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Grumpy Old Man: Double-edged sword
By LAWRENCE RIFKIN
07/17/2014
The world is going to see Iron Dome as a reason Israel can take risks. We should see it that way, too.
 
For the past couple of weeks, the skies have been filled with everything from simple mortar shells and unguided rockets to some of the most sophisticated weaponry known to man. Luckily for us, there has been a clear delineation as to which have been incoming and which have been outgoing.

We’ve had a few Color Reds here in Jerusalem, though nothing approaching what cities and towns closer to the Gaza Strip have been enduring. Our daughter, a student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, has become well-acquainted with the sirens (and with the neighbors who join her in the stairwell-cum-shelter).

Strangely, when she headed to the northwestern corner of the Galilee at the beginning of this week for an archeological dig, the rockets started coming from Lebanon, too.

The past couple of weeks have also seen accusations and counter-accusations lobbed across the battlefields of the media.

On both sides there have been those that make sense, and those that are silly or even stupid or downright nasty. Unfortunately, a delineation as to the direction of those projectiles has not been as clear.

Somewhat uncharacteristically, I spent more than a few hours in the fray on Facebook. My first entry was a “status” post, the kind a lot of people use to express how they’re feeling at the moment (or to brag about the gourmet pizza they just finished or where they’re currently sunning themselves).

“I have mixed emotions about the whole Gaza thing, especially the build-up to [Operation] Protective Edge, or whatever we’re calling it this time,” I wrote. “Yet it’s no secret that Hamas wants Palestinian casualties. Go ahead, call me cynical, but its leadership knows that sooner or later one of those Israeli smart bombs will go very, very dumb. The more people up on the roofs, the better. So why bother with defensive systems or even bomb shelters? Yeah, call me cynical when it comes to the Gaza Strip.”

Not able to leave well enough alone, I allowed myself to be sucked into some of the discourse initiated by both leftists and rightists, some of it civil, some of it less so.

On calls for a more proportionate Israeli response and more symmetry in casualties, and on general talk molded by the never- ending search for moral equivalency: “I am sick and [expletive deleted] tired of this equivalency business... What we have here is an Islamic leadership that thinks nothing of death (as long as it’s not theirs or that of their families) and even glorifies it. When you have mothers who hope their kids grow up to be suicide bombers and a government that urges its citizens to stand on rooftops in the middle of air raids, you need to check your Western logic at the door to make sense of it (and even then it’s hard). So there will be deaths and injuries in Gaza. We can only try to minimize them (which I think we’re doing with admirable skill). [In the meantime, please accept] my personal apologies that we actually have bomb shelters here.”

How familiar it all seems. To lift a phrase from the past of one of the more visible casualties on the Israeli side, the rocker Neil Young, whose eagerly awaited July 17 Tel Aviv concert was canceled out of security concerns, we have all been here before.

And like usual, we’ll argue forever over exactly what brought on Operation Protective Edge to begin with. That’s good, because we can always learn from our achievements as well as our mistakes.

But just as important (and to lift another phrase, this time from what I wrote two weeks ago), what now? IN THE immediate aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a single Israeli willing to say something positive about what is regarded as perhaps the greatest trauma ever to have befallen the State of Israel. Close to 3,000 IDF soldiers dead, inventories of expensive, sophisticated weaponry lying in pieces, an entire worldview shattered, with the requisite fears and doubts threatening to drown an entire nation in a tsunami of insecurity and self-pity.

Yet not long afterward, as the historians will now tell you, it became clear that the war and its outcome were what made possible the peace – admittedly cold – with what hitherto had been our greatest and most dangerous enemy: Egypt.

No, it’s not time to make peace with Hamas. As of now, there’s no hope in turning to a group that makes no bones about its plans for us (although to be fair, I have always appreciated its honesty on the matter). But what might be a good thing at this point is an effort to further cultivate the one person who will come out of all this relatively clean and smelling like a rose: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Sure, he’s a “terrorist,” a “Holocaust denier” and all those other things cited by people who, were he Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr., would have to scramble to find other excuses for not wanting to hand him the West Bank.

The man called “Abu Mazen” is certainly not pure as the driven snow. But despite the lip service he’s paid these past couple of weeks in the name of obligatory Palestinian solidarity, he’s far cleaner and more fragrant than the folks running Gaza.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu only belatedly and grudgingly acknowledged the remarkable fact that Abbas blasted – in Arabic and before a televised plenum of Arab foreign ministers – the kidnapping of Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel. Yet you have to admit that the PA president offers far more potential than anyone else on the scene for efforts toward peace or, at the very least, a workable plan for managing things in the interim.

Yes, looks aren’t everything; in fact, they can be dangerously deceiving, so no one is saying to go into it blindly and with illusions.

But there’s something else. It’s called Iron Dome. Most of the time it seems to work, and work very well. This is wonderful news. But beware: The world is going to see it as one reason Israel should feel more comfortable in taking risks, especially of the type entailed in giving up territory.

We should, too.

ABBA EBAN used to talk about never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

He was referring to the Arabs and their penchant to say no. Were he alive today I have little doubt he might more than occasionally say this about us, whether it’s out of our hesitancy over existential fears or merely religion or ideology.

But one thing is crystal clear, especially judging from many of the comments in the media: It is time for Israel to take the high road – and not just with its amazing ability to conduct military strikes that are as close to surgical as you can get – and to make it clear it is doing so. This means serious concessions, mostly on the settlements.

To dip into another of my posts on Facebook: “Early this evening… my wife and I were sitting in the living room and talking about everyday stuff. Nothing special.

It was pretty quiet and even peaceful despite all that’s been going on. Then I told her something along the lines of, ‘I’m surprised Hamas hasn’t launched any of its bigger rockets in our direction today, it being Shabbat and all.’ I don’t think I even finished the sentence when the sirens went off, followed by at least two booms.

Maybe it’s time to play the lottery.”

Perhaps I should. And if it has anything to do with the potential actions of our current government, I think I’ll put my money on missing another opportunity.

Call me a cynic about that, too.
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