From Freedom to Fear

What is the Jewish mother to understand from our leaders’ orgy of scaremongering? That the goal for which Israel was established − to build a safe and strong refuge for the Jewish people − has not been achieved?

An Iron Dome antimissile defense system was positioned in the greater Tel Aviv area on Monday. Worried local residents were told that the army was simply searching for a suitable location if the need arises - in other words, if there is a missile threat against Tel Aviv. Simultaneously, there was a leak from the cabinet as to the likely number of casualties in Tel Aviv following any attack on Iran. So it's no wonder that a number of the city's residents were seized by panic when a siren was accidentally activated in part of the city. The Defense Ministry hastened to apologize, but the hearts of anyone hearing the siren probably missed a beat. If it happens for real, it won't be a picnic.

Channel 10 revealed earlier this week that during the cabinet discussions, a representative of the Israel Defense Forces estimated that, in the event of a missile attack on the home front, there would "only" be about 300 dead. The first Lebanon War, when the residents of Lebanon scattered rice on our soldiers, ended after 18 years and 1,216 dead - as opposed to initial forecasts of 48 hours. When an entire country agonizes about a kidnapped soldier, and experienced a mass flight from Tel Aviv during the days of the Scud missiles from Iraq in 1991, it's no wonder that the first Jewish city has become an Achilles' heel and a desirable target for the Islamic side.

Such forecasts really drive Defense Minister Ehud Barak crazy. He is furious about what he calls panic-mongering and a scare campaign. War is no picnic, he said recently. "In no scenario are there 50,000, 5,000 or 500 dead." Great, now they've reduced the number of dead to 300. And let's say this number is correct: Do you know what one funeral a day, hospitals filled with the wounded, and ruined houses will do to national morale? So what's this numbers game about? Are we in a "Persian bazaar," or in a securities market betting on the value of human lives on the stock exchange?

David Ben-Gurion served as defense minister for about 13 years and never spoke about the number of dead, neither in public nor indirectly. In his day, when the memory of the Holocaust was recent, he was particularly sensitive to the symbolic significance of a strike on Tel Aviv; during the Sinai Campaign in 1956, he had two French squadrons protecting it.

When a country embarks on a war, its government has to take into account the question of its cost in blood and property, and how that will affect morale. There are no miracles in a densely-populated city like Tel Aviv as there are in the wide open spaces of the south. Both the volume and the accuracy of the missiles aimed at it are an important consideration in any initiated war campaign.

The public debate, the guesses and the assessments are scandalous. Not smart, not accurate and, above all, a psychological error. In the final analysis, what is the Jewish mother to understand from our leaders' orgy of scaremongering? That the goal for which Israel was established - to build a safe and strong refuge for the Jewish people - has not been achieved? And what can we conclude from the declarations and the concealed preparations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak? That life in Israel hangs from a thread, and the main thing is to ensure that there are bomb shelters and gas masks?

And really, what should responsible or concerned parents do? Smuggle their children abroad? When the nation's leaders pin our security on the beards of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, what are they conveying? That we have no security in the Jewish state?

It's no wonder that many people are obtaining passports from their countries of origin. The wandering Jew is being reborn in the country that promised him and his children a future and, primarily, security.

I often encounter young post-army people who are trying to decide whether to continue living in Israel. Not so much out of concern about earning a livelihood or the price of cottage cheese, but because of the gnawing fear that from one war to the next, the country might not survive. Full of himself, Netanyahu showed us this week, with the aid of a computer, how good he is, and how successful he is in leading the country. He even approved the eviction of a house in Hebron illegally occupied by Jews. Imagine!

It's been a long time since I've seen a prime minister so full of himself as Bibi Netanyahu. This does not accord with what is actually happening. A political observer who is well versed in the secrets of the government says to Netanyahu, via this writer, in very unparliamentary terms: "Instead of threatening Iran, stop peeing your pants for fear of the settlers, who are lawbreakers and are also destroying the dream of establishing a Jewish state."

Yes, wars cause losses. One doesn't get dragged into them without forethought. True victory lies in the ability of a smart leadership to deliver us to a state within safe borders, where it's fun to live and to sing its praises on Seder night.