By Ron Jager
It’s almost impossible not to notice something different in our national pace over the past few days. Even though sirens shriek every once in a while, there is a quietness, a kind of tranquility, that always seems to be present during wartime. The streets and highways seem emptier. Shopping malls and coffee shops, traditionally full at all times of the day (giving us the feeling that in Israel no one really works) stand idle. As for news reports and bulletins, the nation is glued to whatever media they feel comfortable with—cell phone, radio, TV, Internet, social media, or even word of mouth.
Almost everyone has a son or family member in Gaza or on his way to Gaza. When the news bulletins are broadcast, you notice that everyone becomes stiff, focusing on what’s being reported, hoping and praying not to hear a name or military unit that was involved in combat and suffered losses. Surprisingly, the general atmosphere is far from grim, and most of us in Israel sincerely believe that the political leadership and the IDF will succeed in defending the citizens of Israel. During times of war, Israel is one large extended family, and families stick together.
The other day, as I was walking down Even Gvirol Street in the heart of Tel-Aviv, the sirens went off, alerting us all that the Hamas terror organization had fired a salvo of missiles on the city. Within a matter of seconds, two Iron Dome antimissile defense systems fired their rocket batteries, intercepting in midair the missiles fired from Gaza, causing them to explode way up in the sky. It’s an amazing sight; more so, it’s an amazing technological accomplishment for Israel, keeping in mind that there is no other similar system anywhere in the world.
It’s mind-boggling to think that a determined, well-funded, anti-Semitic Islamic terror organization fires thousands of missiles at Israel over the past 14 days, yet inflicts so few casualties. I wonder what must be going through the heads of the Hamas leadership who wholeheartedly believe that Allah is on their side and it’s only a matter of time before we Jews pack up and abandon ship. Historically, Jews generally do not abandon ship, but they have been pushed overboard. No longer.
“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” This idiom tells us a lot about being creative, particularly when creativity leads to innovation, and innovation is critical to keeping the State of Israel safe from the threat of missile attacks. To get an idea of this technological breakthrough, imagine two bullets hitting one another a few miles up in the air at the speed of sound. In the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, the lemons in question are the thousands of rockets being fired into Israel on a daily basis. Israel’s “lemonade” was the development of the Iron Dome antimissile system, designed to track and intercept incoming short-range missiles with its own missiles before the attacking missiles strike their targets. Missiles that would have hit an unpopulated area are ignored, in order not to waste munitions. To date, the system has been successful, intercepting approximately over 90% of the threats it faces. I have no doubt that Operation Protective Edge will be remembered as “the Iron Dome war,” when technology helped save the Jews and the “Start-Up Nation” became the “Shoot-Down Nation.”
Yet with all the success of the Iron Dome system, as long as primal Jew-hatred occupies the minds and hearts of the Palestinian Arabs, the weeds of terror will always grow, no matter how often you “mow the grass.” As long as Hamas thinks it can count on pressure from the U.S. and the international community to ensure that it remains in control of the Gaza Strip, the fighting will continue. It is time for us all to wake up to the fact that nothing short of ending Hamas’s control of Gaza will end the current situation in which much of the Israeli population is being forced to take shelter from incessant missiles fired on Israel. Only if we eliminate Hamas’s leadership and destroy its rocket arsenal and vast network of tunnels and bunkers will Hamas be finished off once and for all.
President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry should be awakened from their strategic coma and internalize the complex reality that here in the Middle East the truly unsustainable status quo is not Israeli control of Judea and Samaria but Hamas’s stronghold of the Gaza Strip. The best thing the Obama administration can do to stop the fighting is to signal to the Islamists and their foreign allies such as Turkey and Qatar that the U.S. supports an Israeli campaign to oust Hamas from Gaza. v
Ron Jager is a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a field mental-health officer and as commander of the central psychiatric military clinic for reserve soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty in 2005, he has been providing consultancy services to NGOs, implementing psychological trauma treatment programs in Israel. Ron currently serves as a strategic adviser to the chief foreign envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ronjager.com.