Opinion

An Operational and a Moral Failure

A main argument coming out of the army’s PR machine is that the conflict in the north is strategically critical, and for that reason most resources are being directed there, but that’s an evasion

A firefighter at a blaze near Kibbutz Or Haner on the Gaza border
Eliyahu Heshkovitz

“Bombing kite flyers goes against not only my moral position, but also my operational position,” says Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. This position is evidently fairly acceptable to the public. But the public also asks, what operational and moral solution does the chief of staff have in his kit bag to stop this primitive terror, which has proven to be one of the most humiliating, belittling and damaging tactics ever used against us?

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True, one can’t always expect the army to find operational solutions to a surprising, tiebreaking weapon in just three months. Still, a solution to kites? Fire balloons? Since the chief of staff stresses the moral aspect, he must be told that this failure, which sears the souls (and lungs) of area residents and compromises the honor and prestige of the army as well as our national honor — is also a moral failure.

One of the main arguments coming out of the army’s PR machine (and that of the government) is that the conflict in the north is strategically critical, and for that reason most resources — including decision-makers’ time and energy — are being directed there. That’s an evasion.

In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel had to fight two armies. Because the war began with a surprise attack, during the first days of desperate holding actions Israel had to decide where — the Syrian or the Egyptian front — to deploy its meager reserve forces in order to survive.

But today, 45 years later, the idea of “north first” is nothing but a way to divert attention from the inherent weakness — conceptual, moral and operational — of our response to the events in the south.

In the north, even though we’re bombing Syrian bases (also), the Syrians are doing all they can to avoid fighting us. And in the diplomatic theater, the Russian and American presidents announced at their summit this week (which in terms of Israeli interests could be called historic) that their countries will ensure Israel’s security — meaning, clearly, vis-a-vis Iran. It was the most dramatic such promise since Israel’s establishment.

Thus the excuses about “force allocation” are meant to divert attention from the failure in the south. But even assuming that we really are dealing with two fronts, do the government and the army really think they’re incapable of managing these “two campaigns” simultaneously — one against the kite superpower and one against Iran’s efforts to entrench itself in Syria? If the answer is yes, then Israelis really ought to be worried.

“Kites and balloons,” said Haaretz’s lead headline on July 18, “don’t justify war.” While I was still trying to digest that message, I discovered the answer to it.

In late 1955, the Syrians bombed communities in the north. In the introduction to his regular column in Davar, the organ of the ruling Mapai party, on December 23, 1955, the national poet of the time, Natan Alterman wrote, “The decision to take action against Syria’s ‘nuisance positions,’ which periodically bomb border communities, didn’t get ‘good press.’ Most papers wrote that they aren’t so terrible and that diplomatic wisdom mandates ignoring them.” Following is a very abbreviated excerpt from his column (“Collected Works,” Vol. 3, pp. 24- 26, in Hebrew):

“Let’s assume that one Arab cannon,/ one tiny, worthless cannon, disrupting our sleep/ fired just once a week/ at newspaper editorial offices/ ... Just one shell a week — not so? — along with/ sniper fire/ into their newsrooms/ a few times a day ... / Perhaps then they would loudly demand/ that we eliminate all the positions, come what may? ... / Sometimes, the real issue (as we’ve long sensed)/ isn’t yes-activism or no-activism ... / The real issue is that, at a little distance from the border/ it’s easy to discuss things from the standpoint of ‘grammarism.’”