If COVID-19 was a missile, Israel's reaction would be different

But instead of the government rolling out an economic plan – there were four months to get one ready – it focuses on a vote to establish a parliamentary commission.

SHOPPERS AT the Mamilla mall in Jerusalem this week. What would the country look like if missiles were falling?  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
SHOPPERS AT the Mamilla mall in Jerusalem this week. What would the country look like if missiles were falling?
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Imagine for a moment that Israel was at war with Hezbollah. According to current IDF intelligence assessments, the Lebanese-based Iranian terrorist proxy is capable of firing anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 rockets in a single day for a period of weeks.
Now imagine that during this war, one person is injured for every rocket that lands. About 10-20 sustain serious injuries and a few people die a day. How would you feel if while this is happening, the prime minister sends his party members to the Knesset to argue and fight not about how to stop the war and save lives, but to secure for him a NIS 1 million tax break?
Imagine that following a weekend when 1,000 people are injured in rocket attacks, the prime minister of Israel tweets out three different attacks against the attorney-general, the courts and the decision not to let him receive an NIS 10 million handout from a friend – who also happens to be a witness in one of the cases against him. Nothing about the missiles or the people injured. Just about himself.
Now imagine that there is a lull in the fighting. It seems like Israel and Hezbollah have reached a ceasefire, and for a few weeks the situation improves, but then the fighting starts up again. This time, however, the country is not prepared, and the casualty toll rises; businesses that had just reopened after shutting their doors for two months have to close again; and almost one million people are out of jobs, with tens of thousands slipping below the poverty line.
But instead of the government rolling out an economic plan – there were four months to get one ready – it focuses on a vote to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry to investigate alleged conflicts of interest among Supreme Court justices.
In addition, while the rocket attacks resume, the new unity government – originally established when the war broke out – seems almost daily to be coming apart at the seams as the two sides, which fought for almost two years to unseat the other, constantly threaten new elections.
THANKFULLY, ROCKETS are not landing right now in Israel, and we are not at war with Hezbollah. We are, however, in a war against the coronavirus, a battle that seems at times to be waged only by the citizens of this country, who are paying the price with their lost jobs, lost income and shutdown orders.
Inside the government, the apathy is outrageous. Instead of focusing exclusively on this war, the government seems busier with annexation plans that Israel doesn’t really need right now, a parliamentary commission to investigate judges, and the prime minister’s constant attacks on the justice system. Minister Tzachi Hanegbi’s “bulls**t” comment last Friday about people not having anything to eat is a perfect illustration of this apathy.
On Monday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Finance Minister Israel Katz would roll out a new economic relief plan within 48 hours. By Thursday afternoon when this was being written, there was still no plan. Later in the day, the prime minister announced that it would be unveiled at 8 p.m., 72 hours after his Monday announcement. It will only be brought to the cabinet, though, for approval on Sunday.
But who cares if tens of thousands of people don’t know how they will pay for their next supermarket shopping or Shabbat meals. Far more important are retroactive tax breaks for a multimillionaire.
Blue and White did succeed in defeating the vote for the establishment of the parliamentary commission of inquiry, which is an accomplishment, but it is still a party that is being led by the Likud.
Most of the time it is reactive and its ability to set the national agenda is almost nonexistent. Netanyahu decides something and Benny Gantz reacts. We should be thankful for Blue and White being able to stop some of what the Likud tries to advance, but for Gantz to stand any chance of surviving this government, he will need to start initiating more, and that has yet to happen.
If this wasn’t clear from the last two months, it was clear on Thursday morning when Blue and White ministers openly admitted that they had yet to see the economic relief plan that was rolled out that evening. Some of these ministers are heads of offices that are directly connected to the economy. They had not seen the plan, and were not even sure when they would. Is this how a unity government is meant to function?
This government needs to get its act together. Today, we are fighting against a silent virus. If this is how Israel is functioning now, imagine what will happen if that war with Hezbollah actually breaks out one day.
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While all of this is happening, it seems that when it comes to fighting Iran, Israel – or someone else – knows how to function even in the midst of this global pandemic.
The string of recent explosions across that country, primarily the one that took place at the Natanz nuclear facility, show that someone, somewhere, is working very hard to hurt Iran and is taking great risks to do so.
The two most immediate suspects are Israel and the United States. Both have the greatest interest in stopping Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, while also having the greatest intelligence penetration when it comes to Iran. They have built this up over decades, and reportedly cooperate regularly.
One example was a decade ago, when Israel and the US reportedly launched an operation called “Olympic Games,” which led to the infiltration into Natanz of the Stuxnet virus and ultimately the malfunction of more than 1,000 centrifuges, delaying the Iranian program by at least a year, if not more.
The second example of this was in January 2018, when Mossad agents broke into a warehouse in a commercial district of Tehran, disabled the alarms, cut open more than a dozen safes, and ferried Iran’s nuclear archive out of the country.
If the US and Israel can reportedly do all of that, it is very possible that they can plant a bomb in Natanz to blow up advanced centrifuges being assembled, or launch a cyberattack against an Iranian power plant or missile production facility. Assessments in the West are that the damage to the Natanz facility will also set back the Iranian program by a few months, at the least.
While Israel is the obvious suspect for these sabotage efforts, the country has refrained from taking credit for obvious reasons. If it were to admit involvement, it would be giving the Iranians an excuse to retaliate – either via a proxy or directly – which is something Israel would prefer to avoid.
Besides the attack at Natanz, each of these mysterious explosions on their own don’t appear to amount to very much. A power plant, a medical facility, a gas leak and more could all very well be a result of aging Iranian infrastructure. Iran is known to have outdated dilapidated buildings – the Plasco high-rise landmark building in Tehran collapsed in 2017 and 20 firefighters were killed – and that could definitely be the case again now.
There is also another possibility. In April, Israel blocked an Iranian cyberattack against its water system. The objective was to increase chlorine levels in the water, which, according to Israel’s national cyber czar, would have been “disastrous.”
A few weeks later, Israel reportedly retaliated by attacking the computer systems at the Shahid Rajaee Port in the Strait of Hormuz, causing delivery truck traffic jams and shipment delays.
On its own, the attack on the port was not that impressive. It caused some trouble, but was apparently limited in scope and did not cause long-term economic damage. But what if it was just the first salvo in the Israeli response? What if the explosions that followed across the country – at a power plant, a missile base and more – were part of that response?
There is reason to think that might be the case. Iran’s attempt to target the water supply was an attack on civilian infrastructure and against Israeli civilians. It wasn’t against a military base or a Defense Ministry facility. It was against civilians.
Israel – if involved – would have an interest in carrying out a disproportionate response. It would be aimed at showing Tehran that it is not worth trying to attack this way ever again.
As is often the case in the decades-old shadow war between Israel and Iran, time will tell if this strategy has worked.


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