This time the cabinet has decided to undertake an extended, continuous action against terror. This means no more sporadic incursions for reprisal, whose deterrent effect dissipates due to the lack of continuous pressure (if this method is more effective than its predecessors, why was it not implemented until now?). There was, however, no clear declaration as to the goal of this action. It is reasonable to assume that if the cabinet had defined a clear goal for the Israel Defense Forces to strike a mortal blow at the terror, for example, the operation would not be called Continuous Story.
Indeed from the story that has begun to unfold, it is clear that the army has not received a clear ultimate and unequivocal goal, which is essential for the orientation of the military forces - and no less so for intimidating the enemy. This being the case, the public is left perplexed and wondering. Once again the leaders are hinting that there is no intention of striking at the roots of terror in the broad, systemic and strategic sense.
In any event, this is not another reprisal, whose main goal, as the analysts say, is to prove that Israel is withdrawing "from a position of strength," as required in the wake of the attack in Ashdod, but rather an operation to root out the elements that initially affected the left and have now led the pillars of the Likud to despair of ever overcoming the terror.
A "continuous action," as with most of its predecessors, is also a confusing action. When the military is not given a clear ultimate goal, apart from tactical achievements whose effect is short-lived, if at all, then victory - the singular goal of the IDF, of any army, of any military operation - is all the more difficult, perhaps even impossible.
When, during an extended, undecided war, the determining political echelon broadcasts vagueness, confusion and radical reversals of opinion and mood to the army, the army, which is forced to draw most of its information regarding the prime minister's goals from impressions and commentary in the press, is not in balance.
This time, despite the warning signs of strategic attacks, this "continuing story" shows that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has no plan, apart from dubious flight, to prevent a catastrophe. These means he does not even have enough energy and resourcefulness for his own political survival.
Instead of telling stories about unilateral disengagement, additional fences and walls that put the Jewish people back in one big mental and physical ghetto - and bring the whole world against it - Sharon should have been making victory his supreme goal. Thus he would have been able, from a position of victory and decisiveness, to realize his political goals, providing, of course, that he himself knows what they are.
The results of this operation will at most be a strike at a series of tactical targets. And these will not be enough to decide the battle. The worried parents of soldiers will continue to ask how much longer the sword will consume. Why, if this operation is a prelude to flight, are their sons being exposed to roadside bombs, ambushes and sharpshooters?
Indeed, this hesitant, partial, undefined and indecisive "story" that is "unfolding" raises more questions than it provides answers. The methods of operation and their scope indicate that Israel does not believe in its ability - as it did when it was weaker militarily, economically and politically, but stronger in spirit and believed in the justness of its path - to end this round in the Arab-Jewish war with a Jewish victory.
Some of the public are therefore tempted into believing the political ruses that only concessions and more concessions will send the Arab sword back into its scabbard. Such ruses are worse than the seers of Netivot and Ofakim, and the miracle workers of Be'er Sheva, because they deal not in fraud of a personal nature - the promise of a match, a livelihood, children or cures for serious illnesses - but rather with peace and an end to the terror attacks, much more fateful and dangerous promises.
Just like the kabbalists who promise private miracles if only we say the right incantations, such are the political soothsayers, who promise us calm and political miracles if only we repeat, over and over, the incantation of capitulation, preferably unilateral.
It is probable that the situation into which we have maneuvered ourselves since the Yom Kippur War - and particularly in the past 24 months - and the sword will probably continue to consume us for a long time.
We must face this situation courageously, and tell the civilians and the soldiers and the Jewish people in the Diaspora the truth. The truth, even when it is harsh, prevents delusions and mobilizes strength. Giving in to illusions, on the other hand, ends in disillusionment, despondency and despair.
There is no greater illusion than the notion that unilateral flight - while the enemy senses, from the mood of the Israeli government and a large share of the public, that he is the victor in this accursed war - will lead us to a conciliation between us and the Arabs in this generation. Sharon knows this.
All his recent moves, however - and herein lies the great danger in his confused actions - are in total contradiction to this basic instinct that has accompanied him since he insisted on this path.
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