Israel’s Lot After the Gaza War: Despair Without Catharsis

Israel has accepted that it is locked in a game stacked against it. The enemies are irrational, so a political solution is impossible.

Rami Livni
Rami Livni
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Relatives of Israeli soldier Jordan Ben-Simon, who also holds French citizenship, mourn over his coffin during his funeral in Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Ben-Simon was killed in combat
Relatives of Israeli soldier Jordan Ben-Simon, who also holds French citizenship, mourn over his coffin during his funeral in Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Ben-Simon was killed in combatCredit: AP
Rami Livni
Rami Livni

Even though it seems the despair engulfing Israelis after the Gaza war is déjà vu – the same “we’re doomed to live by the sword” and “the entire world is against us” – something is different this time around.

The despair on the eve of the Six-Day War accompanied an existential fear, while the gloom after the Yom Kippur War stemmed from our fractured faith in our leaders and the shattering of the belief that the army was invincible. The terror attacks of the second intifada spawned bitter disappointment over the chances for peace with the Palestinians, while the despondency after the Second Lebanon War was channeled into anger over the Olmert government’s mismanagement of the war.

The despair is different after Operation Protective Edge. It hasn’t been accompanied by a political dispute, anger or accusation. It’s despair without release. More than ever, Israel has accepted that it is locked in a game stacked against it. The enemies are irrational, Al-Qaida clones, so a political solution is impossible.

At the same time, a decisive military victory is impossible because of the limits of force, which most of the public understands and therefore does not wish to return to Gaza. And then there’s the hypocrisy of the international community. Every other proposal for understanding the situation is met by contempt or a bored look, suggesting that the person who proposed it is naïve or crazy.

The main author of the current despair is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has consistently described the war as a link in Israel’s eternal struggle for its existence. Deep down, this is also how he views our relations with the Palestinian Authority.

As a result, we can’t expect Netanyahu to “discover” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a result of the war and conduct serious peace negotiations. Even if there are hints that Netanyahu understands that Fatah is not Hamas, his conclusion from the war will more likely be that Israel must not give up territory and leave its security to the Palestinians.

As always during times of war, the left hasn’t offered a way out of this doom loop. Either it excludes itself from the community when it mentions the Palestinians’ suffering, or it is dragged into a thorny debate when asked “with whom shall we make peace, Hamas?” The left can’t have a significant say as long as the debate remains at the tactical level. Meanwhile, the left’s confused answers contribute to the despair.

This fatalistic despair is dangerous for Israel. The left's role is not just to be dragged behind the government in support of the war or to mumble “Abbas.” Its role is to craft a confident, competing narrative in the face of the despair; a narrative that analyzes the events that led to the war and stresses Israel’s diplomatic possibilities — which perhaps could have prevented the war.

The accusations of naïveté must be directed at those who prefer to be held captive by Hamas’ actions and forgo our diplomatic tools – whether the briefly opened window of opportunity that allows Hamas’ inclusion in the political process, or the negotiations for an overall settlement.

People who tie their own hands and don’t use all their tools are the naïve ones, the suckers. True, it’s no sure thing that if we had acted differently the situation would be much different. Political solutions raise an infinite number of problems and fears. But what’s the other possibility? Despair.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott