Israelis, Don’t Go Like Lambs to the Slaughter

If the government has already allowed Hezbollah to equip itself with 150,000 rockets, and if Hezbollah’s allies, Russia and Iran, have already entrenched themselves in the region, what’s the point of starting a war? Why not prevent it?

Uri Misgav
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Israeli paratroopers walk along a dirt road as they make their way to a Lebanese village in southern Lebanon after crossing the border from northern Israel during the second Lebanon-Israel war. Aug. 12, 2006
Israeli paratroopers walk a dirt road on their way to a Lebanese village during the Second Lebanon War, Aug. 12, 2006 Credit: Emilio Morenatti / AP
Uri Misgav

The border with Lebanon. The Upper Galilee seizes the visitor with its beauty and vitality. The Hula Valley blooms in a variety of shades, the green slopes of the Golan Heights rise between the black basalt rock, the streams are flowing. The peak of Mount Hermon gleams white,The quiet is broken mainly by tractors and chirping birds. The residents go about their lives.

Time does its thing. After more than a decade of quiet, the continuous war of attrition with the Palestinian and Shi’ite terror organizations seems like a distant nightmare; the Israeli presence deep in Lebanon and the maintaining of a “security zone” there seems like a wild hallucination.

Only a surfacing memory or a conspicuous object amid the fields breaks the tranquility and forgetfulness. For example, the sign to the memorial for the helicopter disaster, whose 21st anniversary was marked this week, reminding the more than 1,200 Israeli families who lost loved ones in Lebanon between 1982 and 2000 that life has never gone back to routine. To these we must add the 166 soldiers and civilians killed in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War.

Against this charged background, it’s astonishing to view the submissiveness with which Israel seems to be accepting the stirrings of the next war. Suddenly it seems as if the war is only a matter of time, a kind of cyclical decree of fate, a periodic sacrifice to Moloch.

The military spokesman threatens, then the prime minister does the same. The defense minister, a well-known strategist, explains that “without soldiers on the ground, it does not end.” The mainstream media reports widely on the preparations “against the background of tensions on the northern border;” a brigade exercise drills the soldiers on the takeover of an Israeli neighborhood under construction (in the Druze village of Daliat al-Carmel, of course). “The IDF is preparing for the biggest parachuting exercise in years,” we read. A senior officer explains, “We are preparing for a situation in which the fighting will be far from home.”

The sane person wants to get up and shout, “One second – what fighting? What tension? What boots on the ground? You nutcases, get off the ledge!”

He is afraid to be thought of as cynical or conspiracy-minded. But he can’t help noticing that all this is happening alongside the annual friction over the defense budget, and on the eve of the police recommendations on the cigars and Champagne and the Noni Mozes investigations of the prime minister. Only a moment before the premier is expected to be summoned for testimony in the submarines affair, and perhaps in the Bezeq investigation. When in the background there’s a growing backlash against the expulsion of asylum seekers. But almost no one seems to notice. The sane person looks around in amazement, soon replaced by despair, and asks from whence comes his salvation.

The opposition, as usual, immediately freezes. Quiet, they’re shooting. Or, at least for now, quiet, they’re inciting. God forbid it should be perceived as treacherous and spineless; after all it supports IDF soldiers (although apparently not enough to be concerned about their lives). The media falls into line. In any case the agenda is dictated to it; at least there will be some action.

The sane person sees he’s almost alone in this battle. He remembers how all the wars of choice in Gaza and Lebanon played out; how they started and how they ended. Peace for Galilee, Accountability, Grapes of Wrath, Pillar of Defense, Cast Lead, Protective Edge. Only the names change. In his stupidity he doesn’t understand and insists on wondering: If the government has already allowed Hezbollah to equip itself with 150,000 rockets, and if Hezbollah’s allies, Russia and Iran, have already entrenched themselves in the region, what’s the point of starting a war? Why not prevent it? Why is this option always on the table? What’s the reason for this national devotion to living by the sword?

And then he sees a photo from the security cabinet’s tour of the border. There they are, in their black coats, gathered like crows. Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, Yuval Steinitz, Arye Dery, Yoav Galant. A whole lineup of lawbreakers, suspects, defendants, interrogation subjects and prisoners. Are these the people meant to send the country’s soldiers and civilians into the next war?

Israelis, don’t go like lambs to the slaughter.