Netanyahu’s Test of Strength

August 24, 2011 by Raffe Gold
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For a few days last week, Israel looked like any other modern Western nation. Its people were out on the streets demonstrating against their government’s incompetence in prices, rents, and other aspects of social equity. For a few days, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem could have been Paris and Washington…writes Raffe Gold.

Raffe Gold

But deadly aluminium tubes full of high-explosives aren’t fired into crowded civilian areas by neighbours of those who live in Paris or Washington, and nor do France and America, England or Germany have enemies who live next door swearing to annihilate them. Suddenly, as Israelis were waving their placards telling MKs in the Knesset how a civil society should be run, their innocent friends and neighbours were running for their lives into bomb shelters, scrambling to find lost children, desperate to protect their lives.

The terror attack on Thursday morning shocked many Israelis out of the fervor that they had been experiencing for the past month. They had, for the first time in many years, begun to taste change and they were enjoying it. The social protests, of which I was a part, had started from a small tent on Rothschild Boulevard and expanded to include tent cities throughout almost every city and town in this country and had led to protests encompassing hundreds of thousands of people from every walk of life and the entire political spectrum. Affluent members of society were marching with the homeless, lawyers were marching with criminals and Arab was marching with Jew. The protests took place in Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, Haifa and all were shouting in unison “the people demand social justice”. Regardless of the country or system of government when more than half a million people shout something at once their cries reverberate across the country and throughout the halls of power. So it was in Israel where the Prime Minister saw that his country was crying out and he scrambled to see what he could do. Netanyahu did what every other politician would do and proposed a number of stop-gap measures whilst trying to figure out what he could do to win the next election.

Then the terrorists struck. As men, women and children were demanding a better life from their government, missiles were fired across the Gaza border intent on killing and maiming innocents; young kids on a bus were strafed by machine guns; towns and hospitals, schools and synagogues were targeted by Gazan youths wearing headscarfs so that their identities could be hidden. And inevitably the IDF immediately struck back with deadly effect.

On television that night, the images of buses riddled with bullets, cars being fired at with anti-tank missiles and terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests brought back many painful memories of the terror war of the Second Intifada. In response to this brutal and unprovoked massacre the Israeli air force targeted the heads of the Popular Resistance Committee whom Israeli intelligence believed to be behind the attack. Over the course of the next few days various terror groups, including the PRC and Hamas, fired a barrage of rockets into the south of Israel killing and injuring scores of innocent people. The rockets hit schools and houses and the death count would be significantly higher had the Iron Dome missile defense shield not been deployed which saved innumerable lives.

This was Netanyahu’s time. Suddenly, rent and social issues were no longer at the top of his mind. He went into survival mode again. He has often talked tough with Israel’s enemies and the constant rocket attacks, including Hamas publicly declaring that the cease-fire with Israel was over, gave him enough moral and legal backing to appropriately authorize a military operation to remove what was a grave threat to the people of Israel. But he chose not to and in this his leadership abilities shone. There were a number of reasons that Netanyahu decided not to commit troops to eradicating the rocket threat and all of them show that he has learnt that whilst military deterrence should be a cornerstone in every defense strategy, diplomacy plays an equal role.

Israel is facing an incredibly daunting future and much of it will take place over the next several months. In September Mahmoud Abbas will be going to the United Nations to declare Palestinian independence, a move most likely to be vetoed in the Security Council, especially as it violates the Oslo Accords. Because of this Netanyahu is attempting to muster as much diplomatic support as possible to ensure that this declaration of independence does not happen. It is a delicate task and Israel is already facing increasing isolationism abroad. We have had some successes over the last few months, primarily in shutting down the Freedom Flotilla II, but we still have a long way to go especially with BDS extremists bizarrely finding chocolate shops in Sydney and Melbourne to be a legitimate target of protest. Netanyahu also wisely staved off military action because Israel’s relations with Egypt were close to collapsing. When pursuing the remaining terrorists, IDF forces tragically fired on, and killed, five Egyptian police officers in the fog of war. In war mistakes are made. However Egypt is still in shock from its popular overthrow of Mubarak and in many cases does not know what path it will take vis-a-vis relations with Israel. In this case the Egyptian people, not exactly pro-Israel, took to protesting outside the Israeli embassy and tearing down the flag. The Egyptian generals saw that this could be a potential flash-point and demanded an apology. Netanyahu and Barak, seeing that peace with Egypt was on the line, expressed regret at the deaths and promised to open a joint investigation into the matter.

This past week has once again seen blood spilled on our soil but it has also seen our leaders act as they should. They responded to attacks appropriately by targeting those who planned it and using enough force to impose deterrence. Furthermore whilst a military operation would have been a popular move, the opposition Kadima party pushed for one, it would have done Israel far more harm than good. Finally Netanyahu showed that he can be trusted to ensure that our most important alliances remain intact. During this past week, amongst horror and heartbreak, our Prime Minister showed that he has learned how to be a leader of this country and not just a warrior for it.

 

Raffe Gold is a political science graduate living in Israel. He can be contacted at twitter.com/raffeg

Comments

One Response to “Netanyahu’s Test of Strength”
  1. hasbaracentral says:

    France and Germany are not exclusive “homeland” nor are the indigenous people forced into shrinking cantons, denied basic civic rights, citizenship or blockaded.

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