It is hot in Israel this summer, and passions are running as high as the mercury in our thermometers. The kidnapping and brutal murder of four boys, three Jewish, one Arab, a series of shameful blunders by the police that point to deeply rooted corruption and professional ineptitude, ugly rioting in the streets, and now barrage of rockets on Israeli cities – all of this is our local news.
I missed the siren sounding a rocket fire warning in Jerusalem on Monday, June 7, but heard another one in Rishon Lezion the next day. Let me tell you, this added color and excitement to an otherwise routine shopping trip to IKEA. Another highlight came later on the same day.
According to a map released by the IDF Home Front Command, we Jerusalemites have a whole minute-and-a-half to get under cover between when the siren sounds and the rockets fall. This is three times more than people in Ashkelon and the area surrounding the Gaza border get. We capital dwellers are so lucky.
Excuse me, I must now take a minuteand- a-half break.
And I’m back. If sitting on the stairs of one’s apartment building in pajamas and meeting the neighbors who are in the same disheveled state counts for right of passage, I have passed.
My social media feed these days is full of calls for strong military response to rocket attacks from Gaza. Many friends have shared a picture of a brave IDF pilot saluting, ready to take-off. Indeed, we must strike back. Let us hold off on our heroic Israeli ethos narrative though, and ask ourselves whether fiery rhetoric or expending hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of ammunition to blow up empty storage sheds is really going to solve the problem.
Israel has been living with the reality of rocket-fire and has, incredibly, tolerated infrastructure that supports attacks on our cities, for over a decade. Every now and then we hear about a tunnel destroyed, a weapons cache blown up, or a senior Hamas operative killed. Without fail, we become complacent right after (yet another) military operation draws to a close.
These days we are rallying behind our prime minister’s wartime rhetoric as if we were facing an enemy that could actually stand up to the concerted effort of a modern democracy with first-world diplomatic and military means at its disposal. Really, at times it sounds as if we were living through the London Blitz.
It would be understandable if Israel was fighting the Syrian air force with its Russian- trained pilots and real fighter jets. We are not, however. Instead, we send our very best people to fight a bunch of fanatics who assemble smuggled rockets at home and hide in tunnels under their wives’ washing machines. Is this really the best we can do? If it is, I am deeply disappointed in Israel’s long-term planning capability.
How about a concerted, strategic effort to dismantle the system of tunnels between Egypt and Gaza in order to root out the very conditions that enable its commercial and military use? Why not delegitimize Hamas by pushing for new elections, with participation of a vast contingent of international election monitors? There have been no elections held in Gaza since 2005. Are we working to close down UNRWA that endlessly perpetuates refugee status of Palestinians? Finally, how about cutting out empty promises to Israelis in the south? They are told they will not be held hostage by Hamas, yet their safety is surrendered again every time temporary calm is reached.
Before we go into our preferred (it seems) advocacy mode and tell the world that we are wronged, misunderstood and unjustly attacked, we have to firmly tell ourselves: enough. Enough of playing the victim, enough of drumming up military rhetoric on occasion when the situation becomes truly unbearable, and enough of reacting instead of working proactively.
I do not believe for a second that Israel, a country with outstanding strategic and logistical accomplishments, cannot stop rocket fire from Gaza. What I see clearly, though, is incredible negligence and lack of systematic, long-term planning effort on behalf of Israel’s top political brass and personally the prime minister.
Let us come to grips with facts: we have some of the best tools in the world at our disposal, both military and diplomatic. At the same time, we are facing a deep crisis of political leadership, and a deep disbelief in our power to shape reality. This is defeatism at its worst. It hurts us where it really matters and turns us into an indefensible victim yet again, a complex one hopes Israel would have by now shed.
The author served on Binyamin Netanyahu’s staff during the disengagement from Gaza. She holds a philosophy degree from Moscow State University and a MA in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.