The worse Israel’s security situation becomes, the more its citizens grasp at any straws they can that offer droplets of delusion provided by pacifist-leaning pundits.
This makes some sort of psychological sense. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that, although much improvement had been made in the preparedness of the homefront, the far greater and more immediate concern to all of us was the Iranian nuclear threat, the public started becoming nervous. In the last two days alone, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people approaching the designated stations to pick up their gas mask kits. And talk of locating or cleaning out bomb shelters — as well as loading up on canned goods and other supplies — is in the air.
Furthermore, it does not seem at all clear which type of missiles we are on the verge of having to escape, or from which direction. Though the origin of all can be traced to Iran, Israelis make a distinction between Hamas or Hezbollah rocket attacks and a full-fledged war with the Islamic republic. To add a new — albeit expected — twist to the mix, Egypt is now officially Israel’s enemy again, and Syria is amassing chemical weapons.
Such a situation is not conducive to calm — other than the misleading kind found in the eye of a hurricane. Netanyahu’s response is to warn the country’s foes, and assure the populace, that he is willing and able to be proactive on Iran, while hinting to the mainly pro-Israel U.S. Congress that he may need to take military action before the presidential election in November.
Rather than rally around the prime minister, Israelis are afraid that he is being both too easy on the trigger and irresponsibly loose-lipped about it.
This does not mean that they prefer passivity, however. On the contrary, being sitting ducks for events beyond their control is antithetical to the Israeli mindset.
The trouble is that when such an unpleasant sensation is aroused, the tendency is to turn to liberalism for solace. It is comforting, after all, to imagine that there is something Israel can do diplomatically to reverse regional processes that pose military threats. The alternative is to accept that a lot of people are likely to die in the near future if Netanyahu means what he says. That the idea behind this is to prevent a much higher death toll in the longer run doesn’t seem to register.
What does gain traction is the notion that Israel can and should take action, by doing anything it can to create a Palestinian state. As senior fellow at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs Alon Ben-Meir writes in Monday’s Huffington Post, “Those inside the Netanyahu government who suggest that now is not the right time to seek a peace agreement with the Palestinians because of the regional turmoil and the existential threats that Israel now faces are both misguided and disingenuous. On the contrary, given the threats from Iran and its surrogate Hezbollah and the potential consequences of a failed state in Syria, it is a particularly critical moment for Israel to forge peace with the Palestinians.”
Indeed, he argues, “It is up to Israel not to allow past experiences to blur its vision for the future and it must now chart its own future course by ending the occupation under specific ‘rules of disengagement’ with the Palestinian Authority.”
It’s up to Israel to forge peace? And it shouldn’t let “past experiences” get in the way of this?
What about ongoing experiences? Should they, too, not “blur Israel’s vision” while determining its policies?
On Aug. 2, an editorial in the Palestinian Authority’s official mouthpiece, the newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, had this to say about “forging peace”: "Will this state [Israel] continue to exist or not? This is precisely where the inevitable death of 'Israel' lies; the insecurity of its inhabitants concerning the possibility that it will continue to exist ... I do not say [it will be] tomorrow or the next day, but in keeping with how much we ourselves — the real Palestinians — help it to shrink, to wither and to fade from the land of Palestine, like the remnants of all previous occupiers."
This is one of many examples of the PA’s anticipation of the demise of Israel, as quoted by Palestinian Media Watch. What it proves is something that has been obvious to those of us who are more afraid of further suicidal territorial withdrawals than of attempting to cripple Iran’s atomic-bomb capability.
War may be hell, but annihilation is worse. Israelis now need to hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and stop fantasizing about peace that does not exist. It is time to acknowledge that the PA is part of the global problem, not a solution to it.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring,'” now available on Amazon and in bookstores in Europe and North America.