There were days when we mocked the “Hatzatzit,” the stone-throwing vehicle developed by the IDF to respond to the first Intifada’s mass demonstrations. How could it be, we wondered, that the great, wise IDF goes back to the Stone Age and confronts civilians so primitively?
Yet these days, in the face of the embarrassing images of hundreds of Palestinians storming into Israel from Syria, some defense officials here long for the good old “Hatzatzit,” which was capable of hurling stones in every direction in order to disperse crowds. However, we no longer have a “Hatzatzit.” The vehicles were taken apart years ago in one of the IDF’s frugality binges.
Yet the “Hatzatzit” is merely a parable, of course. At this time, the IDF does not possess a modern, proper means characterized as a “non-lethal weapon” that can contend with mass riots by unarmed civilians
Only after the operational mishap on the Golan Heights, where dozens of Syrians entered Israel, did someone around here wake up: Officials issued a sweeping order to seek non-lethal weapons at any price, anywhere on the globe. Our entire establishment is now focusing on this mission.
It’s not as though they failed to see the need for such weapons before. We even saw early-stage developments based on sound waves that can paralyze large crowds or a system that utilizes electric fields (a project that was rejected by the IDF’s chief medical officer.) For some 20 years, various ideas came up following traumatic incidents involving encounters with civilians – yet the events ended, and the ideas and budgets dried up
After all, this is how the State of Israel conducts itself in the areas most critical to its existence: Leaks are fixed, fires are put out, and we hope for the best until the next crisis comes around. Does anyone even remember the march of Hezbollah members in May 2000 towards South Lebanon Army outposts that dictated the timing and manner of the IDF’s withdrawal?
Back then too, the marchers faced confused commanders who had two choices: Kill them or fold. An IDF division commander faced the exact same dilemma in Majdal Shams recently, as if 11 years haven’t passed since then.
The State of Israel’s security and existence are currently facing three threats: Iranian nukes, the thousands of rockets and missiles that cover the entire country’s territory, and mass uprisings like the Intifadas, Nakba Day and the new model that emerged in the Arab world in recent months.
Israel has invested and is investing huge sums of money and diplomatic efforts to thwart the first two long-range threats. Yet in the face of the third threat, what we’ve seen thus far is criminal neglect. We saw it with the Turkish flotilla. We see it daily on the Egyptian border, with hundreds of African refugees coming in and encountering an army that does not have the means to respond.
The Palestinians continue to erode Israel’s global status through a gradual effort aimed at painting us as the culprit in the international theater by September. Meanwhile, the world holds greater sympathy for popular uprisings. For that reason, we shall see more flotillas as well as more marches to our borders, and the IDF won’t know what to do.
So now we have a commotion. We must find a solution, quickly. The Defense Ministry already established expert committees. Officials are already mulling the possibility of using Israel’s new firefighting squadron to hurl smelly or colored water at the masses. Other officials are meeting with military attachés, seeking American solutions used in Afghanistan, and hoping that the answers will arrive here before the masses do.
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