Israel's supermarket of threats fills up with goodies
A country that can't depend on its government's good judgment and the IDF being 'ready for any scenario' shouldn't burden itself with new threats.
Now that summer is here, the supermarket of threats has filled up with all sorts of goodies. During the winter we were warmed up by the Iranian nuclear threat, which now has to compete with Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical weapons and the possibility that a front will open on the Golan Heights. And let's not forget the 40,000 to 50,000 missiles of various ranges in Hezbollah's hands. The terror from Sinai pales in comparison to this abundance.
As expected, the Israel Defense Forces' working assumption is that all these bad things will come to pass. In contrast, the public's working assumption should be that the IDF won't be able to deal with all these threats, and that the expression "the IDF is ready for any scenario" has nothing to back it up.
Haaretz's Amos Harel reported on Tuesday that it will take at least two years - assuming funding is found - to make enough gas masks for all Israelis. It had seemed the lessons of the 1991 Gulf War, when Ze'ev Schiff reported that tens of thousands of gas masks distributed to the public were defective, had been learned. But as is the way with lessons, they're forgotten after the exam.
But never mind the masks. The IDF might be hoping that Hezbollah fires the first Katyusha so it can hit the Shi'ite group with a "once and for all" blow. But the IDF wanted to do that, and failed, during the Second Lebanon War. After that war, too, we were told that "lessons had been learned," until we read the state comptroller's report on the Carmel fire. The comptroller's report on defense against chemical weapons is probably already in a drawer somewhere.
It's against this chilling backdrop that the new threat must be scrutinized - that Hezbollah will obtain chemical or other weapons and take steps to use them against Israel. The assumption behind this scenario is that anything is possible in the Middle East, which is crammed with insane people.
Assad has been under duress for many months and lives in fear of being toppled; for many months senior IDF analysts have been explaining that the Syrian leader will want to open a front against Israel to divert attention from events at home. If that's the case, why hasn't Assad transferred his chemical weapons to Hezbollah? Why hasn't Hezbollah fired any missiles? Has this genius idea not crossed Assad's mind?
The answer is that not everything is possible in the Middle East, and even the Assad regime's war for survival has its own logic. Opening a front against Israel means giving the rebels a very expensive gift. Israel would be excoriated for its automatic response, but it would earn a wink of support from the international community and would destroy Assad's centers of power, which would benefit the rebels.
At least, we may assume that's what Assad is thinking. He would lose his army and power as a result. No, better keep trying to wipe out the rebel forces and not let the Libyan scenario kick in. But how can we depend on Assad's strategic thinking?
And what about Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's thinking? Will a group that is no longer sure about Assad's future - and therefore its weapons and ammunition supply - risk attacking Israel knowing that Israel will destroy much of its missile stockpile?
Maybe it had better keep the threat alive but not make good on it? Will Iran, which is no longer sure Assad will remain in power, want its outpost in Lebanon destroyed or will it tell Nasrallah to maintain his deterrence and, as a future strategic asset, his ability to threaten the Lebanese government? But since when do we attribute logic to Nasrallah or rationality to Iran?
A country that can't depend on its government's good judgment and the IDF being "ready for any scenario" shouldn't burden itself with new threats. When we don't even have gas masks for everyone, when the border fence with Egypt can't stop bullets and when music festivals are going on in the north, we should examine the logic of those threats and calm down a bit.
We'll always have the Iranian threat. At least it assures us that fewer than 500 people will be killed if we attack Iran. That's a sure bet.