It was a confession by US President John F. Kennedy, who admitted that the spy novel “From Russia with Love” was one of his favorite books that catapulted British author Ian Fleming into stardom alongside his fictitious secret agent James Bond. Fleming’s books, written in the heyday of the Cold War, presented readers with a simple world, one that consisted of a dichotomy between good and evil, between 007 and the evil terrorist organization of Spectre (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion).
Now, more than two decades after the end of the Cold War, Mr. Fleming’s books must seem to some outdated. Since Mr. Gorbachev tore down that wall the old dichotomies no longer apply. But not to the Israeli leadership, to them we are still living in a black and white world. And now we are witnessing another showdown between the forces of good and evil.
What begun Wednesday afternoon with the assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmad Jabari soon expanded into an all out aerial offensive against Hamas operatives and weapon depositaries in the Gaza strip. After finding an adequate Bond like title, Israeli’s were told by the IDF spokesman that these aerial strikes were just the beginning of a much larger military campaign titled operation Pillar of Defense which comes as a response to the barrage of rockets fired at Israel earlier this week.
As Israelis gathered around their television sets, they witnessed an all too familiar scene; children running panic stricken in Shderot looking for cover from rockets and mothers and fathers stopping their cars in mid traffic in order to duck for cover. High ranking generals were brought into the studios in order to explain that “hard days are ahead of us,” that the worst is yet to come and that once again Israelis must demonstrate their exemplary resilience.
The response on the social networks was immediate. Comments written on the Facebook wall of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ranged from “King Bibi”, “finally actions and not words” and “god bless” to “go get them!”.
However, despite the Israeli public’s willingness to suffer the slings and arrows of the Hamas and other militant organizations in the Gaza strip, they have yet to be told what the goals of operation Go Get Them really are. Is it to end the rule of Hamas in the Gaza strip? Is it to end the firing of rockets on the southern part of Israel once and for all? Or is it simply another around in the game of thrones played between Israel and Hamas?
Following the 2009 three week bombardment of Gaza as part operation Cast Lead, the Gaza strip lay in ruins. Israel had attacked Hamas outposts, infrastructure and high level military commanders. The militant organizations operating in the Gaza strip suffered a devastating blow. Peace and tranquility were restored to the southern part of Israel. Terror was defeated.
But only for a few months.
While Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Barak operate in a world of black and white, reality is actually comprised of more then fifty shades of gray. Hamas is not James Bond’s Spectre, an organization who is evil just for the sake of being evil. It is a movement that was created and which operates in a certain context. Unlike Fleming’s spy novels, when the diabolical leader of Hamas is killed, his successor soon takes his place. As opposed to the ending of “Goldfinger,” there are no Israeli military operations that end in a “Grand Slam.”
So perhaps the time has come for Prime Minister Netanyahu to address the people of Israel and tell them the truth. That all he has to offer them is more fortifications and better equipped shelters. That all this military operation can achieve is a cease fire that will last months if not weeks. That there is but one permanent solution to the anguish of the people living in southern Israel whose life has become an endless cycle of fear and violence and that is to enter into immediate negotiations with the Hamas movement, a movement which many believe to be a pragmatic one that would be willing to abandon the course of violence in favor of a permanent peace treaty.
Yet this is a solution that Benjamin Netanyahu could never offer the people of Israel, be it because of his deep-routed ideology or inherent lack of leadership. Unfortunately, he is no pillar of defense. So all we can do for now is gather round the television sets and wait for this round to end.