Time to Get Scared

We can understand why the Israeli public isn't responding to Netanyahu's efforts to sow fear with threats to strike Iran. But if it is serious this time, we must show fear.

Why is Haaretz editor in chief Aluf Benn complaining about the world not taking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seriously on the Iranian issue? ("The world," he wrote in Haaretz on August 11, "doesn't seem to be so worried by Netanyahu's threats to strike Iran." ) After all, in Israel itself people aren't taking the matter seriously. We haven't heard, at least not yet, about anyone canceling their vacations. Even the weak-kneed among us are in no rush to leave the country, spouting some excuse or another. They aren't even in a hurry to leave the hot and humid Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

The truth is, we can understand why the Israeli public isn't responding to Netanyahu's efforts to sow fear. In a country where a dose of fear is served routinely, people's senses become dulled. For a long time, almost since the beginning of Netanyahu's term, we've been hearing about an imminent attack. So why should we believe it's serious this time?

But if it is serious this time, we must show fear. Because how would it look? The planes heading thousands of kilometers to far-off Iran, the missiles flying with impressive acrobatics toward well-concealed targets - while meanwhile the beaches are full of sunbathers and people playing racket ball, and the hot issue is the performance of the Israeli athletes in London? Is that how a war of survival looks? Seriously. We can't even claim that this is "a war without a choice."

In the meantime, with great joy, "a key figure in the security establishment" was found - among all those important people opposing an attack against Iran - who warned columnist Ari Shavit (Haaretz, August 10 ) with chilling simplicity that "What happened in the Rhineland in 1936 will be child's play compared to what happens with Iran." No less. And the "decision-maker," who sounds more like an expert on scaremongering, concludes from modern history that the Iranian sword is sharper than the sword that threatened us in 1967.

To refresh my memory, I went back to history. The knife was indeed sharp in June 1967 - but, as it turns out, it was in the right hand, as it led to the occupation of territory of three Arab countries. And so I asked myself what I should glean from the words of the key figure: If in 1967 the knife in question led to respectable territorial achievements, can we, now, when the knife is ever sharper, expect even greater achievements?

At the moment, I am hopeful that the messages currently being sent to the cell phones of unconcerned citizens will rouse fear from its deep sleep, and that the war ritual will at last be completed. Meanwhile, the real news is coming from an unexpected place: Absentmindedly, perhaps, or maybe in a sophisticated move, the prime minister raised the anxiety level, as least for me, when he informed the military brass that he would accept responsibility in a commission of inquiry for the results of an attack against Iran.

And so, my friends, now we can become anxious. Because according to the American model - which Netanyahu holds so dear to his heart - tell me, who ever called on President George W. Bush, when he went to war, to account for the tens of thousands victims in the search for weapons of mass destruction that to this day have not been found? That's why it's in question whether anyone will really call on Netanyahu to take responsibility when it turns out that embarking on an attack was no picnic. The hell with it, how do I get to a bomb shelter?

And another trifling matter (but to soothe my conscience I'll note it anyway): An acquaintance of mine who sees everything as a chronicle of pre-planned conspiracies asked me, "Don't you think the entire business with Iran is being staged?" Why so? I wondered. "Look," he said. "Is anyone talking now about the economic decrees?" How ridiculous my strange acquaintance is. Really, on second thought, I shouldn't even have mentioned his bizarre comment.