8/20/15 Syrian Rocket Attack- A View of a Middle East in Turmoil from Tel Aviv
Whatever the rationale, the readying of Iron Dome batteries is a reminder to all of us that the peace and quiet we enjoyed this summer can end at any time. Unfortunately, most Israelis need no reminder of how fragile our peace and quiet can be. For those who are living or serving in the West Bank, that peace and quiet has been interrupted four times in the past few days, with what have been called “lone wolf’ attacks – i.e. attacks that are seemingly not coordinated and not credited to any organization. These attacks have largely been thwarted and usually result in the wounding or death of the attacker. The very real concern is that these attacks could spread geographically to other parts of Israel at any time. This is not taking place in a vacume
During the past few weeks, the international news continues to be dominated by the argument over approval of the agreement between the Iran and the P+5 regarding nuclear weapons. Observers wonder why such an overwhelming majority of Israelis support the seemingly quixotic efforts of the Israeli government to derail the agreement. They question why Israel, a “mini-super power”, with the strongest army in the region–by far, the most advanced technology and a strong economy, continues to pursue such a course.
I must point out that Israelis do not perceive their reality in the same way as do international observers. The majority of Israelis see a small country, with enemies (and perhaps a few lukewarm friends) at each of its borders. Israelis view once-stable if not friendly neighboring regimes, being replaced by entities rife with instability, chaos and death – on a scale not seen since World War II. While the West has been preoccupied debating about Iran, ISIS has been expanding their reach, slowly conquering more of Syria, and now appears to be gaining a foothold in Libya, having captured the port city of Serte. As ISIS has grown, the West and parts of the Arab world have responded primarily with condemnatory words and a rather ineffectual bombing campaign, reminiscent of U.S. bombing efforts once mounted to defeat the Viet Cong in bygone days.
Sitting in Tel Aviv, an observer can look in every direction and see multiple construction cranes, simultaneously building dozens of high-rise apartment complexes and a growing assortment of skyscrapers. Tel Aviv appears to be the epitome of economic strength and growth. But, if one’s gaze extends somewhat further, the hills of the West Bank loom in the distance, along the horizon, appearing deceptively peaceful. To the northeast (a mere hundred miles from Tel Aviv) swathes of Syria are controlled by ISIS. And, to the South, a mere 40 miles distant from bustling Tel Aviv, lies the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas – and further on, the Sinai desert, where ISIS has been waging a battle against the Egyptian army.
I could go on … though, suffice it to say, when the average resident of Tel Aviv looks to the future, he or she sees two very different possible stories unfolding. One tells of a Tel Aviv boasting a center of worldwide renown for global research and development – an international city, served by non-stop flights from Tokyo, Beijing and Los Angeles, where East-meets-West and and where Israelis are on the cutting edge of every technological advance. Alternatively, Tel Aviv residents can easily envision the possibility of Israel facing a Sunni world, largely controlled by a fanatical fundamental Islamist group (currently known as ISIS), whose forces may soon stand at all of israel’s borders. Adding to this more disquieting scenario, there is a very good chance that Iran will soon be armed with a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Which future is more likely to come to pass? I must believe in the first one, otherwise I could not be living in Tel Aviv together with most of my children. On the other hand, I (and, I believe, most Israelis) cannot get the more apocalyptic image out of my head. Israelis live their lives believing in a promising future, but that does not stop them from always fearing a much more dangerous outcome.