“Are they making a park here?” asks the woman viewing the apartment with her husband. “No,” the agent chirps, “there’s the business with Iran this summer.”
As if noting a change of seasons, many Israelis are talking about a possible war come summer, or later this year, with an air of inevitability born of years of festering conflict that has periodically flared into full-blown hostilities. The prospect of devastating counterstrikes and mass casualties seems to be taken in stride, seen as a lesser evil than facing a nuclear-armed Iran.
“It’s like people are saying, ‘A typhoon is coming,’ ” Avi Funes, a 57-year-old accountant, said over lunch at the Azrieli Center, a towering glass-and-steel mall and office complex next to the military headquarters and the Defense Ministry — a potential target area for retaliatory missile strikes.
“People aren’t taking to the streets to protest against an attack,” Funes added. “There’s a kind of complacency. What can the ordinary citizen do? It’s not up to him.”
The wisdom of a strike on Iran has been debated here for months, with current and former security officials as well as political figures arguing about whether such a move would achieve its aims or, instead, provoke costly retaliation and possibly a broader conflict without stopping Iran’s nuclear effort. On Tuesday, Iran warned of preemptive action against its foes if it felt its national interests were threatened.
Polls conducted in recent months have shown ordinary Israelis divided over the advisability of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
But now that Israeli leaders are openly suggesting that a military strike on Iran might be necessary to stop what they describe as its drive to obtain atomic weapons, Israelis are contemplating the possible result: a rain of missiles fired at population centers by Iran and the militant groups allied with it, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
A familiar fear
Many Israelis have been through it before.
During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq fired about 40 Scud missiles at Israel, including some that hit the Tel Aviv area. Thousands of rockets fired by Hezbollah struck northern Israel during the nation’s 2006 war against the guerrilla group, and hundreds more were fired by Hamas and other groups during Israel’s three-week offensive in late 2008 and 2009 against the Islamist movement. In those conflicts, Israelis took cover in bomb shelters and safe rooms, so civilian casualties were limited. Fewer than 50 Israeli civilians died in all three conflicts combined.