If It Happens Again (Will It Be Any Different?)

No, Haim. We don't know in which bunker Adolf Haniyeh is hiding with his Hamas, or even if he's still alive.

Stage I: The build-up

As usual, it will start with ... No, actually, it's started already: Like an accurate medical diagnosis that is repressed by the patient, like a verdict given to a defendant in absentia. Such is the "There's no other option" but another round of war.

It hangs over us like the sword of Damocles, with dozens of people competing with one another to see who will cut the thread that holds it aloft: the next operation that none of us want, the next war that none of us have any interest in, the entry into and re-occupation of Gaza, which we really, really don't feel like doing, as the defense minister explained to the soldiers, but "there will be no other way"; "we'll be compelled"; "the clock is ticking"; "the sands are running out"; "patience has burst"; "it's just a matter of time."

And even though we're afraid of it, not knowing what will come of it - the next war / operation / re-occupation will move ahead. It's already coursing in our veins; it's waiting, like the sound of the upstairs neighbor's falling second shoe waiting to be heard in the apartment below - except that, at one and the same time, we are both the neighbor waiting downstairs and the one dropping the shoe from above.

Thus, a reoccupation of Gaza is already loaded in the barrel and is therefore certain to come. It's really very simple: It's Gaza's turn. After Lebanon - Gaza; after Gaza - Lebanon; then Nablus and Ramallah, and so on and so forth. And there's no way of avoiding it: It has never happened that the IDF's "No other option" that was hanging on the wall in the prologue - wasn't fired by the end of the first act.

Stage II: The trigger

Fingers are already gripping the trigger, but the timing of the final squeeze is no longer up to us, it's not subject to our jurisdiction. It's automatic: It will be determined by such-and-such civilians killed in a direct terror attack or - even worse - the wounding or abduction of children - soldiers, in other words.

And on that day - like Zen practitioners - we and our operation will become a single entity: We'll fall into the next war or operation completely naturally, without effort, without thinking too much, almost without feeling it. Gripped with a terrible fury that is whipped up and fanned even further by the analysts of the apocalypse - we'll demand and cry out and fire ourselves right into Gaza/Lebanon/the Kasbah. Together. As one. In another one of Israel's just wars.

Stage III: The euphoria

In the elevated spirits brought on by the self-fulfilling inevitability - we'll suddenly find ourselves in the next war/operation: Like a shell from a cannon. Together. United. In the broadest consensus. Shoulder to shoulder with Effi Eitam and Yossi Beilin on the midday news, and even Amos Oz, in a box in Yedioth Ahronoth: He who wants peace, etc. A time for everything, etc. ... The banks are overflowing, etc. Maybe only Tibi and Yossi Sarid will be out of it. But everyone else - yes. For there's no one who won't agree that this is it - the die is cast, the balance is tipped, a child's blood cries out to be avenged, go, go, go.

And now the builder-uppers joyfully reap what they sowed: against the backdrop of the tank treads, with a symbolic furrow in the forehead to conceal the joy at the release of the safety catch. And we're already receiving initial reports about direct hits, Yaakov. There's shock in the Arab world: Hamas / Hezbollah / Ahmadinejad is in total hysteria. They don't know what hit them, Haim. One hour from now there will be a press conference with the air force commander. Definitely, direct hits. Gentlemen, please note the targets marked with an X in the film strip: Here we see a direct hit on Dresden, that is, on the runway of a suspicious mini-bike.

No, Haim. We don't know in which bunker Adolf Haniyeh is hiding with his Hamas, or even if he's still alive.

Stage IV: The fiasco

Thus, one of Israel's just wars, and most successful ones. In the first two days.

And on the third day - in answer to your question - well, yes there are. There are casualties. Rumors from outside sources, probably exaggerated. But there are, Haim, unfortunately, there are ... casualties ... that is, seriously wounded ... that is, people killed. And now it has been cleared for publication that there are definitely several. Several dozen. Dozens, you say? Yes, unfortunately. There was an ambush, a pit of explosives, a roadside bomb, an errant missile, a helicopter that crashed. Unfortunately. And we know what every every strike like this does to us. Did you say hundreds?

And now we turn with this very tough report to Eitan Ben-Eliahu and Yossi Peled. Listen, you have to remember that in war as in war ... I only hope that, in terms of public opinion, it won't stop the IDF at this stage, when everything has been going so well. That the momentum is not stopped at all, as unfortunate as these things may be. And we must bear in mind that we've known tough times before. The Kaf-Gimel, the Lamed-Heh, the siege of Jerusalem, the Tzena austerity period, the Night Brigades. And on the Transports it wasn't hard? The main thing is not to fear at all, not even Four or Five Mothers.

Stage V: The gambit

And on the fourth day - just when everything was going so well, despite the very heavy cost - there always comes the Kafr Kana or Mohammed Dura of the moment: some village, or child, or shelter for orphans and nuns, or delegation of second-generation UN observers that includes five pregnant women - insists on getting right in the line of fire, without a thought for the value of human life. The Palestinians have this trait, you know, of never missing an opportunity to snatch victimhood right out from under our noses.

How do they manage to do it every time? This is the moment the IDF feared most of all. And we've already heard the first condemnations. But the matter is under investigation. The IDF is investigating whether the child was a fake, or the village was staged, or the women were only simulating pregnancy. But it's still very awkward, without a doubt. Voices are being heard already. A way out is being sought. Actually, you know what? Suddenly, all at once - as usual after every Kafr Kana - "the IDF has already achieved all the objectives."

Stage VI: The build-down

And suddenly - as with chewing gum whose flavor has faded but still can't be spit out - the thrill is all gone. And then, all those who blew on the coals, salivated over the offensive, accelerated the escalation - are ready to assist in the build-down: We shouldn't cultivate excessive expectations; anyone who thinks we've solved all our problems in one stroke is mistaken. And some also warned ahead of time, in this very studio, that whoever doesn't want Haniyeh and Hamas in Gaza will get them in Ramallah.

True, our situation is worse than it was before. We've gone back to the crumbling square that comes before square one - but it was worth it. And maybe the positive side is how it clarifies things: It will be helpful to draw lessons, that is, to examine, meaning to investigate, that is, to fire all those who... And most of all, to restore the power of deterrence before the next time, which is not a question of "if," but of "when."