When the Missiles Rain on Tel Aviv

It is possible to understand those people in Tel Aviv who enjoyed themselves these last few days. There is not a great deal of time left for them to celebrate.

The residents of Sderot are disciplined soldiers. They know that "an assassination in Gaza" is a genuine alarm plus a call-up to reserve duty, all in one. They went into the bomb shelters and sat there in order to be what they were expected to be - potential victims, waiting quietly.

In Tel Aviv, too, they heard about the assassination but there people filled the streets. There were traffic jams on Ibn Gabirol Street on Friday because on such a sunny day it was impossible to stay home. It is possible to understand those people who enjoyed themselves in Tel Aviv. There is not a great deal of time left for them to celebrate. It's not yet known when, but informed sources say that in a few days, or a few weeks, or perhaps in the next few months (depending on the surveys ), they will get a volley of Iranian missiles on their heads, compared to which the Qassam rockets and the Grads will seem like a light drizzle at the start of fall.

The missiles that fell in Sderot, and the missiles that may fall in Tel Aviv connect the hedonist urban center with the suffering outlying districts of the country. Both in Tel Aviv and in Sderot residents were enlisted into the army to defend the country's security but the state was exempted from defending them. Missiles are a local affair. When missiles fall on Sderot, people lick ice creams on Ibn Gabirol; when they fall on Ibn Gabirol, people in Sderot go to a movie. That's the way it is - today it's you, tomorrow it's us. There's nothing to get worked up about and nothing to look forward to. It won't get any better.

It won't get any better but there will always be a price to pay. The bill is presented after every chapter in the war. That's the way it's been for decades. We killed a terrorist? Thanks very much, the bill is on the way and someone will have to pay. The price is fixed above your head. The price is set according to cost and benefit: the cost of your death as opposed to the benefit it will bring.

The one who decides on the price never has to pay himself. The one who decides is the one who sends us on missions, and our mission is to be a number among the statistics. If only four of us are killed then we have succeeded in safeguarding the country's security. If more are killed, then we will distribute the pictures of the dead around the world and ask: "What is this - Are they shooting at children?"

This week they decided that it was worthwhile, that it wasn't terrible, if people sat a few days in bomb shelters. That is certainly a reasonable cost relative to the benefit, they said In the General Staff which is five minutes' walk from Ibn Gabirol Street. The death of Zahid al-Kaisi met the criteria of cost-benefit analysis well. A few days of fear in Sderot are a small investment that will bring a big profit in terms of punishment and deterrence.

The people of Sderot don't want punishment and deterrence; what they want there is quiet. From their point of view, let them kill everyone in Gaza, or let them sign something with them. The important thing is that there should at long last be quiet here. They can't be soldiers all the time for whom the country's security is more important than their own security. Maybe they're fed up but they don't say anything because that is how things are with those of us in the periphery. On Sunday the prime minister praised them for their "steadfastness." Was he praising them? He was praising himself. He was satisfied that he had managed to get one million people, who had accepted his and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's stories without complaining, to go into the shelters.

In Tel Aviv, people are dubious about the stories. They ask what led to the assassination. Perhaps the State Comptroller's report? Perhaps a new survey? Everything depends on the price. The price of Sderot, the Tel Avivians say, is apparently cheap. And they don't begin to imagine that their price is even cheaper - one could say, negligible. In the opinion of the prime minister, the damage and the victims as the result of missiles on Tel Aviv would be negligible compared to the Iranians having a nuclear bomb.

What is a negligible number of victims? Less than 500, the defense minister promised on another occasion. What is less than 500 (100? 60? ) as compared with the satisfaction and pride of the whole country including, one can assume, the residents of Sderot?

There is a symmetry between Sderot and Tel Aviv. There is a symmetry between Jerusalem and Tehran. There is a symmetry between Benjamin Netanyahu and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Both of them say: "The damage and the victims that we will suffer as the result of an attack are negligible compared with their atom bomb." Ahmedinejad is also prepared to pay for his missiles with a negligible number of victims (1,000? 10,000? ).

Tel Aviv is not Tehran. From Netanyahu's point of view, it is Sodom. And if someone has to pay the price for bombing the Iranian reactor, then let it be the wicked of Tel Aviv. A survey that was published last week showed that the number of people opposed to bombing Iran's nuclear facilities is only slightly larger than the number that supports it. It would be interesting to see a survey in which Israelis are asked where they would prefer the missiles to fall. It can be assumed that the tie would no longer exist then. The presumption is that Tel Aviv would win first place, big time.