By Jeremy Jacobson
I’m trying not to be too political these days – at least not publicly – because as a soldier I feel it is inappropriate. Now, however, I’ve had some time to mull over the results of the recent election – time to discuss them with friends and family (both Israeli and otherwise) and to reflect on the intense emotional toll the results have taken on me and those around me. It seems that much of Tel Aviv is sitting a political shiva these days. Here are some thoughts:
Most Sunday mornings, I catch the 104 from my apartment on Allenby to the Haganah train station in South Tel Aviv where, along with hundreds of other soldiers, I board a train and return to my base for the week. Most Sunday mornings, as I arrive at the terminal, I think of Almog Shiloni, a 20-year-old soldier who was stabbed to death last November while making the exact same trip at that exact same train station. And most Sunday mornings, as I step off the bus and struggle to lift the strap of my kit bag over my head and across my body, I take a suspicious look around, and keep one eye cast over my shoulder as I enter the station.
The only thing that explains Bibi’s decisive victory is fear: of Arabs, of Iran, of the “left,” of anyone who isn’t “us.” As most pundits have noted by now, the Prime Minister played the “Mr. Security” card with exquisite precision, stoking racial panic as never before and feeding on fears of what the Arabs (and the Left) would do to the country should they ever seize power from his supposedly steady hands.
But ask Almog’s mother how much security Bibi has actually delivered. Ask four-year-old Daniel Tregerman’s mother, or the families of the more than 70 soldiers killed and hundreds wounded in Gaza last summer. Ask the families of the two Givati soldiers killed on the Lebanese border less than two months ago how safe they feel with “Mr. Security” at the helm. When I step off the bus at the Hagana station, I keep my head on a swivel precisely because Mr. Security simply hasn’t delivered.
In reality, those who voted for Bibi failed to ask themselves what exactly the PM has ever actually done to bolster the security of the state and its citizens. They ignored the warnings of the vast majority of Israel’s security experts and officials, both past and present, and voted for a policy of complacency. The truth is that they, like Bibi, are afraid. But it is not the Arabs or Iran or the Left that truly keeps them up at night. It is the thought of actually having to take action that terrifies them. They are horrified of even the most microscopic alteration to the status quo. Likewise, it is the idea that one day he may have to make a decision that truly terrifies Bibi. And, apparently, many Israelis are okay with that.
So what are we left with? A failing economy, rapidly rising housing and commodity prices, stagnant wages, millions of shekels stolen from the periphery and dumped into Yehudah and Shomron, the continued alienation of the country’s secular population, a more-than-likely nuclear Iran, the same rise-and-fall security situation that we’ve had the last 20 years and, to top it all off, increasing isolation among the global community. And the only decisive action our Prime Minister seems willing to take is one that will keep him in power. In the next two years, don’t be surprised if the situation continues to deteriorate. The possibility of sanctions from the EU or the UN, as well as a UNSC resolution declaring a Palestinian state, should not be ruled out. It is hard to see the US protecting us from pariah status anymore, with or without President Obama.
When I learned of the election results Wednesday morning, I felt a deep wellspring of sadness. Upon returning to Tel Aviv the following weekend, it’s safe to say the mood in much of the city appeared to be the same. Many Israelis, myself included, truly believed change was imminent. Despite the fact that the Left did make some true and significant gains under Bouji, it’s hard to shake the feeling that all hope is lost.
But hope is an interesting thing in Israel. It’s the name of our national anthem, after all. And yet, in this country it is just when our hopes are highest, when a brighter future truly seems just around the corner, that we are most utterly disappointed. Just ask any Israeli old enough to remember Nov. 4, 1995 – when Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally in Tel Aviv.
But the Israeli hope is also capricious. It was amid the ashes of the European Holocaust, the Iraqi Farhud and the bloody Palestinian riots that the Jewish State was born. And, in 1973, under the threat of what seemed certain annihilation, the IDF pulled off one of the greatest miracles in modern military history. When all hope seems lost, we always seem to find it again.
So, while I’m still terribly dejected about the election results, I refuse to believe all is lost. I do believe both the left and the right truly and deeply love this country, no matter how misguided we believe each other to be. Tough times are certainly ahead, but through the cloud of gloom I will continue to hope beyond hope that we will pull through against what seem to be, at least at this moment, impossible odds.
And I hope you will too.
Jeremy Jacobson lives in Israel where he was an intelligence analyst for a private intelligence firm until enlisting in the Israeli Defense Forces to complete his military service. He is currently serving a two-year tour of duty in an IDF combat unit. A native of West Hartford, he is a graduate of the Bess & Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy and Hall High School.
CAP: Jeremy Jacobson (center) with some Army buddies.