A senior officer was asked last week if he thought the IDF could prevent a provocation by supporters of the "transfer" idea in the army and among the settlers of the West Bank, and foil any attempt at a mass expulsion of Palestinians.
The officer offered the following as his answer. He gave as an example a mega-attack that the security forces would fail to prevent, like a car bomb in the heart of a busy Israeli city, or inside a building, with dozens or perhaps hundreds of casualties.
A day after that happened, he assumed it would be possible that extremist Israelis might seek "an appropriate response" - for example, the expulsion of all the residents of the village where the terrorist planners lived.
The officer admitted he had doubts whether the army could, or would even try, to prevent such an expulsion.
"The army failed when it did not prevent the settlers from sabotaging the Palestinian olive harvest in the West Bank, or prevent the settlers from stealing the olives. The state failed, because as far as we know, those settlers who did sabotage the olive harvest have not been dealt with, although their identities are known to the authorities."
The officer did not hide his sense that we are facing only escalation. Then along comes the Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, until recently the chief of staff, and reminds us "we are at the peak of a wave of terror."
Every day between 5 and 20 Palestinians are arrested in the territories. Every few days the IDF invades some place and demolishes something. Every other day, in addition to armed Palestinians, and Palestinians plotting terror attacks being killed, Palestinian civilians are accidentally killed, including children and the elderly.
One of them, a handicapped child, was killed in Khan Yunis on Sunday when IDF missiles missed two Hamas activists. This is all taking place while the routine quiet actions take place, unreported to Israelis who in any case are not interested in knowing about them.
There are checkpoints with soldiers who scold the elderly and the young or deliberately delay them for no reason; the travel restrictions; the iron gates that turn villages and towns into detention centers; the summons to the Shin Bet, which tries to recruit collaborators and get information about a neighbor or cousin; the curfews and the children locked up at home; the roads that the IDF bulldozers crush and crumble; the houses that are demolished because a terrorist lived in them; the tool and die shops that are destroyed; the water and electricity grids that are damaged during raids; the paving of another road for Jews only; the tear gas grenades at "rioters"; the destruction of more farmland under tank treads.
All of this goes on while much more glorified IDF operations take place - and we're at the height of a terror campaign?
The apparently massive support the right wing bloc will get in the elections on January 28 shows that a majority of Israelis is convinced that everything the IDF is doing - under instruction from the politicians - is proper and effective, but just not enough. Escalation is like a storm or a sharav in the middle of winter - a phenomenon of nature.
The damage can be reduced but not prevented. At most, Israelis conclude, the fact that all the DF operations of the last year haven't stopped the waves of Palestinian terror only proves how murderous and wily the Palestinians can be, how much terror is in their blood. Therefore, the solution that most Israelis support is to continue with the same methods, only more - more force, more frequently, more painfully.
Israel is a democracy. Nobody can hide important information from the Israeli public. Israeli civilians are not threatened with imprisonment or losing their jobs if they think differently. But the enormous support for the right wing, including Shinui, shows that most of the Jewish public is not interested in examining the question whether there is something illogical about Israeli military and civilian policies.
Nor is that majority influenced by the clear connection between their deteriorating economic situation and policies bereft of a political solution.
That Israeli majority is not ready to listen to hints that perhaps the military policies prevent, in the short term, some of the attacks and destroy the infrastructure, but in the long run create hundreds more volunteers for the unofficial Palestinian armies, and increase the danger of terrorism.
Most of the public prefers to only hear how devilish and ridiculous and corrupt things are on the Palestinian side. Most of the public does not want to know about the connection between the continuing attacks and the continuing and unprecedented military and economic pressure on the entire Palestinian population.
It refuses to see the connection between the renewal of the conflict in September 2000 to the Israeli consolidation of its control over the territories through non-military means, all through the Oslo years. Most of the Israeli public insists on accepting the position of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that "first they stop the terror and then we'll start negotiations." Get ready, therefore, for the next record wave of terror.
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