So what did we actually fight about? If the purpose of the campaign/war was to end the smuggling of weapons and ammunition by Hamas, apparently the most we accomplished was a postponement. If the purpose was to achieve "deterrence power" - that much discussed and deceptive concept - against Hamas and the Arab world, it seems that this issue also falls into the gray areas of games of awareness in the Middle East, the battles for images and metaphors, which in any case are matters of subjective interpretation and which always end as they begin, with abstract meeting abstract.
And if the war was "a deterrent message to Iran," and in the same breath "a deterrent message to Hezbollah" - in what way is this deterrent better, for example, than Israel's "policy of ambiguity" on the subject of nuclear capability?
Israel chalked up one significant achievement in this conflict. Since 1967, in effect, with the exception of short flashes of elation, it has emerged beaten, frustrated and embarrassed from most of the military conflicts into which it was dragged. The War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the first and second Lebanon wars, as well as the prolonged years of the intifada - damaged Israel and harmed it not only diplomatically, militarily and regionally, but mainly as far as its fighting national ego is concerned.
Israel, and the Israelis in it, began to doubt whether it, and the Israel Defense Forces, had the power, especially after the Second Lebanon War, to strike at its enemies, as it would like to strike at them in a "perfect world," without the High Court of Justice, without B'Tselem, without the United Nations and with "international public opinion." It seemed that there was always something or someone standing in the way of the Israelis and preventing them from striking at their enemies "the way it should be done," "to the bitter end," the way "the IDF can" had it only be allowed to do so.
This time, it seems, Israel decided to ignore everything and everyone. The use of "disproportionate force" achieved the results and the desired pictures. The sights of the destruction from the heart of Gaza are shocking. The number of victims is horrifying - mainly the relative percentage of the "uninvolved." But Israel beat Hamas, Gaza and the Gazans in a manner that proved to it that it really is in charge and that it is able to go crazy if it so desires.
The pictures of the destruction, more than they were directed at the eyes of Israel's enemies, were directed at Israeli eyes. Eyes that are hungry for revenge, pride and national respect. All these are assets that we lost, in a creeping process, every time Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah or Hamas leader Khaled Meshal threatened a "revenge attack the likes of which Israel has never seen," and our hearts trembled in fear.
The freedom to go crazy, the freedom that was taken from Israel, like the freedom to feel again, even for a brief period, the existence of a real "boss" in the region, is a freedom that Israel has acquired for itself with a great deal of Palestinian blood in these three weeks, and it is also the main, if not the only asset it has as it emerges from this war.
Now, when a balance has been achieved between the size of its ego and its military power, maybe it will be able to calm down. Maybe it will be able to deal with the real core issues of the conflict rather than with its violent, neighborhood, childish images. In that sense, on Sunday, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert prophesied that "this war is likely to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians closer," there was no small degree of justice to his words. Paradoxically, a strong Israel, unified and burning with a sense of justice, an Israel that circled above the bodies of its defeated rivals with the hardheartedness of a victor, is an Israel that is far more ready for peace. Perhaps more than ever.
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