Indifference to the daily suffering of Israeli communities located in the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip seems to have become acceptable to Israel’s political leadership. Even outstanding leaders such as Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud government seem to have fallen prey to the seductive effect of political complacency, perceiving the physical existence and suffering of their own countrymen in acceptable terms.
Not since the days of the second “intifada”, when all of Israel become a battleground for Palestinian Arab suicide bombers who implemented their bus terror at a rate of two buses per day and murdered hundreds of Israelis, has the issue of national resiliency become once again a “litmus test” - of how much suffering is to be borne by the Israeli public before the government decides to act. In this case, it is the ongoing attacks of hundreds of rockets by Gaza’s Palestinian terrorists on the cities and villages of Southern Israel.
For the past 18 years, since the first rocket was launched against a community surrounding the Gaza Strip in the south of Israel, the Israeli public has been inundated by a national resiliency and trauma network funded in large part by American Jewish organizations. These organizations have adopted a political agenda that has cynically empowered Israeli political leaders to abdicate their primary responsibility to protect the citizens of Israel and at best act as very effective conflict managers. Despite hundreds of rockets being fired on communities in Southern Israel in the past few days, Israel’s political leadership, empowered by the Southern residents’ “resiliency” seems to accept the current situation as a necessary given and acceptable reality.
Understanding the fundamental difference between acting as a conflict manager in contrast to acting as a leader is crucial. Managing is about coping and learning to live with an external threat; that is, learning to live with missiles that rain on our communities in the South without demanding an end to this threat once and for all. Leadership requires political leaders to project a vision, political goals that motivate and create a consensus among the majority of the population, enabling - for example - military action. Leadership means that national resiliency is not confused with complacency.
For the past seven months, intermittently, and in the past week on an esacalated level, Southern Israel has been hit with barrages of hundreds of rockets, in which all of the Israeli public felt the threat they constituted. It became impossible for Israel’s political leaders to operate under the assumption that the daily missile attacks can continue, being “bearable” and politically acceptable to the Israeli public. The Israeli public, especially, those living in the South of Israel, who felt the immediate threat of the rocket attacks allowing them less than 15 seconds of warning time to take cover, finally were able to differentiate between being strong and resilient versus not lapsing into a kind of political numbness that lets our political leaders off the hook.
The public doesn’t have to surrender, accepting terror as a “force de jour,” meaning that they have every right to demand that the national political leadership provide peace and tranquility and most important, act.
I would like to remind us all that during the mid-90’s and up to the year 2003, in which suicide bombers were executing terror attacks at times at a rate of two per day, every effort was made to enable the public to continue functioning and maintain a “normal routine”. Municipalities became disaster site clean-up experts, within hours after a terror attack clean-up crews would erase any indication of what transpired only hours earlier. The Israeli public was encouraged to get up the following morning and go to work, under the banner of “we must continue on” or “we can’t let the terror win” and so forth.
For a number of years this situation continued, leading to over 1000 Israeli deaths. Israelis were encouraged to adopt a pathological resiliency capability leading to complacency that did nothing more than enable and encourage politicians to be seemingly indifferent to the on-going and destructive suffering of whole population groups. Worst of all; it led to a political culture that inhibited true political change that would have been mandated in a similar situation among other Western nations.
In comparison, the communities of “Gush Katif” prior to the 2005 disengagement, or for that matter, all of the current communities located in Judea and Samaria, have had to contend with Palestinian Arab terror on the roads, in their communities, and even in their homes, for the past four decades. Despite this difficult reality, the communities of Judea and Samaria have blossomed and grown at an unprecedented rate, numbering today 850,000 residents and expected to approach a million residents by the end of the decade.
How can one explain this phenomenal growth in population despite so many years of wanton Palestinian Arab terror? How can one explain the industrial parks, the amazing agricultural, wine, and olive oil industries that were reintroduced into these areas after 2000 years of the land being neglected by the Arabs indigenous to the area? And sustaining an immense agricultural industry that has emerged in recent years?
The paralyzing effects of the “resiliency syndrome” leading to complacency that typifies much of what the Israeli public has been inundated with, seems to stop at the green line. The communities of Judea and Samaria, and the communities that once inhabited what was “Gush Katif”, seem to have been overlooked by the “resiliency network” and left on their own. Fortunately, this has been a blessing in disguise, empowering the people of these communities to respond normally, meaning, that the government of Israel is held responsible for their wellbeing and is expected to fully protect them, demanding an end to Palestinian Arab terror, expecting that the public not have to surrender into accepting terror as a “force de jour” , meaning that they have every right to demand the national political leadership provide peace and tranquility and most important, act.
As we look back on almost two decades of unprecedented rocket terror on Southern Israel, we the citizens of Israel must ask ourselves whether or not we want to continue and pay the price of being complacent - of allowing our political leaders to use our national resiliency, our ability to be strong, as an excuse to postpone ending the rocket and missile threat on Israel once and for all.
Palestinian rocket terror will continue to rain on the communities of Southern Israel, if not tomorrow, then in the next round. After the past week in which political complacency has once more raised its head, the citizens of Israel must overcome their Pavlonian response of being strong yet complacent. The Israeli public must demand our political leadership act like a sovereign power and protect all of the people of Israel fully before the next round of rocket terror strikes us again.
The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer. Prior to retiring in 2005, served as the Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psycho education programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. He was former strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.
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