I’m driving into Tel-Aviv. Three lanes of traffic moving slow. Road signs with instructions on what to do should a siren be sounded mid-ride occasionally show up by the side of the road, leaving a brief imprint on my consciousness, and quickly replaced with pictures of a country awaking to a new morning. On the radio, I listen to reports on the threat to launch rockets on Israel’s international airport, and debates as to whether “he” is dead or not. Just another day in paradise.
By “he” I am of course referring to Mohammed Deif, leader of the Hamas military wing, who was – for the incredible fifth time – a target of yet another Israeli assassination attempt.
The question of Deif’s fate was the only question on the mind of most Israelis yesterday, something that attests more than anything to the prevailing state of mind. Desperate for some kind of achievement, Israelis wanted more than anything to see news bulletins starting with pictures of Deif’s lifeless body being pulled out from underneath the rubble in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza together with his wife and son.
Deif might indeed be dead. He may be in a coma. He may be fighting for his life as we speak or he might have survived. It is of little consequence. Let there be no mistake, Deif has done plenty to deserve this special attention by Israel. I’m also not going into the debate about the moral aspects of bombing a house known to house innocent civilians. But the belief that these assassinations will change anything in the long run is a huge mistake, and represents Israel’s overall policy towards the Palestinian issue – only tactics, no strategy.
Time and again, assassination after assassination, from Yahya Ayyash to Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi to Ahmed Yassin to Salah Shehade to Ahmed Jabari, Israelis are fed the same false perception – that we are actually going somewhere. History and reality tell a different story. The story they tell is of another snake’s head being cut off only to be replaced a short while after by another. Take a look at this list of Israeli assassinations and you’ll get the picture.
These assassinations may end up disrupting Hamas operations. Or, they may cause Hamas to seek revenge and intensify its attacks. Both these outcomes have transpired in the past. But the fact remains that other than a temporary boost to Israeli moral, and a blow to Hamas moral, these hits have had no implication what-so-ever on the crucial issue that is Hamas in Gaza, or Gaza as a whole.
Instead of wondering about the fate of Deif, Israelis should have been asking themselves why previous assassinations didn’t inflict the expected damage on Hamas, and what are Israel’s plans for further down the road.
At the press-conference yesterday evening, at what was probably supposed to be a victory party announcing Deif’s demise, Netanyahu spoke of a new regional order, and of a “new diplomatic horizon”. Thing is, I’m tired of Netanyahu talking and not doing. For me, he will forever be “Mr. status quo”. We should be less interested in seeing pictures of dead Hamas commanders, and more interested in hearing about an end-game strategy.
And my radio says tonight it’s gonna freeze
People driving home from the factories
There’s six lanes of traffic
Three lanes moving slow
(“Telegraph Road”, Dire Straits)