Another Gaza war looming? We'll manage
Op-ed: The reports about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the cabinet’s decision to cut the power supply to the strip are being received in Israel with a collective shrug. A stranger may think that, as far as we’re concerned, the question of ‘will there be a war?’ falls into the same category as ‘where will we vacation this year?’ or ‘is Britney Spears worth the money?’
“My son was killed, it’s not that someone spilled a glass of water!” Ilan Sagi shouted at the Channel 2 News studio. It happened several minutes after the state comptroller’s report on Operation Protective Edge, in which Ilan lost his son Erez, was released. His monologue, which accused the government of “playing with our soldiers’ blood,” rendered the chatter around the report meaningless. “Get up! Scream!” he urged the viewers.
But it was already clear that day that his outcry would fade away along with State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s conclusions. Israel didn’t have to wait for February 2017 to make the summer of 2014 disappear. It happened much earlier, as the last election campaign proved. The parties engaged in countless issues during the campaign. The war—which left 73 people dead on the Israeli side and 2,125 people dead on the Palestinian side (including 761 civilians and 428 uncategorized males), according to a Foreign Ministry report—wasn’t the main issue.
It’s hard to say that the public is going berserk over the possibility of another round of war in the near future. The increasing reports about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and about the cabinet’s decision to cut the electricity supply to the strip even more are being received with a collective shrug. Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich tweeted that the solution to the situation was occupying the strip and restoring Israeli control—out of concern for the residents, of course. The earth didn’t move.
A perfect stranger might think that, as far as we’re concerned, the question of “will there be a war?” falls into the same category as “where will we vacation this year?” or “is Britney Spears worth the money?” Sort of salon talks about unharmful events that may or may not happen, and we’ll manage either way. The actual existence of more potential death and destruction isn’t sending paralyzing chills of fear through our bodies. The clocks aren’t being stopped and the phones aren’t being disconnected.
Perhaps there really is no reason to panic. The prime minister says “we have no interest in an escalation,” and commentators believe that even Hamas is not necessarily interested in a conflict. But this tune sounds so familiar. Like a pop star who won’t stop basing his hits on the same accords. After all, even in 2014, neither side was trigger-happy, allegedly, yet the battle arrived and we emerged from it almost two months later. Even this not-so-distant history is failing to put a spoke in our celebrations of the beautiful sun, the tourists flooding Tel Aviv and the busy concert schedule.
There is nothing new in the statement that repression is the most effective Israeli system. I wish public transportation were as efficient as our ability to minimize the anxiety that dominated us in July and August of 2014. The outburst of nationalism and the attacks on critical voices have also been forgotten in favor of holding onto emotionally moving displays of unity.
According to the state comptroller’s report, the cabinet failed to look into diplomatic alternatives to war. The civilian indifference today, after all the warnings, proves that the shareholders—we—are under the impression that there is no such an option. It may be the government’s most tremendous success: Causing the mainstream to perceive the war as a predestination, after which only the dead and their families pay the bill.
As soon as this theoretical discussion turns into reality, we will gather once again under the wings of pretend solidarity. The anger will be let out, followed by the tears. And there will be, of course, a state comptroller’s report, and then a shocking television appearance by a bereaved parent. As if someone barely spilled a glass of water here.