Hamas, You're Bursting Israel's Bubble

For four decades Israel hasn’t been exposed to a real threat. For three decades it hasn’t experienced a full ground war.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Inspecting the troops on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War, from left: Yitzhak Rabin, Avner Shalev, David Elazar and Shlomo Inbar.
Inspecting the troops on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War, from left: Yitzhak Rabin, Avner Shalev, David Elazar and Shlomo Inbar.Credit: Eytan Harris/GPO
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The Israel of early June was very different from the Israel of late July. There were no rockets falling on it, no ground offensives, no sirens. It didn’t have funerals of young men or horrific spectacles of dead Palestinian children.

In the tranquility of the late spring, one could believe that Israel was secure, Hamas had been deterred and the Arab chaos was far away. One could live with the illusion that the Israeli world was sushi, Nasdaq and the “Big Brother” TV show. With our startup companies, our apps and our companies with the OECD stamp of approval, we had enjoyed almost a decade of relative quiet. Everything was cool. A bubble.

And then three teenagers were murdered. A fourth teen was burned alive. Dark forces burst from the bowels of the earth. In the slow motion of an unstoppable tragedy, Israelis and Palestinians were drawn into the heart of darkness.

A first barrage, a second one, a third one, an air offensive, a ground incursion, tunnels. Skilled Hamas fighters popping up from pits, shooting and disappearing. Israeli fighters in Gaza’s Shujaiyeh neighborhood, destroying things and getting killed. The consistent rocket fire breaching Israeli sovereignty. The massive tunnel network under Gaza. More than 1,200 people killed in the Strip.

Society is resolute, morale is high and our soldiers are impressive, but our solid rock — the Hebrew name for Operation Protective Edge — has suddenly been exposed to the swelling waves of a fanatical Middle East, whose violence is becoming ever more sophisticated.

We’ve been here before — exactly eight years ago in the summer of 2006, when the Israel Defense Forces failed to defeat Hezbollah in Lebanon and stop its rocket fire. We looked the threat in the eye. We realized how dangerous the combination of ballistic missiles, guerrilla fighting and an enemy hiding behind civilians was. We learned that Israel had no convincing response to the new challenge of an asymmetrical battlefield.

But in the fat seven years since 2007, we made ourselves forget everything we had learned in the Second Lebanon War. We told ourselves we had won. We told ourselves that everything was “cool,” “great.” We didn’t make peace and we didn’t seriously prepare for war.

Then we got Hamas 2014, which burst the bubble. The air force, Iron Dome and our high-tech had allowed us to live. But now we rediscovered that despite everything we’re still living here – in the Arab world, in the land of Israel-Palestine.

The strategic meaning of these events is that Israeli sovereignty has been violated. A country whose skies are punctured, whose air space is porous and whose people have to run for the shelters has a problem. A country that doesn’t know how to stop the rockets and shells fired into population centers for three weeks is a country in distress.

Add to this the tunnels, which have broken down Israel’s defensive wall, and our inability to achieve a clear victory in the close combat in Gaza. Before the amazed eyes of our foes and friends, regional power Israel can’t decisively defeat a small, impoverished — but fearless — terror entity.

All this means we’re returning to the Israeli condition. For four decades we haven’t been exposed to a real threat. For three decades we haven’t experienced a full ground war.

The last few years have been pleasant. We didn’t need the fortitude of the Yitzhak Rabin generation, the 1956 Ro’i Rotenberg generation, the Brig. Gen. Avigdor Kahalani generation. We failed to keep the focus and sobriety of the David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol era. We didn’t preserve the ideological and state structures required to live in a brutal reality.

Now there’s no choice. We must stop. There’s no point in trying to enter Gaza more deeply, a move that could prove disastrous. But when the fire ceases and the boys come home, we’ll be forced to look at the Israeli condition straight in the eye. With the bubble no longer around us, we’ll have to find a creative solution for Gaza and a peace deal for the West Bank. We’ll have to strengthen Israel’s ability to defend itself against its enemies.

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