IDF forces seen gathering near the border with Gaza in Southern Israel on November 13, 2018. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

By Ron Jager

Indifference to the daily suffering of Israeli communities located in the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip seems to have become acceptable to Israel’s political leadership. Even outstanding leaders such as Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud government seem to have fallen prey to the seductive effect of political complacency, perceiving the physical existence and suffering of their own countrymen in acceptable terms. Not since the days of the second intifada, when all of Israel became a battleground for Palestinian Arab suicide bombers who implemented their bus terror at a rate of two buses per day and murdered hundreds of Israelis, has the issue of national resiliency become once again a litmus test for how much suffering must be borne by the Israeli public before the government decides to act. In this case, it is the ongoing rocket attacks by Gaza’s Palestinian terrorists on the cities and villages of southern Israel.

For the past 18 years since the first rocket was launched against a community surrounding the Gaza Strip in the south of Israel, the Israeli public has been inundated by a national resiliency and trauma network funded in large part by American Jewish organizations. These organizations have adopted a political agenda that has cynically empowered Israeli political leaders to abdicate their primary responsibility to protect the citizens of Israel and at best act as very effective conflict managers. Despite hundreds of rockets being fired on communities in southern Israel over the past few days, Israel’s political leadership, empowered by the southern residents’ “resiliency,” seems to accept the current situation as a necessary given and acceptable reality.

Understanding the fundamental difference between acting as a conflict manager in contrast to acting as a leader is crucial. Managing is about coping and learning to live with an external threat—that is, learning to live with missiles that rain on our communities in the south without demanding an end to this threat once and for all. Leadership requires political leaders to project a vision—political goals that motivate—and create a consensus among the majority of the population, enabling, for example, military action. Leadership means that national resiliency is not confused with complacency.

The Israeli public felt the threat of these attacks intermittently for the past seven months, but with southern Israel being hit with hundreds of rockets this past week, it became impossible for Israel’s political leaders to operate under the assumption that the daily missile attacks can continue being bearable and politically acceptable to the Israeli public. The Israeli public, especially those living in southern Israel who felt the immediate threat of the rocket attacks, allowing them less than 15 seconds of warning time to take cover, finally were able to differentiate between being strong and resilient and not lapsing into a false sense of complacency, a kind of political numbness that lets our political leaders off the hook.

I would like to remind us all that during the mid-1990s up to the year 2003, when suicide bombers were executing terror attacks at times at a rate of two per day, every effort was made to enable the public to continue functioning and maintain a “normal” routine. Municipalities became disaster-site cleanup experts. Within hours after a terror attack, cleanup crews would erase any indication of what transpired only hours earlier. The Israeli public was encouraged to get up the following morning and go to work, under the banner of “we must continue on” or “we can’t let the terror win.” For a number of years this situation continued, leading to over 1,000 Israeli deaths. Israelis were encouraged to adopt a pathological resiliency capability leading to complacency that did nothing more than enable and encourage politicians to be indifferent to the ongoing and destructive suffering of whole population groups. Worst of all, it led to a political culture that inhibited true political change that would have been mandated in a similar situation among other Western nations.

In comparison, the communities of Gush Katif prior to the 2005 disengagement—or, for that matter, all of the current communities located in Judea and Samaria—have had to contend with Palestinian Arab terror on the roads, in their communities, and even in their homes for the past four decades. Despite this difficult reality, the communities of Judea and Samaria have blossomed and grown at an unprecedented rate, numbering 850,000 residents today and expected to approach one million residents by the end of the decade. How can one explain this phenomenal growth in population despite so many years of wanton Palestinian Arab terror? How can one explain the industrial parks and the amazing agricultural, wine, and olive oil industries that were reintroduced into these areas after 2,000 years of the land being neglected by the Arabs indigenous to the area?

The paralyzing effects of the “resiliency syndrome” leading to complacency with which the Israeli public has been inundated seems to stop at the green line. The communities of Judea and Samaria and the communities that once inhabited what was Gush Katif seem to have been overlooked by the “resiliency network” and left on their own. Fortunately, this has been a blessing in disguise, empowering the people of these communities to respond normally, meaning that the government of Israel is held responsible for their wellbeing and is expected to fully protect them, demanding that there should be an end to Palestinian Arab terror. They don’t expect the public to have to surrender into accepting terror as a “force de jour,” meaning that they have every right to demand of the national political leadership to provide peace and tranquility, and, most importantly, to act.

As we look back on almost two decades of unprecedented rocket terror on southern Israel, we, the citizens of Israel, must ask ourselves whether or not we want to continue to pay the price of being complacent, of allowing our political leaders to use our national resiliency, our ability to be strong, as an excuse to postpone ending the rocket and missile threat on Israel once and for all. Palestinian rocket terror will continue to rain on the communities of southern Israel, if not tomorrow then in the next round. After the past week in which political complacency has raised its ugly head, the citizens of Israel must overcome their Pavlovian response of being strong yet complacent. The Israeli public must demand of our political leadership to act like a sovereign power and protect all of the people of Israel fully before the next round of rocket terror strikes us again.

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 or visit Read more of Ron Jager’s articles here.


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