By Ron Jager—
Indifference cannot under any circumstances be seen as acceptable behavior of political leaders. Even great leaders can fall prey to the seductive effect of indifference and perceive the physical existence and suffering of their own countrymen in acceptable terms. Not since the days of the second “intifada”, when all of Israel become a battleground for Palestinian Arab suicide bombers who implemented their bus terror at a rate of two buses per day and murdering hundreds of Israelis, has the issue of national resiliency become once again a “litmus test” – of how much suffering is to be borne by the Israeli public before the government decides to act. In this case, the ongoing wave of terror in Jerusalem. in Judea and Samaria, and in major cities in Israel.
For the past 10 years, since the Second Lebanon War and since the first rocket was launched against the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip in the south of Israel, the Israeli public has been inundated by a resiliency network paid and funded in large part by American Jewish organizations. These organizations have done an immense service by providing resiliency training to “first responders” (police, MDA, Fire Fighters, and other rescue and support workers) as they have over the years responded to protect and the save lives of victims of Palestinian Arab terror. In addition, these organizations have created a “resiliency network” that augments existing municipal and medical services so as to assist the general public in times of need as a result of the continuing terror.
Due to the success of many of these resiliency programs that have enabled the Israeli public to withstand the incapacitating effect of on-going terror, it seems as if Israel’s political leaders have interpreted this national strength, this communal resiliency as a pretext to delay what must be done to end these repetitive cycles of Palestinian Arab terror once and for all; whether it be missile and rocket terror or stabbings and shootings such as in the current terror wave. Israeli political leaders can no longer abdicate their responsibility and at best act as conflict managers alone.
Understanding the fundamental difference between acting as a 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 the current terror wave without demanding to end 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 resiliency is not confused with complacency.
During this past month, in which all of Israel has suffered from the current terror wave, in which all of the Israeli public felt the threat of these attacks, it became impossible for political leaders to operate under the assumption that the daily terror attacks can continue being “bearable” and politically acceptable to the Israeli public. The Israeli public, especially, those living in Jerusalem, who felt the immediate threat of the current wave of terror have finally woken up and are differentiating between being strong and resilient versus 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-90’s up to the year 2003, in which 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 clean-up experts, within hours after a terror attack clean-up crews would erase any indication of what transpired only hours earlier. Population groups where 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” and so forth. For a number of years this situation continued, leading to over 1000 Israeli deaths.
Israelis were encouraged to adopt a kind of pathological resiliency capability leading to complacency that did nothing more than enable and encourage politicians to be indifferent to the on-going and destructive suffering of whole population groups. Worst of all; it lead 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 2003 disengagement, or for that matter, all of the current communities located in Judea and Samaria, who have had to contend with Palestinian Arab terror on the roads, in their communities, and even in their homes, for the past 48 years. Despite this difficult reality, the communities of Judea and Samaria have blossomed and have grown at an unprecedented rate, numbering today 750,000 residents 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 terror? How can one explain the industrial parks, the amazing agricultural, wine, and olive oil industries that were reintroduced into these areas after 2000 years of the land being neglected?
The paralyzing “resiliency syndrome” leading to complacency that typifies much of what the Israeli public has been inundated with, seems to stop at the green line. The communities of Judea and Samaria, and the communities that inhabited what was once “Gush Katif”, seem for the most part to have been 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, and that the public doesn’t have to surrender into accepting terror as a “force de jour”.
As we look back on the past decade and a half of repetitive Palestinian Arab terror wave, we 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 as an excuse to postpone ending the Palestinian Arab terror once and for all. This time around the public of Israel must overcome their learned response of complacency and demand of our political leadership to act like a sovereign power and protect all of the people of Israel fully before the next round is upon us again.
The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer and Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psychoeducation programs to communities in the North and South of Israel and is a strategic advisor to the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria/