MK Aida Touma-Suleiman, a female legislator from the Arab-Jewish socialist party, criticized the Israeli army’s policy toward Syria, warning that it could escalate to a war that would endanger civilians. In response, one veteran male television news analyst ordered her to ‘sit down and be quiet.’
The Israeli air force has carried out more than 100 bombing incursions deep inside Syrian territory over the past few years, with little acknowledgement from the Israeli media and without suffering any military or diplomatic repercussions. Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have deployed military forces in Syria, ostensibly to eliminate the Islamic State but in fact to increase their sphere of influence — at the cost of the starving Syrian people.
Israel did open a field hospital for wounded Syrians in the Golan, an act for which it sought — and received — substantial international media coverage that portrayed the country in a very positive light. But this act of magnanimity to Syrian civilians should not be used as a means of distracting attention from the fact that if the Assad regime, or the Russian and Iranian forces that are fighting to support it, had responded militarily to Israel’s many military sorties deep into Syrian territory, a war would have broken out long ago — with all the attendant, and very grave, consequences for civilians who live on both sides of the border.
Last week, this scenario nearly came to pass. The Israeli military downed an Iranian drone that penetrated Israeli air space from Syrian territory. Israel retaliated with an air sortie into Syria, which led to another retaliation from Syria, which shot down an Israeli fighter jet. Israelis were shocked, but they should not have been. This escalation has been heating up for a long time.
Now there are two wounded Israeli pilots and a destroyed fighter plane; and this stings Zionist pride, which has become accustomed to hearing about the heroic exploits of its powerful air force when it carries out strikes against enemies incapable of responding. The army did not even have time to prepare civilians for the long-simmering possibility of war.
The Knesset rushed to express its support for the government “during this difficult period.” Even Zehava Galon, the leader of the leftist Meretz party, tweeted her support for Netanyahu. Those who claimed Netanyahu wanted a war to distract the public from his legal troubles were, she wrote, indulging in conspiracy theories. Netanyahu was a cynic, but he wasn’t evil; he would not arrange for the downing of an Israeli fighter plane in order to divert public attention from his possible indictment on charges of corruption.