See You in the Next Round

Since this is a war on consciousness, we don’t really know whether we’ve won. The fact that we’re willing again and again to make a truce doesn’t mean they’ve won, or that we’ve won.

Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus
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IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz called on the residents of the communities adjoining the Gaza Strip border to return home.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz called on the residents of the communities adjoining the Gaza Strip border to return home.Credit: Shay Wagner / IDF
Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus

Ode to the poet: “We have a hot summer. Fall will soon follow. The rain will wash away the dust left by the tanks. The fields will turn green, and the south will be awash in red – in the positive sense of the word – in anemones, flowers and stability, which will be here for many years to come.”

The composer, none other than IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, in paratrooper’s boots and with a rifle on his shoulder, called on the residents of the communities adjoining the Gaza Strip border to return home. He promised that within three days the remaining tunnels will be destroyed.

Within a few days his words sounded like a fake swan song, or in other words, too good to be true.

We haven’t heaved a sigh of relief yet and our television commentators have yet to expose how much we knew or didn’t know about the monstrous tunnels, and to what extent the cease-fire won’t really reinstate security, as we were promised. Or maybe it will.

The more sensitive among us had difficulty enjoying the pictures of the devastation we wreaked on the civilian population, including women and children. But in this kind of war, the front is the home front. Hamas commanders don’t care about the killing and destruction, as long as they keep firing hundreds and thousands of mortar shells at us.

Since this is a war on consciousness, we see the destruction on the other side with a certain satisfaction. We think to ourselves that had we not had Iron Dome, we’d have had hundreds of fatalities. Just think what havoc and killing 3,400 non-intercepted rockets would have caused. What would have happened had we not discovered the tunnels?

To some extent one can wonder whether Hamas leaders hadn’t erred by dragging us to defeat it. Another year or two of quiet and they would have brought a small Yom Kippur War on us, with a bloody strike deep inside our civilian population.

Since this is a war on consciousness, we don’t really know whether we’ve won. The fact that we’re willing again and again to make a truce doesn’t mean they’ve won, or that we’ve won. If Israel doesn’t leverage the war to some sort of arrangement, it may be said that we achieved nothing but drawing fire and boycotts from the enlightened world. Hamas sees the women and children on the debris of their homes as a war asset and already want to put us on trial in an international court.

Had Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas been more flexible and well on the way to some kind of agreement, maybe Gaza residents could also have been partners and started enjoying the relatively good life of the residents of Ramallah and its surroundings. They could have had a sea port and an airport, which they’ll never receive them as a prize for the tunnels and for shelling Israel. What they need is not to kill Jews, but to aspire to live with them and compromise with them. The demand to reward Hamas with ports as a condition to stop firing at Israel is absurd.

As for Netanyahu – he discerns threats more than he discerns opportunities to make peace and is playing the role of the nation’s leader, a mixture of David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin, in talking about peace and making war. But this is a government with Avigdor Lieberman, who is demanding an immediate victory by conquering Gaza, and a security cabinet with Naftali Bennett, Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Gilad Erdan, who are also demanding to smash Hamas and its leaders, right now.

It’s easy for the cabinet ministers to pressure Netanyahu to occupy Gaza. But the moment we go to war, we must set its strategic, diplomatic or military goals. These do not appear within reach.

At the point we’re in, the basic facts haven’t changed. We did not deal Hamas a final blow that would make its leaders suddenly wish to be peace angels. The only achievement we have so far is the disclosure that President Abdel Sisi has taken the peace agreement with Egypt out of the mothballs, and that’s good for the Jews.

There’s a story about a Yiddish newspaper editor who used to ask his colleagues: “How does the New York Times know tomorrow’s headline today?” Our answer is simple. Nothing is over yet. See you in the next round.

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