Opinion

The Show That the Israeli Army Staged Will Cost Us Dearly

Smoke rises in Maroun Al-Ras, Lebanon, near the Israeli border, from shells fired from Israel, September 1, 2019.
\ AZIZ TAHER/ REUTERS

After Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile at a military vehicle on the northern border last week, the army faked the evacuation of wounded soldiers to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Two days later, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared: “Remember September 1, 2019, as the beginning of a new phase.” He later added: “I tell the Israelis, we no longer have red lines.”

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Nasrallah ignored the fake exercise, and framed the Hezbollah attack as the opening shot representing a new policy. However, it’s inevitable that one sees the army’s production that day as nothing less than the crossing of a line. Is this the kind of excessive creativeness often attributed to Aviv Kochavi, the army’s new chief of staff?

The military called in a helicopter and said two soldiers had been evacuated on stretchers; the helicopter later landed at Rambam. The hospital released a statement about their admittance, and journalists there saw everything. Only after an hour did the army, and the hospital, announce that no one had been hurt. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also declared: “We have no casualties, no wounded, not even a scratch.”

This ruse not only misled Hezbollah but also Israelis, many of whom have children in the army, and the media. As for Rambam, it unknowingly became an actor in the staged drama for the army’s needs.

In a country like Israel – where security incidents are routine, and hospitals and the media have a set protocol for handling them – is it reasonable to let the army fake injuries and have the country follow procedures for a security incident so that Hezbollah can be deceived? Should we start assuming that the army is harnessing the public’s fears via hospitals and journalists as part of its psychological warfare against the enemy?

It seems like the deception intended for Hezbollah achieved its goal. It seems that the theory behind the deception was that Hezbollah stops firing when it sees people have been injured. Otherwise, why would the IDF go out of its way to stage a loss? If so, the IDF presumes that its enemy has red lines, and it’s trying to take advantage of them. But how will Hezbollah act next time it believes it managed to hit IDF soldiers? Israel argues that Hamas is using Gaza’s residents as human shields. It accuses it of launching rockets from within schools and hospitals. The IDF stops ambulances at checkpints because it suspects that they’re concealing militants. But how is this different from staging casualties?

Yagil Levy, who studies relations between the army and society, says we should keep an eye on Kochavi. In a Hebrew opinion piece in Haaretz last January, after the appointment of the new chief of staff, Levy described a method that Kochavi had adopted in the Balata refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002: entering Palestinian homes through the walls using bulldozers. He said that Kochavi didn’t consider the ramifications, and that such actions would ramp up the Palestinians’ hatred of Israel.

Kochavi even gave the method an intellectual guise that rested on French philosophy, specifically Gilles Deleuze, who was attributed with the expression “inverse geometry” that “rebels against the accepted interpretation of the urban order.”

Even before Kochavi’s appointment, it was reported that Israeli commandos whose cover was blown in Khan Yunis in Gaza had tried to disguise themselves as a medical team with ID cards of Gazans.

This time, Israel admitted that the wounds had been faked. The problem with changes in “geometry” is that they affect the “urban order” on both sides. If I’m not mistaken, that’s what Nasrallah tried to tell Israel. But who’s listening to those savage Arabs anyway?