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photo by Erez Rotem

photo by Erez Rotem

photo by Erez Rotem

Erez Rotem : The Bus Bombing in Tel-Aviv, War and Upcoming Elections: Israel has Moved to the Right And There is Nothing One Can Do

by Erez Rotem, November 29, 2012

I was driving on road No. 6, [a toll highway] southward and I stopped for a cup of coffee.

The coffee shop was staffed with reserved soldiers just like me-soliders who are parents to children, sons and husbands. These young men were heading to Israel's border with the Gaza strip. You could feel the energy, the commitment, the determination of these young men, who were being called up in the event of a ground war. In the eyes of almost all Israelis, there was not a more justified war then operation "Pillar of Cloud."

When I saw these reservists, it had been already four days since the IDF had been striking and beating Hamas and its allies in Gaza.

In some ways you can call what happened in this war as "lessons learned." Over the last several years, Gaza has changed slowly but surely. Gaza is no longer the "largest poorest Palestinian refugee camp in the world," as many in the international community have long thought it to be. But rather, it has become the largest terrorist camp in the world. Today Gaza, in many ways, is similar to Afghanistan, Yemen and Sudan. It contains a combustible mixture of terrorist gangs: some of these are gangs of local Palestinians, but others are "imports" who have come a long way to fight the Jihadi war. They are being supported by Iran with weapons, money and training. Since 2003 they have launched more than 10,000 rockets and missiles against Israel and every year they have been able to reach further into Israeli territory, now reaching Tel-Aviv and a bit north of the city. For nine years almost 1 million Israelis have had to exist under fire or the threat of being fired upon, and for some reason it seems to us and to the world as a normal and acceptable situation or way of living. Well it is not acceptable, so says a very large majority of the Israeli public. This is the reason for the unprecedented support of the Israeli public in backing this recent operation Pillar of Cloud, support that even exceeded that visible in Operation Cast lead 4 years ago.

On the day that turned out to be the last day of the war, I was having a coffee in the center of Tel Aviv, just next to the "Kiriya," military compound. Even though there was talk of an imminent cease-fire we were still at war, with missiles still coming in.

Suddenly, in two minutes the relative quiet of the coffee shop changed when bus 142 exploded on Shaul Hamelech Street , only a three minute walk from where I was sitting.

I was almost the first on the scene and took some photos so readers not living in Israel can get a sense of how intense and challenging life is here in Israel, our Israel. Fortunately, the explosive device was small and not too sophisticated. Twenty-eight people were injured, one seriously. I predicted on my Facebook page that the bomb was made in Israel and was not exported from Gaza or the West Bank. I was right. An Israeli Arab from Taybe was arrested for executing this attack on innocent passengers.

So we have a cease fire. It seems that we brought Hamas to its knees. We have already had about a week of quite in the south.

Israel formulated a new tactic, one that suggest that the more the damage done by IDF, the longer the period of quiet will be. It worked with the Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and it seems to work with Gaza.

Now we need to follow the political path and for this we have the upcoming elections. Barring any dramatic development on January 22nd, Israel will move more to the right, not to mention the extreme right.

The Likud party – the government party, just elected its slate of candidates to the next Knesset – the 19th. The Likud's list [in which Dan Meridor, for example, lost a realistic spot] has lost any sign of moderation and does not hold out any promise for peace, but rather a promise of a stronger extreme right. Additionally, the Likud joined forces with Avigdor Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beitenu, which reflects extreme positions. Recent surveys give the Netanyahu-Lieberman party 39 seats in the Knesset and there is no factor in the horizon that threatens the rule of King Bibi. The Ehud Olmert/Zippi Livni force cannot even tickle the right wing block.

Actually, the Israeli prime minister rests on a strong foundation of support for his positions, maybe more than at any time since the Ben-Gurion era. Israel has moved to the right and there is nothing anyone can do.

So you can expect more of the same in the next four years to come. A right-wing rhetoric flavored with clashes with the US president and an upcoming war in the north and apparently, if the US won't be able to make the Iranian's drop their military nuclear program, then a war with Iran too sometime in 2013.
One last observation… If you want to see a mirror image of what is happening in Israel, simply follow the events at the UN. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked for and gained recognition as a UN observer state. Israel, despite its official support for two-state solution, will oppose and will be presented to the all the world as an obstacle to peace. We certainly do not make life easier on our few friends in the world and it's going to get much harder after the election.

Erez Rotem, a veteran Israeli journalist, was the  JNF-KKL Shaliach in Winnipeg for 3 years until the summer of 2011. 

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