Air Strikes Are the Bomb

The Israeli yearning is to strike the Arabs, strike as much as possible, strike as long as it doesn’t exact a price. But this is how wars are stoked

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits inside an Apache Helicopter and speaks Israel Air Force chief Amir Eshel during his visit to the Tel Nof air force base in southern Israel, August 17, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits inside an Apache Helicopter and speaks Israel Air Force chief Amir Eshel during his visit to the Tel Nof air force base in southern Israel, August 17, 2016.Credit: Amir Cohen / Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

One issue unites Israeli society: Every aggressive Israeli act is applauded – whether it’s clear what it was about or not, whether the operation was necessary or not. Just as long as we bomb something. What could be bad about another bombing in Syria? We’ve already done it a hundred times and everything went well, so what’s wrong with another go?

Why not shove another stick into that bleeding bull? It can’t respond, after all. So if we can bomb, why not? It keeps the air force alert, after not having a real fight for decades. When all is said and done, it’s a bit difficult to use an F-35 against a girl with scissors at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, and a bombing gives the air force a halo of heroism.

Everybody cheers it. The commentators parrot that the bombing of weapons making their way to Hezbollah “creates deterrence.” But Hezbollah already has 150,000 missiles and rockets from all that bombing and deterrence.

Behind all this is the yearning to strike the Arabs, strike as much as possible, strike as much as we can, strike as long as it doesn’t exact a price – by air, sea or land. Never mind where, when and why, as long as we strike.

The Israel Defense Forces has long become the Israel Attack Forces. Israel is allowed to do anything. After all, Israel is a pacifist, peace-seeking country merely defending itself. In its arrogance, Israel also takes the liberty of violating the sovereignty of its neighbor Lebanon as much as it likes, invading its sky daily and even bombing Syria from it. Because who's Lebanon to tell Israel where to fly?

Nothing is easier than imagining what would happen if a Lebanese reconnaissance balloon entered Israel’s skies, not to mention a plane. Lebanon’s skies would tremble and shake; how dare it breach our sovereignty? But Israel is allowed.

It’s also allowed to bomb weapons convoys everywhere, because Israel itself never acquires arms. It’s allowed to do so because it can. Here too it’s not hard to imagine what would happen if a country’s air force decided to bomb an arms shipment to Israel.

Israel is allowed to equip itself with any weapon, whether they're permitted and prohibited. It’s allowed to bomb weapons development centers because the weapons produced there are an “equilibrium breaker.” This term is a bit of comic relief used by the military and yes-men reporters, as if there were any equilibrium that these weapons were breaking. Israel even uses this absurd term when it talks about Hamas in Gaza. Just imagine.

According to Israeli logic, only Israel is allowed to arm itself in the region, and it has the right to prevent any other group or country from doing so, whether by force or international pressure. Distant Saudi Arabia wanted AWACS spy planes, so Israel went bonkers; it has to thwart almost any arms deal. If it were up to Israel, all the Arab states would be demilitarized, and only Israel would continue to arm itself with every kind of weapon.

On the face of it, there’s nothing to complain about. Israel is a regional power and wants to preserve its strength. The Middle East is extremely violent, the threats to Israel are substantial, at least partly, and if Israel can neutralize its enemies, it must do so. But this is shortsighted. These frequent bombings of Syria could have a price. This is how wars are stoked, from one successful bombing to another.

Also, the idea that the side with the stronger military will prevail forever isn’t borne out by history. Israel, which bases its entire presence in the Middle East on its sword, can’t lean on it forever. Syria will remember that in its most difficult hour Israel humiliated it. Nations and statesmen don’t forget that. Now Russia is around as well.

The bombing at the end of the week was a bombshell of an operation. Hats off to the IDF. But after the 102nd bombing, or maybe the 200th, there could be payback.

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