pilot. Israel's El Al Airlines had made the transatlantic flight to Buenos Aires, ostensibly to honor the 150th anniversary of Argentina's freedom from Spain. But it was there to transport Eichmann to justice. After a tense delay, it was allowed to take off. It was supposed to stop in Brazil to refuel, but fears of what might be awaiting the plane in Brazil prompted those on board to change plans. They headed across the Atlantic, reaching Dakar, Senegal flying on fumes. They made it to Israel the next day.

Eichmann was put on trial and eventually convicted of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, war crimes and membership in a criminal organization. Somewhat oddly, the tribunal of judges found him not guilty of ever personally killing anyone. He was hanged, then cremated and his ashes were spread in the Mediterranean Sea. Eichmann remains the only person ever executed by the Israeli government.

What would follow would be the aforementioned Six-Day War, in which Israel quadrupled in size in less than a week. Then there was the stunning reversal of fortune that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the Yom Kippur War. I'll even give them props for Operation Opera, the Raid on the Sun that destroyed Iraq's nascent nuclear program. (One of the pilots in that operation, Ilan Ramon, later died aboard the space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated upon reentry.)

Stuff like that you can't make up. It's righteous and heroic. But for me and a whole lot of other Americans who have had the Jewish state's back for decades, that Israel doesn't seem to exist anymore. The brave underdog has become the Bully on the Block. The country is being run by a guy who's a thug and a criminal, but the populace is split in such a way that, despite multiple elections, they can neither re-elect him nor throw him out of office.

And you can't count on Israel to keep its word, either. They traded away the West Bank, fair and square. But now, they're taking it back, parcel by parcel, just because some rich people want to build houses with a nice view.

Israel has lost its way and is in real danger of losing whatever international support if once had. I, for one, would like to be able to root for it again.

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