Israeli Roulette

How many Israelis ask themselves why they remain in a country that has become the most dangerous place for Jews?

Recently I had a heart-to-heart talk with a beloved relative who was born in this country, in an effort to persuade her to return and bring up her children in Israel. I was reminded of this conversation when I read the speeches made last week by the two leaders of the nation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, at the graduation ceremony of the National Security College.

In his speech Netanyahu presented the five leading challenges that threaten the country: the Iranian nuclear program, the missile threat, cyber warfare, problems near the borders and the stockpiling of weapons in the region. He promised Israel would do its utmost to stop the Iranian nuclear program. He vowed that, to the extent that it is necessary, Israel would surround additional parts of the country with security fences, alter the composition of its forces and increase the defense budget.

Barak went even further in enumerating the disasters that confront us and could destroy us. The challenges we face, he said, are among the most complex and complicated that the state has faced in its entire existence. He warned that the Iranian nuclear plan could turn into an existential threat against the state, prophesized that neither diplomacy nor sanctions would be able to stop it, and promised not to remove any option from the agenda to thwart it. For dessert, the minister promised that Israel would not stand by idly watching while sophisticated weapons systems are transferred from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The prime minister ended up his lecture by expressing his belief that the sons of Israel would be ready "to throw themselves into the mission of defending the country in a way unequalled in any other country." Barak told the graduates that at the moment of truth, if faced with the ultimate test, Israel would be able to rely only on itself.

A country that has promised to provide Jews who have gathered there from all corners of the globe with peace, security and welfare, is offering them more blood, more sweat and more tears. They would not have phrased the national vision better at the graduation ceremony of the National Security College in ancient Sparta.

Three years after his Bar-Ilan speech - in which Netanyahu repeated the word "peace" 44 times - he added it again at the end of this speech, like a leftover, when promising to safeguard Israel's security "and also our ability to preserve peace and to achieve peace with other neighbors."

The prime minister mentioned the State of Israel's existence as a state, and as a Jewish and democratic one, only in the context of the need to guard the borders "from illegal infiltrators."

Solving the conflict with the Palestinians won no mention in the list of national security challenges that the two most influential people in Israel presented to the graduates of the college. They did not even pay lip service to the "peace process" or a "two-state solution" which also has been imprisoned in quotation marks.

In a hair-raising report about her experiences in Syria, published last week in The New York Times, the courageous writer and war correspondent Janine di Giovanni wonders: "When does life as you know it implode? How do you know when it is necessary to pack up your home and your family and leave your country? And if you decide not to, why?"

Is life in Israel where we wanted to raise our children - a peace-loving country that believes in democratic and Jewish values and in a society of solidarity - not imploding on us? How do Netanyahu and Barak intend to revive these values on the morning after the bombing of Iran and the bombing in retaliation? Will it perhaps enter their minds to relate after all this time to the Arab peace initiative that has been waiting embarrassedly for more than a decade - or will they allow Israel to sink even deeper into the reality of apartheid?

Who wants to go to sleep with the nightmare that he may be among the 500 victims of the confrontation with Tehran or to awaken in the morning with the fear of a missile attack from Lebanon? How many Israelis believe that another round of violence in the territories, with its danger of deteriorating into a regional conflict, will not be a war of "peace for [the outpost of] Migron" - that magical Israeli term that turns every war into peace and every occupation into a vision.

How many Israelis ask themselves why they remain in a country that has become the most dangerous place for Jews? And who is prepared to recommend to a beloved relative that she should come home and raise her children here?