That was cold comfort for Gideon Levy, a columnist in the liberal Haaretz newspaper. In a recent article, he railed against what he described as the apparent public indifference to suggestions by Barak and others that hundreds, if not thousands, of Israelis could die in missile barrages triggered by an attack on Iran.
“The impression is that the majority of Israelis are not afraid,” he wrote. “The decision is left to a handful of decision-makers whom the public, as usual, trusts obediently and blindly.”
Levy urged Israelis to speak up against a military strike by telling their leaders “now, loudly: We are a-f-r-ai-d.”
‘Business as usual’
But among visitors to the designer shops and cafes at the Azrieli complex this week, there seemed to be only faint trepidation.
“It’s business as usual, although there are concerns,” said Zehava Shem-Tov, a 50-year-old secretary on a lunch break. “There is a sense that something unpleasant awaits us, but it’s kind of repressed.”
Amos Tzion, 53, who sets up farming projects abroad, said that “there’s concern, but also the need” to take action. “We live in an area that’s always been threatening, we’ve grown accustomed to that, and there’s an existential fear that Iran will have the bomb, and something has to be done about it,” he said.
Some people said they were skeptical that stepped-up international sanctions on Iran would stop its nuclear program.
With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “extremist views, it doesn’t look like it, and it’s more likely that there will be no choice but military action,” said Funes, the accountant. “What’s the alternative? If he develops an atomic bomb, it will be a constant threat, and their missiles will be even more dangerous. No one would dare bomb a country that has nuclear weapons.” Israel has its own undeclared nuclear arsenal.
Ayelet Lifschitz, a 24-year-old student from the northern city of Haifa, said she had spent the 2006 war against Hezbollah in a bomb shelter as rockets crashed into her city, an experience she views as “a lifelong trauma.”
She said she opposed Israel going it alone against Iran without international support, particularly from Washington. But she added that she was confident that the country would survive any counterstrike. “This is a strong society,” she said. “We can cope with it, if that’s what it takes to deal with the problem.”
In the meantime, she said, “there is a constant awareness” of the possibility of armed conflict in the coming months, to the point where her friends joke that they may have to juggle appointments and personal plans to accommodate the war.
That approach was reflected recently in a Facebook page started by Kobi Zvili, a Tel Aviv artist. The page, which has attracted hundreds of supporters, pleads with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off any military action before the singer Madonna takes the stage in a suburb of the city on May 29 on the first stop of her planned world tour.
“Bibi, No!” the page title says, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “No war with Iran until after Madonna’s performance.”