Opinion |

The Missiles Will Wake Up Tel Aviv

The residents of Tel Aviv are not just indifferent to the distress of the residents of Gaza but also to Israel’s failure of strategic thinking about the way to address this distress

Yagil Levy
Yagil Levy
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The site of one of the rockets which fell from Gaza, March 15, 2018.
The site of one of the rockets which fell from Gaza, March 15, 2018. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yagil Levy
Yagil Levy

The firing of missiles at Tel Aviv caused a bit of uneasiness among the media and politicians. A sort of schadenfreude accompanied it because Tel Aviv was paying the price, alongside the protest over Israel’s responding forcefully only now, while it has reacted with restraint when residents of the area near the Gaza Strip were harmed.

This is the subtext of those voices: The attack on Tel Aviv will force the government to respond strongly against Hamas’ actions. Maybe the targeted killings will be renewed and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar will no longer move around freely, and maybe – as the right demands – they will finally let the IDF win. Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi laid out the equation in his controversial statements after the firing of rockets on the communities near Gaza in November: “Hamas’ attack was minor, most of the firing concentrated on the [area near Gaza]. Firing on Tel Aviv has a different significance.”

>>Read more: The Gaza paradox: Palestinians are fed up with Hamas, Israel is worried | Analysis ■ How Hamas became another enemy of the Palestinian people | Opinion ■ Rocket fire by mistake: Gaza, Israel write off Tel Aviv attack as ‘incompetence’ | Analysis

Haaretz Weekly, Episode 19Credit: Haaretz

But maybe this expectation is a mistake. The sin of Tel Aviv – not necessarily the city, but the center of Israeli secularism and sanity – is not that its residents spend their time sitting in cafés even in the face of external dangers, as they have been accused of doing since the 1940s, or that soldiers’ funeral processions are not held there, as former general and now MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) accused them during the Second Lebanon War. Tel Aviv’s sin is that it is a partner in the debasement of democracy, expressed in the retreat of its residents from their obligation to take an active part in the political debate that shapes the country’s military policy.

The residents of Tel Aviv are not just indifferent to the distress of the residents of Gaza – which drives the firing of rockets at Israel – but also to Israel’s failure of strategic thinking about the way to address this distress. The few protest rallies held in the city drew very little attention. Loud calls to challenge the primitive military thinking are not heard from the political center of the middle class, the group that is the key to political change, against the idea that the strength of the rocketing depends on the strength of the Israeli response.

According to this logic, if Hamas fails to enforce discipline on its own forces and those of other organizations, or fires out of pressure on its rule, it must be attacked in response, and in doing so to weaken it even more. Maybe it is also the right thing to eliminate its military leadership and starve its officials, in the spirit of the doctrine of the leaders of Kahol Lavan. Amateur psychologists on the radio give more intelligent advice to parents of unruly children than Israel’s military experts have to offer on how to deal with the rockets from Gaza.

Thus, it is possible that an attack on Tel Aviv, one that would threaten its daily routine and economic activity, would actually bring about, alongside the calls to strike Gaza even harder, new and critical thinking. Such thinking develops when the cost of the accepted policy rises, as experience teaches about the peace agreement with Egypt and the Oslo Accords. Israel’s policy in Gaza has a low, tolerable cost for now: Almost no lives lost; only localized, incidental damage to the daily routine of the residents near Gaza, far from the center of the country; and a marginal economic cost.

This cost will climb if Tel Aviv is hit. Only then will the voices be heard that challenge the policy of force, and ask how Israel can strengthen Palestinian sovereignty in the Gaza Strip and enable economic development there, whether as part of a general reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority or as a focused empowerment of Hamas rule. So it is possible that the optimism growing on the right as a result of the attack on Tel Aviv is excessive.

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