As I complete my 36 days of national service, hang my uniform, put away my boots, and store the last of my gear, my mind is in a mess of challenging and disturbing thoughts about it all. It’s not just the current situation in Gaza, but rather what’s going on in the big picture: Israel’s isolation in the world is increasing and it’s going to continue to do so, perhaps faster than ever before. This isolation, soon to be addressed, is a mere part of a much bigger problem – for it is the ramification of this isolation that concerns me most.
After serving as an IDF Spokesperson during the last two Gaza operations, I find myself once again at the close of yet another operation in response to indiscriminate Hamas rocket fire and terrorism. For over a month, we have been heavily engaged in an intense armed conflict with the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip. It is now clear to all, and not just the security and intelligence communities, that over the past five years since Operation Cast Lead and through Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas exploited the relative quiet in the region. Albeit with periodic escalations, Hamas has built up its capabilities far beyond anything we have seen in the past. Israel’s northern cities are now within rocket range of the Gaza Strip, a situation that forced the majority of Israelis into bomb shelters. Also, in addition to the already-known Sinai smuggling tunnels through which Hamas has amassed its arsenal over the years, Hamas terrorists built a network of attack tunnels leading to Israeli doorsteps intending to carry out terrorism throughout Israel’s south – including terror attacks against southern towns and kidnappings of Israeli civilians, and guerilla attacks against the IDF and kidnapping of its soldiers.
This information was certainly known to Israel’s intelligence community. Over the years the IDF and the SHABAK have done much to curb and limit Hamas’ build-up. However, Israel reached a critical point of no-return in its need to proactively and responsibly defend its citizens and restore security stability.
Indeed it’s not an easy conflict with its fair share of dilemmas and predicaments, but alas this is Israel’s unfortunate situation and the IDF has the duty to defend the people of Israel, while doing so in the best way possible. Unfortunately the IDF is engaged in this defensive operation against a ruthless terror organization that employs very dirty and self-destructive tactics, including the deliberate use of Gaza’s civilian population as human shields while firing rockets and launching attacks on Israel and its civilians. This situation will have effects that will surely continue to unfold in the near and distant future as we have learned in the past.
There are those who explain that Israel’s increased isolation in the world is a result of Israeli policies with regards to the Palestinians – be it the way the situation is being dealt with in Gaza or be it the impasse in the peace negotiations with the PA in the West Bank. Throughout the course of Operation Protective Edge, there have been protests against Israel’s military response to Hamas – very much expected and certainly not new. The alarming trend, however, is the way in which these protests have devolved in this current round. The world, especially Europe, has witnessed blatantly pro-Hamas, pro-Jihad rallies and anti-Semitic physical violence – France, UK, Germany, and beyond. The violence has reached such frightening levels, that both governments and civic organizations have expressed concern that this degree of violence has not been seen since the days of Nazi Germany. Jews have become the target of physical violence and attacks while ironically being labeled “Nazis” (regardless of whether or not they actually support Israeli policies). Ridiculous and ludicrous parallels have been drawn between Israel and Nazi Germany, where today, holocaust deniers make preposterous claims that Israel is waging a new holocaust, while at the very same time voice the desire for another holocaust upon the Jewish people – raising the bar of absurdity to whole new perplexing levels.
On the matter of Israel’s isolation, let’s stop pretending and recognize what’s really happening. This isolation is not growing because of Israel’s policies or the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It is quite clear that there is a correlation with the rise in anti-Semitic sentiment, rhetoric, and violent action that are spreading throughout the world. This isolation is certainly concerning, but this alone is not the problem. It is the consequences of this isolation that we should be aware of and these are related to other major issues.
In addition to Hamas in Gaza, also in the south, Salafist jihadists in Sinai have not yet been completely tackled, posing a problem to Israel as well as to its long-time peace partner, Egypt. In Jordan, another country that enjoys a mutually beneficial strategic peace agreement with Israel, there is growing internal civil unrest that is as hostile towards its leadership as it is towards Israel. In the north, Hezbollah continues to arm and strengthen in Lebanon, while in Syria, jihadists continue to threaten stability with regard to Israel while partaking in the unforgiving and bloody Syrian civil war. Also in the West Bank there is uncertainty, where there are peaks and troughs with regards to relative stability. Finally, in the regional theater, Iran continues to fund and arm terror organizations, inciting violence aimed at Israel as well as throughout the region in general, while plotting and pursuing their nuclear aims.
None of this should surprise you because it’s all “old news.” These threats are unfortunately not new to the Israeli strategic arena, but they are not alone in the broader scope.
For the past 36 days the world watched, read, and clicked through stories dealing with Operation Protective Edge. Often times outrage was voiced at Israel for its action despite the fact it is facing a genocidal enemy that has time and again, including during this very operation, swore to rid the world of the Jewish people. This criticism came at the very same time that the world at first unjustifiably ignored and is now correct in demanding action to stop a genocidal organization that is decapitating and raping its way through the cradle of civilization in the Fertile Crescent – murdering man, woman, and child, Christian and Muslim, anyone, who stands in the way of reaching its goal to establish a Sunni Islamist Caliphate throughout the Greater Middle East and perhaps the world. Both Iraq and Syria have fallen victim to the violent and vicious spread of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS), and the world is only now beginning to consider how to tackle this situation.
In addition, there are the unfolding situations in neighboring Africa, where Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabab in Somalia and Kenya have been waging bloody terror campaigns against all who challenge their views. Also ongoing, in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond, Al Qaeda and others who identify with radical ways are waging wars along lines that the west has difficulty comprehending.
This is our neighborhood, and this is where we live.
When faced with all these clear and present threats, it is no wonder that Israel security is a grave matter. It is a daily, perhaps hourly, struggle that must be considered every step of the way and for better or worse, often takes precedence over no-less critical issues that face this country, from education and social welfare to housing and economics.
Perhaps this is the outcome of the proverbial “chip on the Jewish shoulder.” Jewish paranoia, whether justified or not, exists and it would be foolish to deny it when considering our history – not only were we raped and murdered time and again, but it also happened in modernity when even the International Red Cross wouldn’t bother.
In a world where US-NATO influence and deterrence are declining as a new-old tune is being set in Eastern Europe, where a radical regime in Iran is being appeased through apparently meaningless attempts to curb its nuclear program, where “red-lines” are constantly being drawn, crossed, and re-drawn, I am concerned. I am concerned for what it means when Israel is indeed becoming increasingly isolated, for whatever the reason.
Where are we headed? How will we assess Israel’s strategic situation? Where will we feel comfortable or safe enough to take risks? How will we take actions? And of course, what does this all mean in the big picture?
Coming out of this recent operation, as one who believes in a strong and sovereign Jewish nation-state, I regrettably say that I find myself increasingly concerned with Israel’s need for security and not more at ease. When considering the complex and multi-faceted situation, we have to ensure that Israel remain strong and independent.
We must ensure our military superiority and ability to defend ourselves. As we move forward, we should understand the increased possibility that our future will need to be determined by ourselves, for we may very well have to “go it alone.”
For 36 days, I proudly answered the call of duty and returned to the IDF in service of Israel during Operation Protective Edge. While I hope it won’t happen again anytime soon, considering all of the above, I concede that my heart is telling me otherwise.