Anyone who saw the sour face of Yitzhak Rabin when he shook the hand of Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn couldn’t help but notice that he wasn’t digesting the Oslo Accords. Later on his wife Leah claimed that he did in fact agree to the treaty because of his fears that the Israel Defense Forces, which overcame five Arab armies, was not built to fight terror and bring a victory, as it did in the War of Independence.
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Think about it — in the first intifada the IDF used gravel throwers to disperse demonstrations and undercover soldiers disguised as Arabs. Rabin learned the hard way that there is no longer a war to end all wars.
One government after another accustomed us to living with sporadic bombings from rockets with tiny warheads, in Sderot and its environs. They often explained that the “rockets” have small warheads, and therefore don’t cause real damage to anyone who didn’t have the misfortune of being in the area. Small is nice, but it’s hard to believe that any government in the world would accept the fact that “only” one region in its jurisdiction would be a target of rocket fire.
Sderot and its neighbors, and today Tel Aviv, Hadera and Haifa as well, were fortunate that at the time we had a civilian defense minister, Amir Peretz, who was insistent and thanks to him, we, the pampered home front, are being protected by the Iron Dome. And this week when the missiles reached Tel Aviv and northward, there was no panic of the kind we experienced during the days of the Scud missiles from Iraq.
Hamas, which this time, too, turned out to lack all restraint, didn’t take seriously the ground forces we concentrated near Gaza “as though” we are about to occupy it. And our home front hoped or assumed that we wouldn’t do such a foolish thing. If the missiles aren’t killing us, why volunteer to be a target in a ground invasion, and be condemned by the entire world to boot? The decision makers were relying on the fact that sooner or later there will be a cease-fire, accompanied by an agreement that won’t make us happy. In any case, the residents of Gaza have greater stamina than we do.
The question will be what will happen after the cease-fire. Will we start a countdown until the next events initiated by Hamas, as in the past? Will Bibi deliver another speech or two on television? Will he be remembered as someone who had balls of iron and went all the way with his policy of “not one inch,” or as the strategist of the campaign against Hamas?
Some claimed that the abduction of the three teens, as grave as it was, didn’t justify bringing the army into the Abu Mazen’s realm, fighting against Hamas, breaking into homes every night, and making widespread arrests that included anyone we felt like arresting. What was Netanyahu thinking, that Hamas in Gaza would sit quietly while the IDF was seen every night destroying its admirers and members?
The abduction of the teenagers and what happened as a result caught Bibi in an awkward position. First he was attacked by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: “You promised a firm hand, and you didn’t keep your promise.” Bibi’s response was: “First of all, attend the cabinet meetings.” And in response to an interview Lieberman gave on television, Bibi scolded him: “Ministers are not commentators.”
Lieberman announced the departure of his party from Likud-Beiteinu, but didn’t leave the government. He “only” made it clear that Bibi doesn’t have the next election in his pocket. So let’s assume there’s a cease-fire within a day or two; what will this government do? Kill all the Arabs, or try to reach an agreement with the Palestinians based on the outline suggested by the U.S. administration?
The truth is that Bibi has missed every opportunity given him in the past year; now he certainly won’t move. Maybe because in his present situation he’s on the way to losing the premiership. One of his better former ministers, Moshe Kahlon, abandoned him and is getting ready to defeat him in the next election. Bibi’s pathetic failure to eliminate the presidential candidacy of Reuven Rivlin and his defeat on this issue by Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, along with Lieberman’s abandonment, indicate that he can start the countdown to his end. There is no greater danger to the country than a prime minister on the way down.