Opinion

Israel's Great at Dealing With Threats It Can Bomb

It knows what to do with a nuclear reactor but doesn’t know what to do with the occupation, which threatens its future much more than any reactor

These satellite images, taken August 5, 2007 (Top) and October 24, 2007 (Bottom), show a suspected nuclear facility in Syria.
Reuters

This is what Israel knows how to do best: to bomb. Better than anything else it knows how to spy, copy a computer’s contents from a Vienna apartment, dispatch planes and return them home safely after completing an almost impossible mission. You can’t but be impressed by the courage and professionalism of the intelligence gatherers, the air force, the Mossad and then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Operation Outside the Box ended in the best way Israel could have dreamed of.

It was Arizona – the radio code name to indicate that the target had been destroyed – almost for free: a huge success as far as the results go despite all the nagging questions about living by the sword, only by the sword, always and before anything else – by bombing. The questions about the rights of an Israel armed to its teeth to forcefully dictate to its neighbors how they can arm themselves. And questions of until when Israel can dominate the region solely by dint of its military prowess.

It’s precisely the courage and professionalism revealed in the Syria operation that raises the question: Is this the same country? The same army? Are these the same politicians, generals and intelligence gatherers? Are there two countries called Israel, one that spies and bombs, displaying courage and wisdom, and another acting so foolishly, afraid of itself, of its shadow, of a 16-year-old girl?

How is it that daring politicians and generals who lead dangerous missions such as the bombing in Syria turn into fools and cowards on other fronts no less fateful? Where do the courage and wisdom of Operation Outside the Box, and why is it that only in cases of airstrikes can they think outside the box?

Bombing a reactor in Syria requires a great deal of courage. Carrying it out requires brilliant capabilities. To keep it a semi-secret afterward you need a good amount of humility and wisdom. All these qualities vanish into thin air when it comes to other topics such as the occupation.

Zero courage, no wisdom, no humility and no professionalism when it comes to those things. Israel isn’t afraid of bombing a distant reactor under cover of darkness but is afraid of an imprisoned 16-year-old girl. It knows what to do with a reactor but doesn’t know what to do with the occupation, which threatens its future much more than any reactor.

Even with less courage than that revealed at Deir el-Zour Israel could now be in a much better place. The reactor scared Israel and, it believed, threatened its existence? The Gaza Strip threatens its existence no less, just as the entire occupation does.

And what does Israel do about it? Nothing. It takes no action whatsoever. There are no plans, no vision, no boldness, no future. Only more of the same: siege, collective punishment, settlement, the Shin Bet security service in everybody’s underwear; abuse and evil for its own sake. No officer or statesman is trying to break the mold and think outside the box. Courage has run out in the West Bank and there is no more wisdom in Gaza. Nothing is being done, but everything will be all right.

Where? What will be here in 20 years? Nobody knows or seems to care. This is the precise opposite of the steps taken regarding the reactor. You neutralize one ticking bomb and ignore another one, a much closer one, ticking and more dangerous.

The celebrations over the destruction of the reactor may be justified, but they too are a diversion from the same people’s performance in other matters. The only exception is Olmert, who tried to show some courage in other areas as well.

But Israel finds it easier to send eight bombers far beyond its borders than to release an innocent girl from prison. It’s easier to risk war with Syria than to open Gaza to the world and restore its dignity and liberty. It’s easier to risk absorbing missile salvos than to freeze construction in the settlements, even for people who know that these are the root of the calamity.

A true Arizona will be the Arizona sounded after similar displays of wisdom and courage regarding the occupation. No prime minister, defense minister, Mossad chief, military chief of staff or air force commander has been born possessing the required courage and wisdom. The true Arizona was and remains a dream.