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And for those who can’t afford the restaurant, what doesn’t kill Israelis makes them think about their overdraft. That explains why the faltering social protest still manages to turn out at least several thousand people. Iran elicits collective resignation to the vagaries of war games; suffocating costs of electricity and gasoline — and the rising price of both water and bread — generate real-time rage.
So why aren’t more Israelis voicing their opposition to a strike, beyond talking to pollsters?
Partly because they don’t believe the attack will happen. The loud volume of public debate about a preventive attack has its own subtext: Living room conversations now conclude that if leaders are talking so openly, it can’t be real. A majority in the Peace Index survey says the chances that Israel will actually strike are low.
The mythical status of past operations, such as the bombing of Iraq’s Osirak plant in 1981, and the 2007 attack on a Syrian site, revolves around mystery and surprise. When it comes to security, Israelis are used to a government that acts without asking anyone, and therefore answers to no one.
But that mythical, almost sacred element of security also makes it unknowable. As a result, most regular folks don’t truly expect to be consulted, nor do they expect to have input on even the most monumental security decisions.
Then consider that just one year ago, Israelis mounted the largest protest in their history for economic relief, and nothing changed. If they couldn’t even affect civic policy, most rational citizens cannot seriously believe they’ll have any impact on security policy. Worse, any such protesters are sure to be branded as “left” — and few Israeli Jews want that.
Maybe for some, the denial of an attack is a decent excuse not to protest when citizen action feels so futile. Others may be saving their strength for the next social or economic outrage. The rest are quietly wondering whether it’s worth the hassle of exchanging the old gas mask kits for new ones. Or they’re counting their extra passports.
Dahlia Scheindlin is an independent public opinion researcher and political strategist, as well as a doctoral candidate and lecturer at Tel Aviv University. She blogs at +972 Magazine.