Amidst the full glow of an unusually bright moon, Israeli tanks and troop formations battle in the shadows of Gaza. Each night Israelis, go to bed wondering what the headlines will read when they rise. And as night approaches that nauseating, yet necessary, thought stumbles carelessly into the minds’ of many Israelis; when will the next siren come?
When the rockets began to fall, many bars and clubs in Tel Aviv faded into the aging bow house scenery, restaurants dithered amid the humid evening glow, and those carefree moments reminiscent of youth, hallmarks of any summer, began to recede into the depths of the golden eastern horizon. And with each siren and announcement of a soldier’s death, come the shuttered blinds and palpations throughout the various shelters, staircases, and hearts of those in the country. These are results of waging war with a terror organization; they change how Israelis think, what they do, and where they go.
And it is at this time, when Israel faces a series of strategic challenges with both regional and worldwide implications, American support and guidance is scant. U.S. policy seems to blend into the grey façade of 21st century European diplomatic malaise. A malaise under which decades of unmatched American support as guarantors of security in such a volatile region, is rapidly eroding.
Devoid of any real strategic geo-political analysis, the current U.S. administration has failed not only to adequately assess those who pose regional threats, but those who are most deserved of U.S. support, namely Israel and Egypt. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a press conference a few days ago, spoke with rare candor about the region. In his remarks he painted a picture of Israel as a lone wolf going up against an abyss of uncertainty and danger. He painted a picture of not only instability in Syria, and the Palestinian territories, but of an ISIS sweeping across the plains of northern Iraq, encroaching on Israel’s eastern border. There was a deep sense of not only worry but of frustration. There is a guarded recognition that Israel is very much on it’s own in confronting these issues, its skin and its skin only, is in this fight. Israel, he stated, is in a region, “that is being seized by Islamic extremism. It is bringing down countries, many countries. It is knocking on our door, in the north and south.” What has for the past few years been an American policy of cautious non-confrontation has now mushroomed into an aggressive policy of appeasement towards a terror organization.
Not merely the desire for peace, but for peace of mind is a central Israeli goal in this war. In the daily fluctuations from happiness to abrupt sadness and anxiety brought on by the unrelenting sirens, one can observe the furrowed brows and shy smiles of human beings, Israelis, who so desperately wish for quiet. These are the stoic faces of a people who tire of war, and who are so passionately upset when their daughters, sisters, and cousins, are denied the chance to live, unmolested. These are people who look to America and her leaders for support to be met only with calls for restraint, and ceasefire proposals that lean heavily towards the demands of her enemies.
For a people so desirous of an elusive security, the unfortunate need to fight these wars damages the very core of the Israeli soul. This is a damage that can be seen on the faces of gas station workers, cab drivers, and parents who send their children off to their army bases. This is a damage that can be seen on the face of elderly people who often remark that one minute is not enough time for them to hurry down the stairs to bomb shelters in the middle of the night. And so, it seems as though body bags are not the only means by which to measure the depth of damage resulting from conflict. The scars, physical or psychological are real, and they cut deep.
Israel stands at the gate of all that the Western world holds dear, this much is clear. What is not clear is who else stands with them. Many Western countries might want to believe that war is an old fashioned, barbaric, abstraction that is no longer necessary or used by civilized countries. They might want to believe that all modern battles can be fought via international bodies and through diplomatic channels. But they might do well to reconsider these accepted axioms of the world today and consider that evil exists, and the indiscriminate firing of rockets into population centers of a democratic nation is a fair taste of the people they may soon be dealing with. They may want to question the isolationist pacifism that has crept into their very bones.
Though today the fighting is in the small, barricaded Gaza strip, the U.S. might consider taking notes, for this conflict is merely a bellwether of which way the winds of radicalism and terrorism are blowing, and no Western country, rather no free country, is immune to these winds.