This past Thursday we received a 10-page color pamphlet in the mail. The booklet was sent to us by The Homefront Command. The topic: “How to prepare for an emergency”. As outlined in the pamphlet, the country has been divided into zones. The pamphlet detailed how much warning time residents of each zone would have between the sounding of a siren and the possible landing of a missile. It is important to quantify these times so that we know how much time we have to take what we need– if we should need to go to an enclosed “safe” room (down to the shelter). It’s an impressive brochure, and did I mention, a little scary.
Having been here during the First Gulf War, I have been through these procedures before. However, this time– as we all know– the capabilities of our many foes is considerably stronger. Last time we actually had a few days of warning– this time that is unlikely.
Do I really expect a war to start? Frankly, I am clueless. During the Gulf War, I was sure that that war was going to take place. Back then, I had a better understanding of the American government, and even of Saddam Hussein, than I do of our own leadership now.
Living in Tel Aviv today has an almost “Alice in Wonderland” feel. On one hand, everyone is going about their daily routines, as if there was nether a care in the world. People go off to work, or to school, or even to the beach. On the other hand, hardly a conversation goes on without the current “situation” being mentioned. When two friends meet at a Café, the first thing you hear is– “Do you think he (Netanyahu) would REALLY attack?
They say Tel Aviv is a bubble. Surely it is a bubble, in more ways than one. First of all, it is hard to find any Tel Aviv residents who support the proposed attack. Part of that comes from the fact that few in Tel Aviv voted for Netanyahu and very few Tel Avivim trust him. The only less popular politician here is Ehud Barak. Barak is considered a turncoat– having sold out his beliefs to be Defense Minister. If we end up going to war now it will be unprecedented in our history– this would be a war of choice that a very significant portion of the population opposes from the start. I am not even dwelling on the fact that the home front is not prepared, that we have not deployed the number of Iron Dome Systems we would need, and do not have gas masks for the whole population.
The talk of a potential impending war has virtually sucked the air out of any other discussions. Who would have thought the social protest movement would have disappeared? Who would have imagined that the “Friars movement” would be limited to a small tent across the street from my house (I live across the street from Barak)? It’s as if all of our social problems have suddenly been solved: Crisis in affordable housing? What crisis! High cost of food? That is so last century!! Drafting Haredim into the army? Yeah, right!
If I was a little more cynical, and did not really believe that Iranians obtaining nuclear weapons was a true existential threat, I would think our Prime Minister was guilty of what we have blamed the Arabs despots for doing for so long– deflecting domestic criticism by using Iran as a sort of scapegoat. I do not really think that is the case. Though it has certainly been successful, whether intentional, or not.
So where does that leave us? I fear this leaves us in a very bad place. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been extremely successful in getting Western Europe and the United States to address the problem of the Iranian nuclear program. More concerted actions have been taken by America and the world community to try to slow down the Iranian program in the past three years than have been taken in all the preceding years. However, I fear, due to two very false “semi-ideological” doctrines, we could take actions that may lead to a strategic disaster.
The first false doctrine maintains that we can only rely on ourselves. This is a doctrine many gleaned from the Holocaust. Yet, however convincing this idea sounds, (and no matter how self-satisfying this doctrine may feel), it leads to a message that is fundamentally wrong. Simply because, we cannot always achieve our goals alone. As the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and, even more so, the later revolt by the Poles has shown, there are clearly times outside support is essential to accomplishing one’s goals. Even the US sometimes needs allies to get the job done– We certainly do.
The second false doctrine is the prevailing IDF myth that “offense” always beats “defense”. In the first article that I wrote for this publication, “It’s Time for the IDF to Step Up Its Defensive Game,” I argued that it is time to change our tactics, and invest massively in defensive systems. By investing in defensive systems we can protect ourselves from current and future threats.
There is no question that we have real enemies; enemies who would destroy us if they were able. The current Iranian regime is certainly one of those enemies. However, the best way for us to defend ourselves against Iran is not by launching a unilateral attack now. There are better ways. First, we must exhaust the sanctions regime that is getting ever stronger. If that fails, there is a reasonable chance that either: A) The United States will take action against Iran, or B) the United States will support any action that we take. If in the end we are pushed to employ “option B”, at that point our nation will be united to face the inevitable fallout. In the worst case, the passing time will allow us to install the defensive systems in place that will make any potential Iranian bomb ineffectual.
With all this said, I still have no idea what our government will decide. I deeply hope this time they err on the side of caution, and do not fall back into the ideological traps of our past.
P.S. Has anyone in the government thought how an attack on Iran will effect the further radicalization of Islam and the very real chances that our enemies will get a hold of Pakistan’s Nuclear weapons?