Back to Normal

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And suddenly, it was over. Within hours, the IDF forces left Gaza, leaving behind them a trail of dust, sweat and blood. They left something else as well – a feeling of missed opportunities. You know what they say – the higher the expectation, the deeper the disappointment.

Most Israelis were hoping for a different ending, one that meant a different reality in Israel and a better life for those living on the other side of the border with Gaza. These expectations gradually grew together with the feelings of patriotism and national solidarity that took a firm grip on the Israeli society. The renowned “Let the IDF win” slogan came back into fashion as the Israeli war machine was unleashed. And yet despite this tremendous gusto, Israelis are now experiencing a depressing deja vous. Yet another cease-fire is born into the Middle-East, a cease-fire that will allow both sides to save face while gently jumping down from the tall tree they climbed.

In the last eight years, Israel has fought four wars against terrorist organizations – against Hezbollah in 2006 and against Hamas in 2009, 2012 and 2014. In all of these confrontations, there was a large gap between public expectations and actual results. These results prove one thing – that despite the huge advantage the IDF holds in firepower, despite the fact that it has full control on the ground, sea and air, and despite the superior intelligence and defense systems – Israel still cannot subdue these organizations.

An ex-General Security Service (Shin bet) chief was anonymously quoted today in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. I bring his words here for all those disappointed Israelis (I added some brief explanations  to clarify the context):

We once controlled the entire Gaza Strip. We controlled the Philadelphi road [The road on the border between Gaza and Egypt], Rafah, and we went wherever we wanted to and did whatever we thought helped secure our control in the field. I personally was in charge of three missiles aimed at Mohammed Deif [The current leader of the Hamas military wing] that didn’t kill him. I was also in charge of  bombing Rantisi’s [Founder and leader of Hamas political wing, killed by Israel in 2004] house, a long line of additional targeted hits, and of the belief that if we just cut off the snake’s head, Israel will get redemption.

It didn’t happen. Each time, someone else popped up. And each time they surprised us. There were bomb attacks, tunnels were dug underneath Philadelphi , under IDF strongholds. After we pulled out [of Gaza, 2005] there were suicide bombers, so we put up a fence. Then there were rockets, so we invented Iron Dome. Then came the tunnels, and when the tunnels are over there will be drones with explosives, or something different entirely. In short, the answer is not in Gaza, but outside it.

The race to claim a victor is pointless. If it consoles you, go ahead, but the truth is that there are are no real winners in war, only losers. Between Israel and Hamas one can only count points. Israel may score more points in one set, and Hamas in another. The never-ending game continues, and Israel returns to what it calls normalcy and what psychologists call a state of manic-depression.

How do we get out of this depressing situation? By understanding that in the 21st century there are no clear-cut outcomes anymore and that other alternative must be explored. War is not a divine order but a human choice that must force us to ask time and again – what else can be done, what other choices can we make. The destination is known and right in front of us, but no navigation application exists to tell us how to get there.

As a human being, I know that the direct result of these wars is more hate on both sides, hate to feed the region’s seemingly insatiable hunger for blood, hate that will surely fuel the next war.  As a father, I know that I do not wish to live in a country led by people whose answer to these questions is that we must face and adapt to the reality we live in.

Back to normal.

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