MBN

NEWS

Israel Hezbollah war: Opinion I’ve never seen Israelis as gloomy as they ar...

The Open: What you need to know- Early morning at The British Open Champions...
Published Time: 26.06.2024 - 07:16:59 Modified Time: 26.06.2024 - 07:16:59

All over Israel, there are incessant remainders of the roughly 80 hostages who are believed to still be alive in Gaza. Many wear a yellow ribbon and everywhere you see “Bring Them Home” signs. In such a small country, it seems everyone has a connection to this tragedy. One woman broke down in tears as she recounted to us how the daughter of a close friend is still being held in Gaza — and how her own daughter, an army soldier, narrowly escaped a terrible fate on Oct. 7 at a military base overrun by Hamas fighters. Israel Hezbollah war


“There is a sadness and lack of hope that permeates everyone,” one Israeli journalist told a group of visiting American scholars organized by the nonpartisan group Academic Exchange. Said a member of an Israeli think tank: “We are in dire straits. We are facing the worst threats since the [1948] War of Independence.” An archaeologist confessed: “I’ve never been as pessimistic as I am now Israel’s future. … It’s depressing. It’s scary.” These are not isolated voices: In a May poll, only 37 percent of Israeli Jews said they were very optimistic Israel’s future, down from 48 percent in March.

Numerous analysts have noted how traumatized Israelis remain by the horrific Hamas attack of Oct. 7. And no wonder. In my lifetime, the United States has experienced two major national traumas, separated by two decades: the 1979-1981 Iranian hostage crisis and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on Washington and New York. Israel experienced a combination of catastrophes on the same day, when Hamas killed more than 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped approximately 250 others. It was the worst disaster to befall the Jewish since the Holocaust.

All over Israel, there are incessant remainders of the roughly 80 hostages who are believed to still be alive in Gaza. Many wear a yellow ribbon and everywhere you see “Bring Them Home” signs. In such a small country, it seems everyone has a connection to this tragedy. One woman broke down in tears as she recounted to us how the daughter of a close friend is still being held in Gaza — and how her own daughter, an army soldier, narrowly escaped a terrible fate on Oct. 7 at a military base overrun by Hamas fighters.

Israel has undertaken the most extensive mobilization of reserves in its history, and the citizen-soldiers are getting exhausted from the constant call-ups. One student at Hebrew University — a reservist in the tank corps — told us how he had to study for his university courses in the middle of the night, while sitting inside his tank near the Lebanese border. “Many of us are tired,” he said. He and other reservists are furious that the ultra-Orthodox — a community of 1.2 million in a country with 7 million Jews — remain exempt from military service, thereby increasing the burden on the rest of society. (The Israeli Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the ultra-Orthodox must be conscripted.)

That burden might grow because Israel is facing the prospect of a major war against Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia in Lebanon, whose military capabilities dwarf those of Hamas. Ever since Oct. 7, Hezbollah has been shelling northern Israel, driving 60,000 Israelis from their homes. Israel has retaliated with airstrikes against Hezbollah leaders and positions. Now, the Israeli public is demanding that the military push Hezbollah away from the border so that Israel’s internal refugees can return to their homes in time for the start of the school year in the fall. But that risks throwing the already-exhausted Israel Defense Forces into another deadly quagmire while Hezbollah potentially fires its arsenal of 150,000 missiles at targets all over Israel.

Last week, Shaul Goldstein, the executive in charge of Israel’s power grid, made news by saying that Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah could “take down Israel’s power grid” anytime he wants. “After 72 hours without electricity in Israel, living here will be impossible,” Goldstein warned. “We are not in a good state and unprepared for a real war.”

Despite Israel’s wartime travails, few international observers extend much sympathy to the Jewish state. The world’s focus is almost entirely on the undoubted suffering of Palestinians in Gaza, with Hamas getting a pass for hiding behind civilians in violation of the laws of war. As one former Israeli government official noted to us, the Hamas strategy places Israel in a no-win situation: “If you defend yourself you’ll be a pariah, and if you don’t defend yourself you’ll disappear.”

Few Israelis express much sympathy for Palestinian suffering; they are focused on their own grief. Many of the Israelis we spoke to thanked us for coming at a time when Israel feels abandoned by much of the world. The feeling of being under siege was particularly evident at Hebrew University, which is dealing with boycotts from European and U.S. universities even though it is a melting-pot institution that educates Israeli Jews and Arabs side by side.

The incessant international criticism of Israel might be backfiring by leading more Israelis to embrace the right-wing government: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval rating, while still low, has rebounded a bit, to 31 percent from a post-Oct. 7 low of 24 percent, putting him ahead of opposition leader Benny Gantz for the first time in a year. Netanyahu might have been aided by the International Criminal Court’s May 20 issuing of a warrant for his arrest (along with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the leaders of Hamas). The ICC’s move was widely seen in Israel, even by Netanyahu’s opponents, as an attack on the whole country.

But Netanyahu’s continuing grip on power only exacerbates the dire situation in which Israel finds itself. The prime minister cannot agree on any “day after” plan for Gaza because his right-wing coalition partners have threatened to bring down his government if he gave the Palestinian Authority any role in governing Gaza or made promises to facilitate a Palestine state, no matter how far in the future. Israeli generals are starting to complain that the destruction of Hamas is not a realistic goal and that, with no political endgame in Gaza, their troops will be consigned to perpetual war. In response, Netanyahu’s son Yair Netanyahu has been posting on social media vitriolic attacks on the leaders of Israel’s armed forces and intelligence agencies that are reminiscent of former president Donald Trump’s unhinged attacks against the “deep state.”

NEWS