Rare are the violent clashes from which all sides emerge positively cheery. But
the latest exchange of fire with Gaza was just such an atypical conflict. When
the smoke cleared, both combatants came away upbeat and sure their respective
enemy was taught a painful lesson.
We are near-giddy with gladness over
the technological wonders of our Iron Dome anti-missile missiles, while the
Gazans are hoarse with victory whoops because they managed to fire off as many
rockets as they did. We effusively congratulate ourselves because no major
catastrophes were wrought on our side of the border. Nevertheless, the Gazans
know that had we truly won, they wouldn’t be left standing and able to spark
another conflagration at another time.
What does all the sound and fury
signify in real terms? Most likely that no lessons at all were taught, that no
one was punished and that in all probability we once more critically misread the
signs. It’s as if somewhere along the line we’ve managed to lose sight of what
constitutes triumph in our peculiar immediate environment. According to
Mideastern conventions, the absence of incontrovertibly humiliating vanquishment
denotes a degree of victory.
This local logic mustn’t be dismissed out of
In the Gazan view our aim should have been to entirely disable them
from striking again. Since we didn’t accomplish this, they won and we lost. To
underscore their contentions they made sure to fire the last salvo – after the
ceasefire for which they ironically begged. Thus they had the apparent last
word, imparting the impression that they were capable of pummeling us more, if
only they wanted to.
It almost doesn’t matter that we reject this
interpretation of reality. If they consider themselves undefeated, then for all
intents and purposes they indeed weren’t defeated.
Likewise, it’s hardly
relevant that we never launched a wide-ranging campaign to crush all Gazan
capacity for belligerence. In Gazan eyes if we could crush them, we would have.
The very fact that we didn’t set out to do so attests to weakness on our part
and to a deterrent strength on theirs.
However, Gazans too misread the
situation. It’s not that we’re too weak to take them on, but that we’re scared
of winning. This is something that they plainly can’t get their heads around.
Nobody in the Mideast can comprehend cerebral convolutions like
Lamentably, Israel has turned itself into the unhappy real-life
equivalent of the unnerved athletes in yesteryear’s uniquely effective episode
of TV’s animated Batman series. Aptly entitled “Fear of Victory,” this classic
features the recurrent villain Scarecrow, who slips star sportsmen an
adrenalin-activated fear-toxin. As they gear themselves up for competition, they
get scared of winning. Scarecrow then bets against them, sure that, despite
these champions’ legendary abilities and proven experience, they cannot
Fear has come to dominate Israel’s zeitgeist ever since Oslo –
perhaps itself born of the fear to defend our interests, if need be, in defiance
of a world that keeps turning against us. Our two relatively recent
largest-scale confrontations –The Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead-
illustrate the fiascos which fear-engendered inhibition produces.
campaigns, Israel patently hadn’t achieved much of anything. Israel (under Ehud
Olmert’s lead) demonstrated impressive firepower but failure of will to follow
through successfully enough to inflict instantly recognizable defeat on the
enemy and amend the bad situation which forced us into the battlefield to begin
Things look abysmal even without factoring in the merciless
diplomatic trashing and disastrous image-tarnishing to which Israel was
When the deafening din died down, the enemy survived upright
and ready to fight another day.
We didn’t eradicate or even significantly
reduce its rocket arsenals.
THE SAME was the outcome of this month’s
hostilities in the South. Though battered and bruised, Gazans were the ones who
strove to dictate terms and impose their will on Israel and not vice
For a whole host of sad reasons, we’re intimidated about going the
whole hog and actually trying to rout our adversaries. They’re not blind to the
paradox that the more hi-tech, scientifically advanced and
militarily-sophisticated Israel becomes, the weaker its resolve. In the
psychological combat zone, the Arabs make mincemeat of us –time and
And so, while Iron Dome may have saved lives in the short haul, in
essence it epitomizes our trepidations of a showdown. Reliance upon defensive
measures –no matter how cutting-edge- encapsulates hesitation to fight. This
hesitation deepens precisely because Iron Dome is undeniably the stunning
technological feat it’s reputed to be.
It makes the dithering tolerable
The inevitable can be postponed if in the meanwhile
Iron Dome neutralizes most rockets fired at Israeli civilians and luck spares us
in the remaining instances.
If Israelis as far north as Gedera stay under
cover, our forces can avoid actual contact with the enemy. Taking Gaza on by
remote control isn’t only more sanitized; it’s less risky. The downside is that
jihadists of whichever affiliation across the Green Line are emboldened, while
we grow increasingly leery of the real battlefield.
Content as we are
with the Iron Dome, the most a defensive posture can achieve is a return to the
status quo ante. It means that for a given duration the bigger and more distant
urban targets inside Israel will enjoy conditional respites from Gaza’s
launching pads, whereas the areas adjacent to the border will continue to be
subjected to daily doses of mortar attacks and occasional Kassam rockets
–unremitting terror which we euphemistically dub a “trickle.”
“normal” state of affairs to which we incredibly acquiesce and to which the
international community remains chillingly indifferent.
It’s nothing new.
It was so when the Iron Dome was still in the realm of science fiction. Then too
we sought a variety of defensive cure-alls. Among them were concrete cubes.
These were all the rage right after we disengaged from Gaza.
folly breeds peril and Ashkelon, which pre-disengagement was out of Kassam
range, had been rendered vulnerable thanks to the ruthless uprooting of
settlements at the edge of the northern Gaza Strip (nobody then dared predict
the rocketing of Beersheba, Ashdod, Yavne or Kiryat Gat).
Gaza-perimeter settlements were set up to deliberately form physical barriers
between the Strip and Ashkelon’s outskirts which contain some of Israel’s most
sensitive targets (among them the Rutenberg Power Station, the Eilat-Ashkelon
pipeline, huge fuel storage facilities, a major desalination plant and plenty
But the infallible autocrats who sold us the disengagement bill of
goods threw that logic to the wind, as they did the logic of holding onto the
Philadelphi Corridor to prevent the arming of Gaza to its carnivorous teeth. The
antidote came in the shape of prefab fortifications of assorted
Concrete desks, for example, were the product of deadpan earnest
IDF innovative brainstorming.
These were proposed as a safety feature for
un-reinforced classrooms. Pupils were directed to cower underneath the novel
constructions whenever Gazans unleashed tokens of their appreciation for
Israel’s unilateral withdrawal.
This wasn’t all. In anticipation of the
very tangible benefits of disengagement, our civil-defense experts promoted a
project to install large concrete cubes all around Sderot streets to offer the
citizenry shelter in case Gazans failed to interpret our conciliatory overtures
as we intended. The local citizenry was instructed to run to these unsightly
structures and hide within them whenever they heard rockets coming.
hindsight, and in comparison to the Iron Dome’s astounding exploits, these
low-tech post-disengagements solutions seem primitive. But on closer examination
we must concede that their basic concept is identical to the Iron Dome –
i.e. passive protection.
And passive protection begets paralysis.
It’s not enough to express gratification that no rocket crashed into a
schoolyard full of kids. Despite the Iron Dome, schools were hit and only the
fact that their pupils were shielded at home prevented carnage.
the sporadic scenario. With each flare-up, life stops throughout Israel’s South.
Hardly anyone goes to work or school or any place else. A full third of the
country lingers in suspended animation for as long as Gaza decrees. This in
itself buoys Gazan morale.
Even the fact that they force us to reduce
available Iron Dome stockpiles should delight them.
They might not cause
casualties but they wreak economic havoc.
Yes, the syrupy slogan is that
no price is too high to save lives, which -considered strictly on the moral
plane- is indisputable. However, we need to keep in mind that it costs peanuts
to manufacture a Kassam and that Gaza’s arsenals boast untold thousands of these
crude versions of Nazi V-1 and V-2 rockets (all murderously indiscriminate). The
upgraded Katyushas called Grads are supplied gratis, compliments of
In contrast, each Iron Dome interception costs $100,000. Since Iron
Dome batteries cover a comparatively small area each, many more than now
deployed are needed. The missiles themselves take a long time to be produced and
there can never be enough of them to take down every contraption hoarded in
Adding to the complexity is the fact that many communities under
Kassam threat are too close to the border for sufficient warning time. The Iron
Dome system requires 15 seconds to identify an incoming Kassam. Yet these
projectiles can (and have in the past) slammed down after being airborne for
shorter intervals. The Iron Dome, furthermore, doesn’t offer protection against
With their own earthy good-sense commoners throughout Israel’s
South recognize that the best defense is offense and that good offense isn’t
shelling vacant lots, eliminating the odd miscreant, and generally trying not to
get IDF hands too dirty, so as not to offend sanctimonious European
They know that the only way to defend is to win and that
you win by breaking the enemy’s spirit and will to fight.
We’ve got to
conquer our fear of winning because neither Iron Dome nor Batman will rescue us
from the Scarecrow of our own making.www.sarahhonig.com
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