Sinai, Egypt protests
An Egyptian soldier stands guard on a watch tower on the border between Israel and Egypt, some 30 km (19 miles) north of Eilat. Photo by Reuters
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The murderous attack on Thursday achieved its main goal. Not only did it kill and injure civilians and soldiers, it once again sowed a spirit of all-around hysteria here. Because it was not initially clear on whom Israel should pin responsibility, ministers and spokesmen fired in every direction: Hamas is to blame because it is responsible for everything that happens in Gaza; Islamic Jihad did it because it usually spills blood; it's the Palestinian Authority's fault because it agreed at the time to unite with Hamas and establish a joint government; Al-Qaida is the guilty party because it takes root and spreads wherever there is a vacuum; and Egypt, too, bears responsibility, because since Hosni Mubarak's fall, we have seen its incapacity and unwillingness to act against terror.

Even while the attack was underway and details still fuzzy, all the heads of the security establishment took fright and came together in one place. Who was not there in the "pit," which was wrenched out of the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv and journeyed southward, and with it the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff; the police commissioner; the GOC southern command and a large entourage of kibitzers in and out of uniform? No one missed out. One squad of terrorists was enough to get the senior security officials jumping into the field as if war had broken out. Can't the GOC and his officers handle a local incident by themselves, without so many babysitters? If they had at least met before hell broke loose and had sought advice beforehand, how would the attack - against which the Shin Bet security service had clearly warned - have looked?

The good guys on the home front also met up in the TV studios, like in the good old bad old days. And it was actually the various formers and ex's of the moderate opposition who were wildest in their responses.

Say, guys, will we ever have the privilege of seeing an operation without failures, which does not require investigation and expressions of regret in its aftermath? Are you sure the IDF has been rehabilitated? Maybe you should check on that.

Only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was missing for a moment. He stayed in his office, and watched longingly as others took command. But he quickly compensated himself, calling a press conference so he could make his own statement - the same familiar statement that is made under such circumstances. And what is left to say after the fact anyhow?

The Middle East is not exactly a china shop. It never was, and it is less so now than ever. But this government is a government of bulls. Everything is so sensitive and fragile all around and the government keeps on raging and rampaging; if only it had a little restraint and levelheadedness.

Soon, Netanyahu and Lieberman's vision will be fulfilled, and Israel will meet its challenges alone. Happy are we, and lonely are we. Turkey, which until recently was an ally, is moving ever farther away since we took them off a pedestal and placed them instead on a low stool. The government is willing to ignore the country's essential interests and is unwilling to forgo national honor: "Honor" is the dangerous name of the game in this region, and Israel fits right in.

And now Egypt - which also has honor, of course - is demanding an apology and an investigation, and may recall its ambassador. How was it that at least three of its policemen were killed, and what is the meaning of the official and semi-official statements from Israel besmirching Egypt? That country's Supreme Military Council did not like hearing statements about the chaos in Egypt and its leadership - about how Cairo is having difficulty maintaining control and how it is closing its eyes, especially to what it going on in Sinai and that it cannot protect our shared border. As if we can protect it. Perhaps Egypt has doubts of its own, about the ability of Israel's supreme military council - its ministers and generals, generals and ministers - who don't always take control efficiently and in time over events, and not even over everyone who spoke out this past weekend, including deputy minister Ayoob Kara.

So now we're left, finally, without Turkey, without Egypt and without the Palestinian Authority, which will soon be a thing of the past after the Israeli government and the U.S. Congress euthanize it following its request for independence from the United Nations. And the burden of the occupation will go back to what it has always been.

There is no longer a need to explain how important it is now to increase the defense budget and meanwhile to postpone any demands for a change in priorities and to stop the debate over the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, which only distracts us. Now we must focus all efforts on preparing for Operation Cast Lead 2 or Operation Defensive Shield 2 or the Third Lebanon War, whichever comes first. September is at the gate, in any case, and now is not the hour for matters of the hour.