Opinion

Sinwar, You Don’t Scare Anyone Here

Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, center, chant slogans as he surrounded by protesters during his visit to the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, Friday, April 20, 2018.
Khalil Hamra / AP

Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren published an article on Monday in The Atlantic, “The Coming Middle East Conflagration,” in which he described a scenario of the war that he claims was discussed by cabinet ministers twice in the past week, and for which the Israel Defense Forces is preparing at present. It goes approximately like this: Israel attacks a sensitive Iranian target, an Israeli minister brags and humiliates the Iranians. Iran launches cruise missiles that penetrate the Israeli air defense system and hit the Kirya Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. In response Israel attacks Hezbollah headquarters in Beirut.

Then begins what Oren calls “the real war.” Missiles would rain down on Israel, at a rate of 4,000 a day. The Iron Dome anti-missile system collapses under the burden. In addition, precise Iranian missiles sow destruction throughout Israel, overcome the David’s Sling system (a single interceptor costs $1 million). Strikes near the Ben-Gurion International Airport cause the electricity infrastructure in Israel to be cut off. Terrorists will attack communities all along the border. The Israel economy will cease to function.

Hospitals will be forced to work underground and will be overburdened. The sky will darken from smoke filled with toxic chemicals emitted by fires that will rage in the plants and distilleries that were hit. Millions of Israelis will crowd together in shelters. Hundreds of thousands will be evacuated from the border areas that terrorists are trying to penetrate.

Startup nation offices will empty out. Ground combat will be conducted on the border with Lebanon and Gaza. Long-range missiles will be launched from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran, some of them from sites outside the range of the Israel Air Force, which will also be forced to deal with Russian anti-tank missile batteries in Syria.

Are you afraid? Rightly so. If you thought that in the Yom Kippur War there was a danger that Israel would be destroyed, it seems that the cabinet is now discussing a scenario that make that war look like child’s play. Israel is constantly threatening to bomb Lebanon back into the Stone Age, but according to this scenario, the entire Middle East – including Israel – will bomb itself back to the Stone Age, in a kind of collective suicide.

According to Oren’s article, which presumes to rely on cabinet discussions based on IDF scenarios, the question is not whether such a war will break out, but when.

I have no idea if Oren is right, although The Atlantic is a serious magazine, not a sensationalist tabloid. We, Israel’s citizens, would be totally powerless in the face of such a horror scenario. Sheep to the slaughter, homeless, trapped in a hell without any possibility of escape.

Maybe Oren is exaggerating. I have no idea. I don’t participate in cabinet discussions and don’t know anyone who does, but after reading the article the following thoughts came to mind: the first – it’s worthwhile translating its main points as a public service, because it’s relevant to Israel’s citizens. The second – looks like we really do need a national unity government.

On second thought, two other insights came to me: What good would it do Israeli citizens to know all that? What would they do? It’s like informing someone 1. that soon he will contract a lethal disease against which there is no way to protect himself. It’s probably better not to know. 2. What good would it do to have a national unity government? How would it better safeguard Israel in such a scenario.

And then I understood how U.S. President Donald Trump thinks: Why not drop a few atom bombs on them this evening? Then we can have a third election in March. Right? In any case, if I were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, I would pray that l Oren is right. There is even justification here for the sixth submarine (one of the most justified submarines, in hindsight), as well as a pretty good excuse to postpone the filing of the indictments against him (mainly because the judicial system is expected to be out of commission for a year or two).

And then I asked myself: Who leaked cabinet discussions to Oren? Maybe Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, maybe Netanyahu himself. In any case, it turns out that even in scenarios discussed in the cabinet Israel is portrayed as an empire – our situation has never been better, and our enemies are properly deterred. And that is known even to Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, who is threatening to launch missiles at Tel Aviv for six consecutive months, in response to the promise by Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz to deter Gaza properly when he is prime minister.

Sinwar, you’re not scaring anyone here. After the Iranians finish off Tel Aviv, you won’t have anything left to bomb. Go threaten the Egyptians.