For us in Israel, the past days of terror has revived many rituals that we have forgotten over the past couple of years. The radio is now kept open around the clock, so as to hear the hourly news reports and the announcement of yet another terror victim or missile attack on Be'er Sheva or Ashdod. We immediately call our children and extended family who are in the army or other family members in different locations throughout Israel, unconsciously conducting a body count making sure everyone is alive and well. On the national level, the level of vulgarity of the public discourse among politicians is kept at a bare minimum, resulting in the cynical observation of how united we become when Israel is threatened and Jews are attacked for no other reason than living in Israel.
Another familiar observance during days of escalated terror are the ensuing broadcasted funerals and short media reports sharing the short lives of combat soldiers killed, shattered families dealing with the loss of a father or son. Alongside these sad testimonies, we hear of civilians killed, a wife pregnant left to raise her unborn child alone, couples on the way to Eilat to vacation, murdered at point blank. You, see since the days of Oslo, we have been taught to erroneously believe that the is no differentiation between soldiers and civilians being on the front line, since all of Israel has become the front, so we have been told to believe. The unbearable familiarity of these rituals is only overshadowed by the unsettling feeling that the current heads of the military today were also responsible for similar humiliating failures in the past.
October 2000, as the 2nd Terror War by Arafat and the Arabs of Judean and Samaria threatened to engulf all of Israel, the current Defense Minister Ehud Barak then in the same position and the current Chief of Staff Benny Gantz who at the time was the Commander of the IDF forces in Judea and Samaria and directly commanded the forces in Shechem, the location of Kever Yosef. I myself was stationed as a Divisional staff officer in the Command Unit directly headed by General Gantz at the time and was privy to many of the decisions made as Arabs attacked wave after wave the site of Kever Yosef. The soldiers guarding Kever Yosef were true heroes, such as the case of the Cpl. Madhat Yosef, a Druze member of the I.D.F. shot by terrorists. At the time, Ehud Barak and General Gantz did not give the order to contingency military forces adjacent to enter Shechem and regain control of Kever Yosef, or the roads leading to this religious site, which would have saved the live of Cpl. Madhat Yosef, who bled to death. The soldiers were stationed at Kever Yosef in accordance to binding agreements Israel signed with the Palestinian Authority guaranteeing free access by the I.D.F. at all times.
The abandonment of the soldier Cpl. Madhat Yosef, reflects to a large extent the current mindset of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Benny Gantz who are ardent believers in avoiding confrontational responses to escalating terror action in the belief that in irregular wars against terror, Israel's military advantages are diminished and result in an unavoidable propaganda and media victory for the Arabs. As we all know, the I.D.F. cannot look good as a disproportional level of Arabs are killed. The fact that Hamas uses these unwilling Arab civilians as human shields means nothing to the international community. The result is that Barak and Gantz are willing to accept military and civilian deaths without feeling the need either operationally or politically to respond to salvage Israel's apparent weakening deterrence. The problem with this kind of strategic thinking is that the terror threat escalates to a level that prior to launching a massive military response, many civilians and soldiers will be killed and we the public will go through the many rituals that I mentioned above. In the same manner that Ehud Barak ordered the I.D.F. to abandon South Lebanon, and General Gantz abandoned Cpl. Madhat Yosef, the South of Israel will be exposed to fanatical Islamic motivation and the ever increasing accuracy of the Grad missile terrorists who will decide when and where to attack, causing the residents of the South to feel abandoned in terms of Israel's national priorities.
Prime Minister Netanyahu would be wise to remind the defense establishment that Gaza terror groups must suffer a heavy blow and that deterrence must be restored, even if that looks bad on you tube or any of the other social networking websites. The PM should reject outright defense ministry suggestions that this is a complicated period in light of the developments expected next month upon the statehood declaration by Abu Mazzen and other Arab leaders in Judea and Samaria, and therefore "all considerations must be examined" before every operation. This kind of "Oslo" thinking will only cause more unnecessary deaths among Israeli civilians and military personnel creating an unbearable strategic situation that will inevitably lead to an outright war with our neighbors including Egypt.