During the last two wars, Tel Avivians were accused of acting like they were “in
a bubble,” far removed from the heightened state of alert a mere hour’s drive
This time, they could not ignore the loud sirens that cautioned
them to seek shelter.
Even though no rocket actually hit the city, there
is no doubt that the siren and the two subsequent booms served as a wake-up call for even the most
The attacks on the center of the country
did not surprise
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was well aware of Hamas’s
But he, too, was served notice of his
The Smith Research poll published in The Jerusalem Post
found that his Likud’s joint list with Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party would win 38 seats in the January 22 election,
16 more than any other party, if the vote were to be held now. The poll
predicted that Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Independence Party would pass the
2-percent electoral threshold and enter the Knesset, regardless of whether or
not former prime minister Ehud Olmert makes a political comeback.
goes well with Operation Pillar of Defense, those numbers could rise even
higher. In the most recent election in 2009, both Kadima and Yisrael Beytenu
were boosted by Operation Cast Lead, which provided what is known
internationally as a “rally around the flag effect.” That same effect helped
then-US president George W. Bush reach record popularity ratings at the start of
the now much-maligned war in Iraq. But just like that war went in the wrong
direction, so could the current operation in the Gaza Strip.
launched at Tel Aviv and – God forbid – scoring a direct hit and causing serious
casualties could cause Netanyahu and Barak significant political damage. An
unwanted regional escalation could have a similar effect.
Only the most
cynical people suggested that Netanyahu and Barak went to war for political
reasons. The timing was related to the escalation in rocket fire from Gaza, and
if any election affected the retaliation’s timing, it was the American
presidential race, before which Netanyahu dared not undertake a serious military
So the upcoming election did not cause the operation, but the
operation’s impact on the vote cannot be denied. A campaign that had focused on
Labor’s strong suit of socioeconomic issues will now be waged solely on
security, a week after Labor’s top security figure, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uri Sagi,
was banished from the party over decades-old allegations of sexual
If the operation goes well, Netanyahu and Barak will surely
benefit. But if something goes wrong, much of the public could decide to go in a
The risk taken by Netanyahu in embarking on the
operation in the Gaza Strip is magnified by the fact that the verdict on whether
the operation succeeded will be largely decided by the Hebrew press, which is
more anti-Netanyahu than ever.
The sirens that marred Tel Aviv’s night
life Thursday proved there is no bubble, and that no one in Israel is immune to
the potentially devastating effect of a properly aimed missile.
includes even the most popular prime minister, whose bubble could be pierced and
burst at any time.