Eran Wolkowski
Photo by Eran Wolkowski
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Congratulations.

Thank you. Definitely deserved. Err, but what for?

For deployment of the "kippa."

Ah, yes, the feeling of security was ratcheted up a few notches this week after it was placed on top of the National Security Council, above the office of the chief of staff, and then subsequently graced the Shin Bet as well. We can safely say that as of this week we have "God's mercies" covered, in all ways. And that's no longer just an expression, it's an operational plan.

But the word is that there are only two in the whole country.

What are you talking about? They fill all the offices in the security-policy hierarchy. Netanyahu is gradually but systematically surrounding himself with them, and the truth is that no one knows better than him how badly he needs this type of protection today.

Well, the prime minister himself may be protected, but what will the inhabitants of Sderot do?

Is anything preventing them from getting covered? They should learn from Bibi and surround themselves with knitted ones - or put them on themselves.

I'm talking about the Iron Dome! About the two batteries that were deployed this week in the south.

Sorry, I didn't understand you. I was sure you were talking about some sort of effective means of protection that affords full security and even a degree of immunity.

Nu, isn't that what Iron Dome does?

I'll tell you, the very fact of the installation of the first battery, even before it has fired a single volley, already gave rise to feelings of awe, fear, fright, tremendous tension and even stomach aches and diarrhea.

Among Hamas and Islamic Jihad?

No, among the top brass of the Israel Defense Forces, the Defense Ministry and the military industries.

Huh?

Look, this is such a sophisticated invention, on such a global scale, that it's no wonder that as soon as it was installed, the generals urged the government to reach an agreement for quiet in the south at any price. Really, that's all we need: for this metal skullcap to be put to a real test.

What do you mean? What's it intended for? Why were all those billions spent?

Do you know the joke about the guy who claimed he could scare off elephants by waving his hands, and when he was told that there are no elephants around, he said that that just proves that it helps? Well, that's the perfect allegory for our security gadgets. With one difference: In this case, the elephants will arrive. They'll come from the jungle and charge our villas.

So?

It turns out that the systems - and the warnings they provide - are too advanced and too expensive for us to use them. Deterrent weapons can be likened to Hanukkah candles: They are only for looking at, not for using. Their mission is to be moved further away as we get closer to using them in the field. You have to understand that all the money, the investment, the genius and the paeans are related to success in trials and simulations, in shows and exhibitions and tests. So it's no wonder that every stage of the testing process - which is almost always successful - is hailed with cheers and applause, as though we had won a war. But real-time operational application, well, that's a different kettle of fish.

That's why all the boasting that accompanied the tests suddenly faded away and became mumbled hemming and hawing this week?

With your permission, I have compiled a selected list of the expressions of modesty that accompanied the dome's deployment this week: "It has to be made clear up front that there is no hermetic defense"; "The system is undergoing an accelerated learning process"; "This is an operational test phase that constitutes a part, and only a part, of the answer to the Hamas missiles"; "Iron Dome is not an insurance policy - all the necessary means of defense have to be deployed alongside it"; "Iron Dome can't perform magic"; "Together with the fact that it is an achievement unrivaled in the world, it is not a panacea." In other words, this is an instance of almost heartrending ass-covering! The pretense is that installation of the battery is only the continuation of the testing by other means.

I especially liked the way Ehud Barak put it: "This is a system that can fire if fire is aimed in its direction. But we have to understand that when all is said and done, it does not provide 100 percent cover. The full procurement will take a number of years and will entail very large budgets."

Nu, and you still have doubts that the man is a prodigy? Here we have cover-your-ass in its most concise, essential formulation. Because this is a system that "can" fire, but does not have to hit anything. And who can guarantee us that the Arabs will fulfill the condition and fire "in its direction" and not 50 meters to the side? Who can assure us that "very large budgets" will be allocated for the system in the course of "a number of years"? You know, since the Patriot missiles, which were supposed to intercept the Scuds and managed mainly to intercept homes in Ramat Gan - the need to actually test a means of combat is a nightmare that haunts the defense establishment. From a certain point of view, so as not to detract from our feeling of security, it is desirable never even to reach the stage of implementation. That, by the way, is the mythological, desirable situation in which the Arrow, the Green Pine, the Great Pine and their ilk find themselves: displaying pure potential, which no reality will sully.

Excuse me, I don't follow: How is non-implementation going to improve security?

To understand that, you have to differentiate between "security" and "the feeling of security." They are two completely different things. "Security" itself may be enhanced by external deterrence, bilateral understandings or political agreements. No salvation will come from any of the gadgets that allow hundreds of fingers to be stuck in the holes that keep reappearing in the dike. But to achieve a "feeling of security" it's enough to deploy plastic sheets, masking tape, bottles of water and some kind of launch mechanism in the shape of a pencil box, as long as it's marketed to the public in the right way.

In any case, though, as part of the lowering of expectations beneath the dome, we have heard talk about "other means" to stop the rocket fire by Hamas.

Yes, there was talk of resuming the assassinations of Hamas leaders, but then the powers-that-be remembered that Sheikh Yassin was already assassinated a number of times, and that if the two remaining members of the political wing are also liquidated, there will be no one left to threaten and no one not to talk to. In the same breath that they said that "Hamas is being held responsible," they said that "Hamas has lost control and total chaos reigns in Gaza" - and they also threatened to make use of the ultimate weapon of "toppling the Hamas regime." We are on the verge of missing Assad, Jr. in the future, just as we retroactively long for Yassin and Arafat, people with whom at least it was possible not to talk and above whose heads we could make sonic booms. What can I tell you? It looks like even the bank of targets is suffering from a serious overdraft.

So what do we do in the face of all this chaos?

What the Prime Minister's Bureau has already been doing for a long time: organize a minyan, put on a kippa and pray that nothing moves.