IDF officer at Nakba Day rally 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ignoring all the warnings that were readily available, Israel is finding itself facing new, dire challenges – challenges for which it has failed to prepare and for which it has yet to think of a response.
For years, the traditional Israeli reaction to provocation has been a show of force – firing tear gas, water cannons and, if needed, sending in the police cavalry.
Last May, the flotilla incident blatantly showed how Israel consistently mishandles the media and the presentation of its case to the world. What’s worse, Israel’s almighty intelligence community has proven, time and again, that it simply does not grasp the changes taking place all around us. Nor does it anticipate events that occur right outside our borders.
Some two weeks before Hosni Mubarak resigned as Egyptian president, the
chief of military intelligence was asked at the Knesset whether the
events in Tunisia would have any effect on its neighbors, particularly
Egypt. His answer: Egypt is different.
After the flotilla incident, Israel pointed the finger at the Turkish
IHH, the organizer of the flotilla, calling it a “terrorist” group. Did
Israel not know this beforehand? Why did we not take proper action then?
After the May 15 “Nakba” events, during which over a hundred
demonstrators succeeded in crossing the border in the northern part of
the Golan while most of our troops were concentrated in its center, it
surfaced that IDF Intelligence thought the main effort would be across
from Kuneitra and not in Majdal Shams.
Israel’s attention has been on the turmoil in the Middle East, on the
disappearance of old allies and on the rising specter of Islamism all
around us. Most Israelis were quite happy to see domestic rifts inside
the Arab world, thinking that the instability would be of such magnitude
that Israel would be forgotten for a while.
Israel is also focused on what it believes to be its main existential
enemy – Iran – and on ways to reduce the threat emanating from the
Islamic Republic. It seems we have even considered the idea of attacking
its nuclear compounds.
While preoccupied with “strategic” threats, Israel failed to see the
changes occurring on its very borders: Palestinians and their supporters
finally internalized the fact that there is no need to provoke Israel
in a military confrontation, but rather trigger a military reaction in
order to ridicule it in the eyes of the world, to expose the so-called
futility of its behavior, its arrogance and its disrespect for human
rights and liberties.
The idea was to perpetuate the image of the underdog, David (the
Palestinians) fighting Goliath (Israel); to send hundreds of unarmed
demonstrators to cross the borders. In such a confrontation, there is no
just way Israel can win.
But it must understand that there are instigators behind this new approach.
In a recent interview in The New York Times
, Rami Makhlouf, Syrian
President Bashar Assad’s first cousin, insinuated that if there were no
stability in Syria, there would be no stability in Israel.
There are indications today that the Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria
were manipulated on May 15 by Hezbollah and the Assad regime for their
own purposes. Israel’s poor reaction consolidated the idea that this was the right way to oppose it, all at a very low cost.
That day, one of the demonstrators shouted to an Arab TV network: “Who
needs the Arab armies? With our bare hands we reached Majdal Shams.
Tomorrow, with Allah’s will, we will liberate Palestine and Jerusalem!”
The late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin used to say that Israel does not
need a public relations department: “The world will judge us by what we
do and how we behave.” Indeed, it is high time we started acting wisely.
But, instead of trying to find a logical explanation, Israel’s top
politicians took to the airwaves one after the other, trying to imbue us
with a belief that Israel was the target of a new, covert form of
international terrorism that could only be fought through preventing the
infringement on our territorial sovereignty.
And instead of making progress on peace negotiations with Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, it seems that politicians are
choosing, yet again, not to make any decisions, opting for the famous
Shamir policy: Do nothing and wait.
Hopefully our leaders will think of new ways to confront the unarmed
marchers before it’s too late. May 15 was a first. Now comes June 5, 6
and 7, the commemoration of the Arab defeat in the 1967 Six Day War. And
it doesn’t end there: The Arab calendar is full of such
A creative answer on our part could deter organizers of such protests from pursuing this new policy.The writer is a Mideast political analyst and a former diplomatic adviser to the late Yitzhak Rabin.