Twenty years have passed since Israel launched the Defensive Shield – the military operation that turned the tide of the Second Intifada. It started at the end of March 2002 and lasted until mid-May of that year. Aviv Kochavi, now IDF Chief of Staff, was the young commander of the Parachute Brigade. Tasked with a difficult mission, to take over the Balata Palestinian refugee camp while keeping civilians and soldiers as safe as possible, he had an idea. Ohad Laslau, who recently published the official story of Operation Defensive Shield, “From Containment to Decision,” records a meeting between Kochavi and then-Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz during an operation in the Balata refugee camp, from which terrorists emerged. blowing up buses and cafes, was about to begin.
Colonel Kochavi: What I want to tell you and this is important, we sat here, and you know, pressure produces ideas. We will do everything through the houses, through the roofs.
Lt. Col. Mofaz: What do you mean by “through the houses”?
Collar. Kochavi: What’s in the houses? … tomorrow morning … ten soldiers with discs [will join us].
Mofaz: What is it?
Colonel Kochavi: With discs, to break through the walls…”
And so they did, moving through the crowded camp, as they cut through the walls of the linked houses. The traps, snipers, ambushes that were prepared for the paratroopers in the streets remained unused as the soldiers slowly entered the camp without having to expose themselves to such attacks. Laslau describes what happened next: “Seeing the holes in the walls of the houses in the Balata refugee camp, Mofaz feared that the legitimacy of the action would be compromised, and ordered to ‘try to avoid the damage, all those holes in the walls, where there are openings, where there are doors and there are windows, use them.
In the end, the idea was brilliant and the operation a psychological and operational success. But the fight was far from over. The IDF has not yet deterred or significantly harmed the capability of terrorist organizations. It took more effort, more time.
It’s been twenty years, and Israel is wondering again if a Third Intifada is happening. A series of terrorist attacks have put the country on high alert and revived the apprehension and fear of a bygone era. Don’t they remember how it ended the last time they tried? Don’t they know – they, that is to say the terrorists – that Israel would not yield under threats and attacks? The answer is, well, complicated.
“They” were very young, perhaps unborn, when Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield. So while the older among us remember it, while the older among us are still traumatized – and also quite certain that Israel would win – the younger Palestinians have no clear memory of how their efforts to defeat Israel failed in the second Intifada, and young Israelis have no clear memory of how Israel was able to harness its resilience amid a huge wave of cruel bloodshed and unnecessary.
Those who watch the Russian-Ukrainian war keep wondering if it is a “third world war” or a “second cold war”, as if the only option is to have a sequel of a pre-existing phenomenon.
Of course, it could also be just another small wave, an eruption of violence that ends within weeks or months, or it could be something else that we don’t quite understand. It is human folly to always look for the familiar pattern when interpreting current developments. Thus, those who watch the Russian-Ukrainian war keep wondering if it is a “third world war” or a “second cold war”, as if the only option is to have a sequel. of a pre-existing phenomenon. Thus, those who watch Israeli Arabs and Palestinians use violence against Israelis are preparing for a “Third Intifada” and the need for a “Second Defensive Shield Operation”, as if the only option for Israel and the Palestinians was to have a sequel to a pre-existing phenomenon.
It’s not the only option, and in fact, not even the best option. “Defensive shield,” writes Laslau, “is a type of military operation that has no tangible achievement in the form of victory. Indeed, his main achievement was to restore the Tsahal’s freedom of action in all areas. [of Judea and Samaria]anytime.” In short, twenty years ago, Israel was not yet a winner; it simply learned to win. It also learned to ignore those who say that terrorism is unbeatable by military means. is beatable. And if necessary, Israel will prove it once again.
Something I wrote in Hebrew
I wrote about a study that showed two things: First, religious Israelis care much more about Diaspora Jews than secular Israelis. And, second, it changes when Israelis are asked if they are willing to take into account the opinions of Diaspora Jews on the religious affairs of the state.
All of this, of course, creates a sort of paradox: the more responsibility Jews in Israel feel for the Diaspora, the less they are willing to make ideological compromises to allow Diaspora Jews to feel at home here. The more Jews in Israel are willing to let Diaspora Jews feel at home, the less they care about the bond with Diaspora Jews. This is also a sort of explanation for certain crises in relations between Israel and the Diaspora. Those who want relationships are not willing to be flexible about Jewish identity. Those willing to be flexible about Jewish identity aren’t particularly interested in relationships.
One week figures
And this is what it looks like:
Response from a reader:
Zvi Erez asked, “Does Bennett get more political support because of his success as prime minister?” Answer: First, not everyone considers it a success. And two, no.
Shmuel Rosner is a political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.