Israel’s defense establishment is abandoning the southern residents
Op-ed: The government’s reluctance to respond to the incendiary kite-flyers with lethal force highlights yet another example of southern residents being expected to accept their beleaguered existence. It reflects characteristic pandering to the international community and an irrational fear of a military escalation. The search for a technological solution in the form of drones only demonstrates Israel’s resignation to the notion that the threat of dozens of daily blazes will forever continue.
Israelis are currently witnessing an abandonment of their fellow citizens in the south by the security establishment.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has made a series of statements to convince Israelis that he is gearing up to tackle the lethal threat of incendiary kites and balloons that are terrorizing the south’s residents.
As recently as Monday, Lieberman said during a visit to an Israel Aerospace Industries factory: "If anyone thinks we can carry on with this daily routine of kites and fires, he is mistaken." Since these statements contain no indication that legitimately lethal defence force is imminent, such utterances are barely even a bark, so no military bite should be expected anytime soon.
So far, hundreds of kites and balloons have charred the south’s landscape, burnt wildlife to death, destroyed their natural habitats, incinerated crops, and given the southern residents yet another reason to fear walking the streets. At any moment, their homes could also go up in flames and sooner or later, at least one Israeli will die.
To their enormous discredit, this is precisely what the defense establishment is waiting for. Only such a fatality will galvanize them from their current state of inertia to one of long overdue action. Guided by the wholly unacceptable and irresponsible doctrine that only the loss of life justifies a meaningful retaliation, Israel’s leaders are paralyzing the defensive foundation upon with the Israel Defense Forces were conceived and built.
Crippled as they appear to be by the prospect of international condemnation, leaders who are escorted with heavy security details seem to believe that the blood and the melted flesh of an Israeli victim is worth waiting for before authorising a lethal response, which they would then foolishly attempt to justify before a self-righteous and hostile international community that cannot hear Israel, and never will.
To be sure, even if the death of an Israeli caused by the incendiary kites and balloons does by some miracle garner an international consensus about the justification of Israel’s actions, this still does not exonerate our leaders from partial guilt for the loss of life and it does not supersede the necessity to take action immediately.
Disputes have arisen in the cabinet over what constitutes a reasonable response and they are accompanied by several questions:
Is there a technological solution to this in the form of attack drones?
Would hitting Hamas targets be a more effective deterrent?
Will shooting to kill the kite and balloon flyers lead to a military escalation?
The answer to the first question is quite likely yes. The IDF has already begun using kite-attacking drones but we should not deceive ourselves into believing that they will ever deter the terrorists. Moreover, billions of shekels are already spent on the military for complex challenges. To expend more resources on countering such a primitive yet lethal weapon seems, frankly, absurd.
More importantly, Israelis should simply not have to live in a cat and mouse reality in which threats continue to fly in—literally—followed by the IDF’s attempts to shoot them down. Those who believe this to be an acceptable reality should either go and live in the south themselves or ask themselves if that is the kind of Zionist dream we are aspiring to realize.
It is worth noting that if drones do prove to be the solution to reducing the threat, Lieberman’s pledges that Israel will not accept a daily reality of burning kites are stripped of all meaning. On the contrary, a technological solution would be Israel’s surrender to the reality of a permanent threat of the southern region being set ablaze. Put simply, a counter solution that leaves the problem in place is not a solution at all.
The answer to the second question is simple: No. Its has not and it will not.
The answer to the third question is difficult to know but in any event it should not be the decisive factor in the defense establishment’s calculations. The same question could be asked of snipers shooting Palestinians trying to cross the border. But what is to be gained by the speculation? The terrorists have to be stopped and shooting them no doubt deters hundreds more attempted border crossings.
Currently there are two ministers calling for the IDF to shoot the kite-flying terrorists: Naftali Bennett and Gilad Erdan. Their clear-sighted position should not be seen as a symptom of ultra-right indifference to the shedding of Arab blood but as an articulation of the very principle of an Israeli defensive force.
Limiting the response to warning shots near the kite-flyers merely reflects a listless and inadequate modus operandi, as illustrated by the fact that several fires scorch southern Israel every day.
Southern residents are often praised for their resilience and determination to stay put despite being beleaguered above, on and below ground. Worthy as they are of such praise, what choice do they really have? A close friend neatly articulated the reality for me when he said that they are held hostage to the situation which the government is allowing to fester, for they can hardly leave even if they wish to do so. Not many people in their right mind would purchase a property from them when they know that a rocket, mortar or incendiary kite could land in their homes at any moment, or a terrorist could emerge from an tunnel in their backyard or community.
Without taking any particular political stance, Bennett and Erdan are currently the only voices in the cabinet representing the southern residents. The time has come to put an end to this farce of forsaking them and treating them as second class citizens, of believing that their indefatigable will and tested nerves of steel can handle it. Like all other Israelis, they are human beings and they deserve to live in peace and security.
The time has come to stop with the drones, to stop pandering to the international community, to stop with the warning shots, to stop with the symbolic and lackluster strikes on Hamas outposts and, most importantly, to stop lying to the southern residents. It is time to fight fire with fire and shoot directly at the incendiary kite-flyers, come what may. Our fire will surely prevail and extinguish theirs.