We’ve kicked off the high holidays here in Israel, and as the country begins to reflect on this last year, Operation Protective Edge will be at the forefront of conversations at every Rosh Hashanah dinner and Yom Kippur break-the-fast meal. In a fragmented war, Israelis showed uncharacteristic unity in our belief that fighting back against Hamas and taking the fight to our belligerent neighbors were the right things to do. What we seem to be debating most is whether that fight is over, and which politicians we trust to protect us best.
Many of us remember Operation Pillar of Defense in October 2012, but this year’s fight was different. This was war. Our televisions were full of images of reinforced concrete tunnels and home videos of Iron Dome strikes. The defense system intercepted some 580 of the over 3,500 rockets which were launched at our homes. Over 82,000 reservists were called up—our friends and family. We spent days in shelters, interrupting our daily lives to keep ourselves safe. This war shifted the conversation. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find an op-ed or article of any kind in Israeli media, whether Hebrew or English, which doesn’t acknowledge that the tunnels and rockets are intolerable and must be ended. The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), a think tank based in Jerusalem, published a poll at the end of July which claimed that over 95 percent of Israelis polled found the Operation justified. In a country in which argumentation in a national pastime, this is a shockingly high consensus.
Israelis also appear to have moved to the right politically. Polls show that, if Israel had elections today, right-wing parties Likud, HaBayit HaYehudi and Yisrael Beitenu would collectively hold 62 seats. That’s a huge jump compared to the 43 those three parties hold now. HaBayit HaYehudi and Yisrael Beitenu garnered much of this support during the war, when they openly attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) for not being aggressive enough in the military campaign in Gaza. Israelis were nervous and uncertain about ceasefire talks. This is understandable, as rockets fell in over ten ceasefire violations throughout the war.
We’re all waiting to see what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does, whether he severs ties with Hamas or continues to insist the group is a legitimate member of the Palestinian political system. The same IDI poll from July showed almost 80 percent of Israelis don’t believe that negotiations with the Palestinian Authority will lead to peace in the coming years. This may be part of the reason so many Israelis have moved right. I’ve heard time and again that if we can’t trust the leaders across the Green Line, what’s the point in talking to them? As a student of international relations and someone who firmly believes in a two-state solution, I can only hope that a bit of leadership from Abbas may re-energize Israelis’ belief in peaceful coexistence.
Merav Ceren is a contributing writer to JLife magazine.