OpinionIsrael News

Protesters, shame on you!

The partisan protests against the government only serve Hamas’s interests.

Israelis protest outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, calling for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip and the replacement of the Netanyahu government, March 23, 2024. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Israelis protest outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, calling for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip and the replacement of the Netanyahu government, March 23, 2024. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at: dougaltabef@gmail.com.    

Whatever else you might think about the wisdom and appropriateness of the increasingly violent Israeli protests against the Netanyahu government, one thing should be clear: They are completely counterproductive.

The protesters are not monolithic in their priorities. Some want to demonstrate the need for immediate action to free our hostages. For others, the reality that the hostages have not yet been freed only adds to their hostility towards Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

To the latter, the hostage situation is simply a pretext for their pre-Oct. 7 agenda: toppling Netanyahu and his coalition.

It is impossible not to share the pain of the families who live with the daily torture of wondering if their loved ones are still alive and the knowledge of the horrific ordeal they are experiencing if they are still alive.

Any of us in their situation would be calling for an immediate solution. But that solution need not be the fall of the government. After all, there is no way of knowing if a new government would accelerate the hostages’ release.

We must also consider the bigger picture. Here, the Gilad Schalit experience is instructive. In exchange for Schalit, a single IDF soldier, more than 1,000 terrorists—many of them serving life sentences for murder—were released.

A large number of those released terrorists have been active in the current war and many have been killed. In other words, history has proven that releasing terrorists will inevitably result in more military and civilian deaths further down the road.

Many of the hostages’ families understand this. They have explicitly stated that they do not want soldiers or civilians to be harmed in the name of securing the release of their loved ones. They accept that this issue is not happening in a vacuum but rather is interrelated with the overall security situation.

This brings us to the anti-government protesters and political operatives. Do they see the bigger picture? I would submit that they absolutely do not. Their real concern is political control. They are cynically using the war effort to turn back time in the name of new elections or the creation of a new coalition government.

Considering that we live in the Middle East, a very tough neighborhood, the naivete of these political operatives is breathtaking. Or perhaps they are not naive at all. Perhaps they just embrace the cynical narcissism of “I want what I want and I will do anything to get it.”

This view disparages the sacrifices made by our soldiers. It is like saying, “Well, the war continues and there is no end in sight, so we might as well try something, anything different.”

It tells the soldiers that the unity of purpose so many of them desire is not to be. “Sure, there’s a war going on,” it says, “but why should that stop us from trying to overthrow the government?”

Worst of all, it plays into Hamas’s hands. One need not be a chess master to appreciate the strategic impact of internal dissension. Why would Hamas agree to a hostage deal or indeed to anything in such a situation? Why shouldn’t it just watch the spectacle in delight, knowing that the longer it waits, the more dissension there will be and the more pressure will be brought to bear to open the prisons?

This is not just counterproductive; it undermines all of Israel’s gains thus far.

The first hostage deal took place because Hamas was rocked onto its heels. It was reeling. But now, its Israeli useful idiots are taking all the pressure off it. Both the American administration and the visceral Bibi-haters clearly shudder at the thought of a decisive Israeli victory over Hamas.

This is the dirty little secret of the protests: Heaven forbid that an Israeli victory might exonerate Bibi. Better for Israel to flounder and eventually install more pliable American-friendly Israeli leaders than to give Netanyahu the kind of victory that would keep him in office.

That this approach will ensure that Israel suffers further violence and more casualties in the not-too-distant future is considered the price of politics. And who says that we could have won anyhow?

The protesters should remember, moreover, that their victory would be not just pyrrhic but completely self-destructive. In their narcissistic rage, they do not understand that a terrible judgment on them will be levied by hundreds of thousands of soldiers, reservists and their families because the protesters have broken Israel’s silent, sacred covenant of mutual protection and support.

According to this covenant, our soldiers protect us and in return, we help ensure the vindication and validation of their enormous sacrifice.

The partisan anti-Netanyahu protesters disparage and abuse this covenant. The rest of us will judge them accordingly.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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