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On Euphoria and Israel's Crude Hubris

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with coalition chairman David Amsalem and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with coalition chairman David Amsalem and Communications Minister Ayoub KaraCredit: Olivier Fitoussi

On the eve of a horrifying potential clash with Iran, which is closer than ever before, Israel is wrapped from head to toe in an amazing euphoria, a manic intoxication with force, a disastrous feeling of omnipotence.

And it isn’t just our elected representatives, not even the least of which has skipped the party and the opportunity to prattle and blather on social media with ridiculous arrogance and boastfulness (“We’ll put the Iranian genie back in its bottle,” cried Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant; “We must get Iran to withdraw from Syria,” said Transportation and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz; “We want a Four Mothers movement to arise in Iran,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett, referring to the Israeli group that successfully advocated for Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. Even Likud lawmakers Miki Zohar and David Bitan welcomed last weeks’s incidents; the people are now hungrily awaiting the utterances of their colleague, Nava Boker).

All these great thinkers are proposing that we bomb Iran directly already; why stop on the way? Every tweeter believes in his power to change the Iranian regime, “not just for our own sake, but also for theirs.” There’s no limit to the arrogance. It runs so deep that it almost demands to be reined in by some terrible slap in the face.

And alongside it is the blind apathy of the public – that is, the part of it that isn’t precariously balanced on our national erection, that makes do with laying back wearily under the influence of the drugs of consumerism and the good life, that’s up to its ears with Eurovision contestant Netta Barzilai, chef Segev Moshe’s dessert in a shoe, the Giro d’Italia bike race, the latest hot restaurant to open. Even the stock exchange hasn’t fallen.

“Forget this nonsense, sourpusses. There won’t be any missiles,” Israelis say with unshakable confidence whose rationale remains obscure, as if they were being asked about something as certain as where the sun rises, as if we weren’t currently walking the thinnest of tightropes in the most explosive region in the world.

This isn’t national fortitude, ladies and gentlemen. It’s crude hubris. And as our parents, scarred by the 1973 Yom Kippur War, can attest, the greater the hubris, the greater the shock. The deeper the rupture. The darker the abyss.

Too much time has passed. We’ve forgotten how to be modest. We’ve forgotten the monstrous offspring of euphoria. We’ve forgotten what a shocking war looks like at its end, as opposed to when you start it, full of fighting spirit and glory.

Perhaps the airstrikes attributed to the Israel Defense Forces in Syria were necessary, and carrying them out was extremely sensible. Perhaps the Iranian nuclear deal was a bad deal – despite the well-reasoned opinions of those who actually think it’s working, including army chief Gadi Eisenkot, and that it even offers opportunities for Israel. Perhaps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a great statesman, and this fact has simply been concealed, with annoying persistence, from the eyes of those who hate him. Perhaps. But that isn’t what my argument is about. That isn’t what my outcry is over.

My outcry is against the thuggishness and arrogance, backed and even inflamed by the coarse behavior of the U.S. president, who opted to leave the nuclear deal with a humiliating slam of the door and a series of aggressive statements. It’s against spitting in the face of the enemy, publicly sticking a finger in his eye and disrespecting him (see Netanyahu’s press conference on the nuclear material stolen from Iran’s archives). It’s against filling our brains with the Alibaba website, at the expense of critical thinking and asking basic civic questions (are we being pushed onto a road that inevitably leads to war? Are Israeli civilians ready for war? Would the war’s benefits really exceed its costs?). My outcry is against all the elements which, with historical hindsight, make a disaster.

A nation that wants to live doesn’t become submerged in intoxicating feelings of superiority toward the enemy (the same enemy, we have been warning for years, already wants to destroy us and is increasingly acquiring the capabilities to do so). A nation that wants to live doesn’t brandish tattered, worthless insurance cards like Iran’s rationality or various other interests ascribed to it that enable us to run wild against it now. A nation that wants to live calculates its steps with humility, with sensible fear and a sense of self-preservation, including any necessary evils, to the extent that they are necessary.

But that isn’t the way Israel is behaving now. And that’s a sign that we should be worried.

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