It’s late August, and Israel is in the throes of its “cucumber season,” that annual period when – for a variety of reasons – not a lot is happening in the news.
And this year, cucumber season is likely to be quickly followed by the “silly season” – the period close to when new elections will be called – when the airways will be flooded by those trying to replace the government saying how absolutely dire everything is.
They will say Israel is falling apart, marching toward theocracy, turning fascist, tanking economically and isolated diplomatically – and that the average citizen just wants to leave. Government officials will then counter that things have never been so good.
It’s a time of hyperbole, when the country we hear about on the airwaves bears little resemblance to the one most of us live in. And in the midst of all the noise, it is important to distinguish between reality and wild exaggeration.
Nasrallah: We're stronger than ever, August 15, 2018 (Reuters)
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Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah is unable to do that. In Nasrallah’s view, Israel is on the verge of collapse, a country in which its citizens are soft, fat and sassy. He said so much in a speech on Sunday, claiming that Israelis are no longer willing to fight for the state.
“The Israeli leadership knows that it is difficult to convince people to enlist in the elite units, the combat units, and everyone prefers to serve in rear units. They lack the willingness to sacrifice that they once had; they have no motivation to endanger their lives,” he was quoted as saying.
Somebody should be giving Nasrallah better intelligence.
According to IDF statistics published last year, 67% of those who enlisted in the summer of 2017 wanted to serve in combat units, as opposed to 68.8% in 2016. One of the reasons given for the slight decline was a desire of increasing numbers to go into the army’s high-tech units – units of increasing import in modern warfare – where they will acquire skills that can be translated into lucrative careers later on.
And even with that decline, the Army reported last year that – except somewhat in tank and anti-aircraft units – there are more applicants than places to fill. Moreover, in the elite commando units – the units that would be doing much of the fighting in Lebanon in case of another war – there are more applicants than available spots, and the competition to get into those units is intense.
Not exactly, as Nasrallah said, everyone preferring "to serve in the rear units.”
NASRALLAH’S SPEECH on Sunday was reminiscent of the infamous “spider web” speech he gave in May 2000 in Bint Jbeil, just days after then prime minister Ehud Barak withdrew Israeli forces from Lebanon.
“Our brothers and beloved Palestinians, I tell you: Israel, which owns nuclear weapons and the strongest war aircraft in the region, is feebler than a spider’s web – I swear to God” he said. “The resistance has defeated the grand Israel. The resistance is conquering the great Israel.”
Flush with a sense of victory following the Lebanon withdrawal, Nasrallah’s theory was simple: Israel is as fragile as a spider web, and all that he, the Palestinians or the Arab world had to do was to blow on it and – whoosh – it would disappear.
Four months later, Yasser Arafat took his advice; following the breakdown of the Camp David talks – when he did not get all he wanted – he launched a protracted terrorist war against Israel: the Second Intifada.
Arafat blew – and blew, and blew – but the spider web did not disappear. This resilient country did not buckle; its people lost neither their will to fight back nor their will to sacrifice – and they did not lose faith in the overall justice of their cause.
In 2006, Nasrallah tried to blow on the spider web himself, and Hezbollah kidnapped reservists Eldad Goldwasser and Ehud Regev, an action that triggered the Second Lebanon War. Although Israel did not perform in that war as well as many had expected, and although there were many flaws, Hezbollah was pounded – and the Lebanese border has been quiet ever since.
Nasrallah, who lives in a Beirut bunker because of his fear of Israel, should keep this in mind when he predicts a loss of Israel’s backbone or fighting spirit. The country is a lot stronger, and the people are much more dedicated to it, than one could glean from reading the papers – especially during an electoral “silly season.”
Nasrallah would also be well advised to go back and listen to Winston Churchill’s famous 1941 speech, where he spoke of French Marshal Philippe Petain’s prediction that Hitler would successfully invade Britain as he had done to France.
“When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their prime minister and his divided cabinet: ‘In three weeks, England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken! Some neck!”
If Churchill would be responding to Nasrallah today, he might say: “Some spider! Some web!”
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