Photo: AFP
Monument in memory of fallen IDF soldiers. The next knock on the door is only a matter of time
Photo: AFP
Shimon Shiffer

How to prevent the next fallen soldier

Op-ed: Rocket fired at southern Israel on Independence Day served as a reminder that if Israeli leadership continues to avoid pursuing a deal with Palestinians, circle of bereavement will grow.

For those who didn't hear the state leaders' speeches last week, on Memorial Day and Independence Day, here is a short, reflective summary of the two main messages they tried to convey to us:



The knock on the door: The chilling and most difficult moment in the lives of bereaved families is when the people announcing their disaster arrive. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described that moment very well when he said that he was the one who knocked on his parents' door to inform them of the death of his brother, Yoni, who was killed in action during Operation Entebbe in Uganda.


This year, it seems, we have been exposed to more heart-rending stories of the families which joined the circle of bereavement in Operation Protective Edge than to descriptions and stories from previous wars, and that's natural. The political leadership's message promised us that they did not die in vain, and in the same breath that we must prepare for the next round of the conflict with our enemies. In other words, the sword will go on devouring forever.


Seeking forgiveness: After the right-wing parties' election campaigns encouraged the polarization and rift between the different components of the Israeli society, when the winners of the elections arrived at the cemeteries they remembered that death doesn’t distinguish between right and left and that loyalty to the state doesn’t belong to one camp or another. Their speeches had an apologetic tone and addressed the entire public in Israel.


Netanyahu at Memorial Day ceremony. 'Leaders of democracies can become prisoners of their own rhetoric' (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Netanyahu at Memorial Day ceremony. 'Leaders of democracies can become prisoners of their own rhetoric' (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


But the most troubling thing has to do with the messages which were not included in the speeches of the political leadership, which will soon sit around the government table for another term. I am referring to a certain hint regarding the following question: What now, after the knock on the door? In other words, how do they intend to prevent further bereavement, more knocks on the door, among the people living here?


Ironically, for those who wished to forget or make us forget what happened here last summer, Hamas came along and reminded us at the end of Independence Day that none of what we have been promised has been fulfilled: Hamas is still arming itself, is still digging tunnels and is preparing for the next round against Israel. It hasn't been beaten. Israel is rebuilding the Gaza Strip, and Iran is supplying the ammunition.


The purpose of the rocket fired at the southern communities on Thursday evening was to serve as a reminder to the Israeli leadership that if it continues to ignore and avoid pursuing a deal with the millions of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the most horrible scenarios could be realized, God forbid. The knock on the door, therefore, is only a matter of time.


In his speeches, Netanyahu often mentions chapters in the history of the past 70 years, in an attempt to teach us lessons that nations and leaders failed to learn from World War II. He, unlike others, has learned – and he wants us to believe that he is guided by a sober perception of reality.


British historian Antony Beevor's monumental book about World War II was translated into Hebrew in recent months. Towards the end of the book, the author suggests that his readers beware of making comparisons between what happened in that war and the events happening today.


"There is a real danger of the Second World War becoming an instant reference point, both for modern history and all contemporary conflicts," he wrote. "In a crisis, journalists and politicians alike instinctively reach for parallels with the Second World War, either to dramatize the gravity of the situation or to sound Rooseveltian or Churchillian."


Leaders of democracies, Beevor warned, "can become prisoners of their own rhetoric, just like dictators."


If I may draw just one conclusion from the British historian's advice, it is that the prime minister should be expected to put a practical proposal on the table about the direction he plans on leading us in. Otherwise, he could go down in the history of our prime ministers with the unflattering title of "one who was there" and nothing more.


פרסום ראשון: 04.26.15, 23:44
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