Yoel Marcus
Haaretz (Opinion)
November 11, 2011 - 1:00am

After a long period of silence, apart from when he whispered into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ear while covering his mouth with his hand, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has revealed the real danger threatening Israel's security: the media, of course. The media are conducting a demagogic scare campaign regarding our approach to the Iranian nuclear threat.

"War is no picnic," said Barak, "but under no scenario will there be 50,000, 5,000 or even 500 killed." The discourse is frightening the people unnecessarily, he added. "The story that two people, the prime minister and I, are supposedly sitting in a closed room and leading preparations to attack is hallucinatory," he claimed. Hallucinatory indeed.

If until now it never occurred to this writer that Israel would attack Iran - on the assumption that this task was irresponsible and too big for us - Barak's outburst against the media and the people has given me the shivers. In the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq fired 39 Scuds into central Israel and one person was killed. But an entire nation, with its atomic-biological-chemical masks, fled trembling from central Israel. In the Sinai Campaign, David Ben-Gurion said Tel Aviv could not withstand a bombing and threatened to stay out of the fight before 24 French aircraft gave cover to Tel Aviv.

There were days back during the "waiting period" before the Six-Day War when we dug graves secretly at night on Rothschild Boulevard. That war, as everyone knows, ended differently and we've been paying the price of the victory to this day. The current panic is being stoked by none other than the government, mainly through the leaks claiming that Iran is preparing to wipe out Israel.

We shouldn't be surprised, with all due respect to us, that Iran's interests in our region and beyond are varied. For example, some time ago Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned the United States that his missiles could reach its territory. Iran is threatening Europe, Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, and Russia. What should be worrying us is that in the 62nd year of Israel's existence we're apparently the only country that doesn't have permanent borders, a country quivering in its boots, whose citizens in the south are being bombarded by terror organizations that can hit Be'er Sheva and Ashdod from Gaza. What more do they need to be able to reach Tel Aviv without having an atomic bomb?

The Israeli public doesn't usually turn out for demonstrations of the kind that toppled Charles de Gaulle, with the exception of the tempestuous demonstration Motti Ashkenazi ignited after the Yom Kippur War, which led to the fall of Golda Meir's government. She fell, but her assertion that "there is no Palestinian people" still hovers over us. Yes, there have been demonstrations regarding reparations from Germany, the first Lebanon war and the agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization. And the right wing awakened against the price of peace to the point that Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

But in the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah managed to scare away most of the north's inhabitants in daily bombardments, without a protest arising. Again a commission of inquiry was established and again the nation wondered about the extent of the government's blame for the war, whose necessity is still unclear.

The large tent protest was spontaneous and surprising. At its height, without the backing of any political party, it produced a demonstration of about 400,000 people. Its greatest immediate success was reducing cottage cheese prices; it also made the government set up a respectable committee charged with answering a number of the demands, such as more housing.

The prevailing view is that the protest didn't achieve anything significant apart from the freshness of its very existence on such a large scale. The reason is that the demonstration didn't touch on diplomacy, security or the government's responsibility for the peace process' lack of progress. Thus is did not endanger the Bibi-Barak government.

For now this government isn't bothered by the dormant opposition. No one is visible on the horizon challenging its existence and malfunctioning. The people are pretty much indifferent and all they want is quiet. The volcano of the fraternal hatred being awakened by the invention called "price tag" is liable to lead to a civil war.

The situation is more dangerous than ever and the question is what more needs to happen for those same tens of thousands of demonstrators to come out for the struggle for a peace agreement and secure borders. The cottage cheese isn't going to run away.


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