Israel — Every cloud has a silver lining: Maybe lessons will be learned from the fire. Not only fire extinguishers, fire trucks and new planes, but also new thinking, and fire retardants that douse the really big fire.
The home front’s weakness should teach us that Israel apparently has no military option. This is a much more fateful lesson than all the fire’s other lessons, and it should be dealt with. The apocalyptic descriptions of a missile attack on the home front if Israel attacks Iran or Lebanon appear even more apocalyptic in light of Israel’s conduct when handling a medium-sized forest fire. Discussions on our future, therefore, should move to the arena that Israelis favor: the security arena.
Leave aside human rights and the occupation, don’t worry about morality and justice, forget about peace as a leftist delusion and ignore the Palestinian problem. The issue is Israel’s security interests, perhaps even existential interests.
The next wars will be home-front wars. This time the Israeli home front will be hit in a way we have never experienced. The first Gulf war and the Second Lebanon War were only the movie trailer for what could happen. An attack of thousands of missiles, as predicted by experts, will create a reality Israel will find hard to withstand. It isn’t equipped for it, as we saw on the Carmel, and it isn’t prepared for it, as we saw in the Lebanon war.
Any Israeli leader, even an adventurist and a former commando, should understand that the attack option is not really an option. It’s true that we succeeded in a few bombings in the past, but nothing lasts forever and the Scuds against us won’t always be hollow. A thousand new fire trucks and even the Iron Dome missile defense system will not provide protection. You can’t build a fortress for every citizen. This leads to the second, unavoidable conclusion, which should penetrate very deeply, not only among diplomats and commanders, but also among the many warmongers among us: the only existential option is integrating into the region (a term coined decades ago by Uri Avnery ).
Let the nationalists, settlers, rejectionists, militarists, security advocates, annexation backers, hawks, rightists, patriots, rabble-rousers and messianics look at what happened on the Carmel and tell us where they want to go with that. Let them explain what options Israel has when it says no to any chance for peace and its home front is so vulnerable. What hope does it have if it continues to live only by its sword, which was once strong and threatening, and is now rusting?
It was the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who once acknowledged in a private conversation that the main consideration that got him to the Oslo process was the realization of the limits of Israeli power. We’ve weakened since then, not only because of the threats to the home front, but because of our international standing. If we recognize this and understand that the military option has become unrealistic, except as a deterrent or an act of desperation, we will understand that there is only the diplomatic option, no other, and it is still open to us.
Israel will not be destroyed. Its heavy armaments will be decisive in the next round as well, but apparently with thousands of Israeli dead, tens of thousands on the other side and a resolute global front that will impose a solution on us. The trauma of the Yom Kippur War will look like a midsummer night’s dream, even if our complacent society again pretends that it was surprised. Then all Israelis will know that the diplomatic solution – which most Israelis said yes to in every poll before they went on watching “Big Brother” – was for years at their doorstep and the destruction was a destruction of choice.
Let any rightist politician and anyone who criminally wastes diplomatic time know the weight of the fateful responsibility he bears. For decades Israel persevered because of its strength. Now this power has critical limits. Last week a hint of them was sent from the Carmel. It should echo in every living room and ministry.