Passivity is Killing Us

Israel’s defensive strategy in recent years has been primarily passive. Passive defense does not target an enemy, but puts obstacles in his path. Our passive defenses include security barriers on our borders, with a billion-dollar one under and above the ground next to Gaza. We have built a technological marvel of a layered anti-missile defense system. Such means can – sometimes and to some extent – mitigate the damage that an enemy can do, and are an important part of a country’s defensive strategy. But even when they are successful, they do not deter or weaken the enemy. Indeed, they encourage him to improve his technology and his tactics and try again.

In the early days of the State of Israel, there were no Iron Domes or sensor-laden fences. We responded to terrorist attacks by vicious retaliation – for example, by the famous Unit 101, commanded by Ariel Sharon. That is active defense. Active defenses also have a flaw, especially for a country with little strategic depth, which is that an enemy can do a great deal of damage by a surprise attack before a response can be mounted. But an active defense has deterrent power that passive means do not. And, most importantly: a passive defense alone never won a war. The RAF won the Battle of Britain, but it took land invasions from the east and west to defeat the Nazis.

Over-reliance on passive defense can be dangerous. The Maginot and Bar-Lev lines were circumvented, and the Gaza fence penetrated. Iron Dome can be overwhelmed by mass launches of rockets, and is economically unsustainable. Hamas’ success in its murderous attack on southern Israel was made possible in large measure by our overemphasis, over a period of years, on passive tactics. With each round of fighting, Hamas improved its ability to get rockets through the Iron Dome. Because we haven’t seriously tried to destroy its infrastructure, Hamas was able to build and improve the tunnel system that we are now paying in Israeli lives to destroy. And because of our arrogance and overconfidence, the astronomically expensive security barrier proved almost worthless.

And there is another aspect that must be considered: the psychological effect, not just in Israel, but throughout the world. It has become generally accepted that Israel is a target, in way that Russia, for example, could never be. It became understandable that “frustrated” Palestinians could launch thousands of rockets at us while we bombed empty buildings in return, or Houthis in Yemen could launch Iranian missiles at our cities from 2000 km. away. Why not? We didn’t retaliate seriously.

Passive defense is more popular with the international community than active retaliation. You don’t often read in the NY Times or the Guardian about the suffering of the Qassam missiles that are blown to bits by Iron Dome. The world has gotten used to Israel responding in the most measured way to attacks that would cause other nations to strike out viciously, as the US did after 9/11. Although Israel’s record of fighting in populated areas while minimizing civilian casualties is much better than that of any other country, including the US, we receive daily warnings from President Biden to try harder in that respect. The unstated subtext is he can pull the plug on us at any moment.

I do not want to say that our unbalanced defensive posture is anyone’s fault but our own. But it appears to fit American policy, which since 1973 has been that Israel should never be permitted to win a decisive victory, and must return to her pre-1967 size. And the US uses the very powerful lever of military aid to encourage this. It’s easy to get funding for Iron Dome interceptors, but hard or impossible to get bunker busters or tanker aircraft for midair refueling. At this moment, the US Secretary of State is on his way here again to keep a tight rein on us, and an American general is sitting with our Chief of Staff to “help” us manage the war with Hamas.

Our dependence on American military aid and overemphasis on passive defense has gotten us into a very dangerous situation. Not that we can’t defeat Hamas, even though it will be significantly more costly than it would have been in January of 2009 (when Obama’s people told us to get the IDF out of Gaza before the inauguration). The real danger is in the end game, where the US State Department and administration believe they will finally be able to implement their long-sought goal of a unified sovereign Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley, and Gaza, under the control of the PLO.

I won’t speculate today about whether they understand that this would be a major step toward the end of the Jewish state, but that is in fact the case. Israel must do whatever she can to prevent the imposition of this “solution.” The best way to remove the threat from Gaza, to prevent a Palestinian terror state from coming into existence, and to send a message to all of our enemies that we will no longer be a passive target would be to destroy Hamas, to force a large part of the population of the Gaza strip to emigrate, and to establish Israeli control over it.

Can Israel stand up against the US – or at least against powerful circles in the American government? We’d better. Our survival depends on it.

Posted in Terrorism, US-Israel Relations, War | 2 Comments

Tribal Warfare

The deliberate viciousness of the attack by Hamas on southern Israel was an announcement of the tribal nature of the conflict. Although it is true that the initial assault troops were followed by a civilian rabble that participated joyfully in the mass murder, rape, and looting, the Hamas soldiers themselves received explicit orders (this is documented) to perpetrate a terrorist massacre with all the trimmings, and they did so exceeding the expectations of their commanders.

This wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t merely an outburst of the hatred that is drilled into all Gazans by their Hamas-controlled (and UN-supported) educational system, although that is what made it possible for human beings to become monsters. The savagery was fully intended by the Hamas leadership.

A tribal war is fought for territory, but it is also fought for honor. And honor is gained (or in the case of Palestinians, lost honor is regained) by humiliating the enemy. And this is done here in the Middle East by exaggerated cruelty, especially to the weakest elements of the enemy tribe. That’s why Hamas fighters and their followers tortured women in unmentionable ways and overcame the normal human resistance to hurting children and the elderly.

There is little distinction between civilians and soldiers in tribal warfare, except insofar as soldiers are considered more dangerous. An enemy is an enemy, and you kill enemies.

This did not endear Hamas to some in the West, which had adopted humanistic standards for warfare after WWII, when the folks who had incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese and German civilians decided that they would outlaw tribal forms of warfare (indeed they even outlawed war itself). But tribal peoples, like those who inhabit our region, never signed on to the Western vision expressed by the UN Charter; indeed, they never really bought the idea of nations, and certainly not a framework defined by international law.

They operate in a different framework, one in which there are friendly tribes and there are enemy tribes; and what you do to an enemy is kill him before he kills you. You kill him by any means necessary, and you don’t spare women and children. And if you are Hamas or the PLO, you employ the Arab equivalent of WWII’s strategic bombing – murderous terrorism against enemy civilians. The object is to remove the enemy tribe from contact with yours. Genocide is a strategy.

But now we come to our situation. Americans and Europeans who seem to have forgotten Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Dresden, expect Israel to play by the rules that they made up (and don’t follow). Which is hard to do when you face an enemy whose very basic ways of fighting – human shields and hostages, terrorism of every kind, random rocketing of civilian areas, etc. – violate the laws of war that the West expects us to obey more carefully than they ever do.

One of the interesting things about humans is their ambivalence toward cruelty. On the one hand, we saw some reactions of revulsion to the massive pogrom (notably including the US president), even on the part of a few who had heretofore accepted claims that Israel oppresses the Palestinians in Gaza. But at the same time, there was a massive outpouring of support for Hamas, huge demonstrations in cities like London and New York, and of course on college campuses. Some of the demonstrators were Palestinians or Muslims who were expressing their tribal loyalty, but others were Westerners whose primitive, atavistic lizard brains reveled in the blood and suffering of the Jews. And of course it was cause for great celebration among the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, as well as throughout the Arab world. In this respect, the Hamas strategy paradoxically achieved a propaganda victory.

We in Israel do not want to fight like Hamas. We don’t want to rape their women and butcher their children. On the other hand, we are not interested in committing suicide for the sake of the moral principles of the hypocritical West. And we have a message to send to Hamas and to all our enemies: we can and will fight as brutally as necessary. If we don’t do this, if we allow this campaign to end with an inconclusive whimper as so many previous ones have, then it will just be a matter of time before we are forced to leave up our beautiful homeland, perhaps for the last time, for an increasingly dark diaspora.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, War | 4 Comments

The Day After

I’m going to make this short, because it really is simple.

After Hamas is completely extirpated from Gaza, militarily and politically, and its leadership wiped out, then what?

The Biden Administration wants to see the Palestinian Authority put in control, which, they think, will finally enable the two-state solution they have been trying to impose since the 1970s. Israel cannot allow this.

The PA, dominated by the terrorist organization Fatah, is no more prepared to suffer a Jewish state next door than Hamas. The only thing that prevents PA Arabs from doing precisely the same thing that Hamas did on 7 October is the day in, day out activity of the Shabak and the IDF to arrest or kill terrorists and interrupt their plans.

If you don’t believe this, look at what the PA says in its own media. But even if this weren’t true, and the PA actually was a “moderate” institution interested in peaceful development of a Palestinian state, what prevents it from being taken over by extremists? After all, this is precisely what happened in Gaza after Israel withdrew its soldiers, expelled its civilians by force, and even exhumed its dead from Gazan cemeteries in 2005 (think about why this last step was necessary).

As long as there is Palestinian sovereignty in Gaza, there is no doubt that it will develop into a base for terrorism. Those residents of the Western Negev that survived the pogrom of 7 October will not return. In effect Israel will cede a large part of her country to her enemies.

Another suggestion is that there should be some kind of international control of the area. It’s hard not to burst out laughing at this idea, when one considers the history of such arrangements, like the UN force in Lebanon that stood by and watched after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, as Iran built Hezbollah into a existential threat to Israel with 130,000 rockets aimed at every inch of the country.

Only Israeli control of Gaza can guarantee the safety of the Western Negev, and ensure that the next war – which is certainly coming – will not have a southern front.

Possibly civil control can be rested in the Arab clans that are powerful in the various areas of the Gaza Strip; but there will be no alternative to an IDF presence to provide overall security and prevent an extremist takeover. The only other alternative is forced emigration of a large part of the population and military occupation of the territory.

What is true of Gaza is also true of Judea and Samaria. Palestinian sovereignty there would lead to a terrorist base a few kilometers from the population centers of Israel. This has happened consistently whenever Israel has withdrawn from territory she controlled and international guarantees have never made any difference. The topography of the region is such that Israel cannot be defended against attack from a Palestinian state there or from the east if she does not control the high ground of Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley.

This isn’t controversial from a strategic point of view, though the Palestinians and their supporters find it unpalatable. But it cannot be Israel’s problem that the Arab leadership embraced, and never renounced, a fundamentally antisemitic position that rejects any Jewish state between the river and the sea. If they had the power that Israel has, they would kill or banish every last Jew, as happened in numerous Arab countries after 1948. We are (possibly wrongly) more tolerant. But we won’t tolerate being murdered.

Israel has several difficult tasks ahead of her, a consequence of the failure to see and understand reality in the Middle East that led to the Oslo Accords, the withdrawal from Gaza, and other strategic mistakes. In order of immediacy, they are: to eliminate Hamas and take control of the Gaza Strip; to remove the military threat posed by Hezbollah; to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; and to establish permanent Israeli sovereignty in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley.

None of these are easy – maybe Gaza is actually the easiest – from a military and especially a political/diplomatic standpoint. But they are essential to the survival of the Jewish state, and therefore – as events in the diaspora are teaching us – to the Jewish people.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, War | 3 Comments

The American Front

An American friend asked me yesterday where I thought our greatest dangers lie. Getting bogged down in Gaza? The northern front, facing Hezbollah and the Iranian militias in Syria? The soon-to-be nuclear Iran? Another intifada in Judea and Samaria? Violent riots by Arab citizens of Israel?

None of those, I said. The greatest danger facing Israel today is from the Americans.

My friend was surprised. How is that possible? President Biden expressed his full support for Israel, and is supplying us with weapons and ammunition, and has sent significant naval forces to our region. He threatened Iran against intervening. Congress just overwhelmingly passed a resolution of support for Israel. What more do I want?

So I explained that the problem with America is the same problem that we had here in Israel until October 7. It is the conseptzia, the stubborn resistance to the reality that is behind the conflict that has been going on for at least a century, and of which the butchery on Simchat Torah was just the most recent flareup.

What is the conseptzia? It is a collection of wrong ideas, a constellation of misunderstandings about who the Palestinians are, what motivates them, and what they want. It involves the mistaken projection of a set of values common in the West on a people that have different values, a stubborn refusal to listen to them, and a consistent underestimation of their intelligence, their tenacity, and the exceptionally strong emotion of hatred that infuses their culture.

Right now someone is asking how I can generalize. There are several million Palestinians, and multiple political and religious factions. How can I say they are all the same? Hold that thought – I will come back to it.

Here are a few false propositions that are part of the conseptzia:

1. Like most present-day Americans and Western Europeans, Palestinians are primarily motivated by economic considerations and only secondarily by religion and ideology.
2. The violent terrorism of the Palestinians comes from their frustration that they do not have an independent state.
3. Palestinians are essentially corrupt and will give up their ideological goals if paid enough.
4. The Palestinian Authority (dominated by the Fatah movement) is more moderate than Hamas, and would accept a Jewish state somewhere between the river and the sea if enough of their demands were met.

The reasons none of these are true come from the nature of Palestinian culture.

Palestinian culture is very different from that of liberal Americans or Europeans. That is not surprising, since it developed in an entirely different place from different antecedents. The starting point is traditional nomadic Arab culture, with its emphasis on maintaining personal and family honor and avoiding shame. The Arabs of Eretz Yisrael, who came from various parts of the region, did not consider themselves Palestinians in the beginning of the 20th century (with the exception of a small movement made up of educated Christian Arabs). Their identity was as part of their clans, and as part of the Muslim Ummah. As far as they were concerned, Eretz Yisrael was southern Syria.

Once the 400-year yoke of the Ottomans was removed and Jewish immigration increased, Muslim resistance to the possibility of a Jewish state grew, and was especially encouraged by Amin al-Husseini, the British-appointed, Nazi-supporting, Mufti of Jerusalem. The British had their own reasons for preferring Arab sovereignty when they left in in 1948, and they supported resistance by local Arabs as well as an invasion by the Arab states. But as everyone knows, the Jews succeeded in defeating the Arabs, Arab society in Eretz Yisrael collapsed, and hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled the area that became the State of Israel.

This was the nakba, a terrible blow to the honor of all the Arabs, who were defeated – and to Islam which was outraged by the reversion of an area from Muslim to infidel rule. And they lost to Jews, the Jews that Mohammed routed in the 7th century and who were permitted to live in Muslim lands only as dhimmis, institutionally inferior to Muslims. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of this event in forming a specifically Palestinian culture, a culture that grew out of this massive loss of honor. To be Palestinian is to suffer from the nakba, and to dream of reversing and avenging it.

During the 1960s, the Soviets encouraged Palestinian nationalism, adding to it some spices of Marxism-Leninism, and presenting the Palestinians to the world as an oppressed third-world people fighting a war of national liberation against European colonialism. Later we had the “Zionism is racism” resolution in the execrable UN, followed by the 2001 anti-racism summit in Durban, South Africa, which emphasized this theme (despite its complete inapplicability to the conflict), leading to today’s accusations of “apartheid.” Despite all this, which is mostly intended to make Western liberals comfortable with idea of wiping Israel off the map, the Palestinian consciousness still centers on the shame of the nakba.

The honor lost in 1948, and which has continued throughout “the occupation” (to Palestinians this means the period of Jewish sovereignty that began in 1948), can only be recovered by reversing the nakba, bringing back all those who fled in 1948 and their descendants, and establishing Palestinian sovereignty over the land. It is also a religious imperative to restore rule by Muslims. Finally, the shame of what has occurred is so great, that the reversal must be accomplished with great violence. Only if the land runs with blood can the accumulated insults of the last 75 years finally be avenged.

This is Palestinian culture. This is what separates Palestinians from other Arabs and Muslims, many of whom can accept the existence of a Jewish state. With various modifications and different emphasis, this is what every Palestinian child learns in school, whether in a Hamas or UNRWA school in Gaza, or a PA school in Judea/Samaria. It is even to a great degree taught to Arab citizens of Israel in the Israeli Arab educational system. It is what Palestinians hear from their leaders, in their mosques, on the TV and radio, and in their newspapers and social media. It’s what Palestinians say in Arabic, and often in English too.

Certainly there are Palestinians for whom economic goals are important; there are secular ones and Christians; and there are those who hate violence and believe in democracy. There is opposition to Hamas in Gaza and to the PA in Judea/Samaria. But the basic ideas are unchallenged – they are pervasive in the culture itself. They are the conventional wisdom, the motherhood and apple pie of Palestinians, and some form of them is accepted by the great majority. Polls consistently show that most Palestinians favor armed resistance against Israel, and elections are almost always won by the most radical candidate. If that isn’t enough, Palestinian values are often enforced by men with guns.

So that is why the ultra-violent massacre in the south was cheered by Palestinians everywhere. And that is why the propositions of the conseptzia are false. Honor/shame and religion are at the top of the list of motivators for the Palestinians. Palestinians have consistently chosen violence over statehood, and weapons over economic development. They are not frustrated because they don’t have an independent state – they are infuriated because we have one on what they believe is their property. If we give them money for development, they will take it (and skim off plenty from the top for the benefit of their leadership). But the PA will always pay terrorists and their families, and Hamas will not stop building tunnels and rockets.

The Palestinians can’t be bought off and they can’t be persuaded that it is in their interest to live at peace alongside a Jewish state. The various factions have different strategies and tactics, but their ultimate objective is the same: Israel must disappear.

The Americans are dangerous, because they don’t or won’t accept this. The Americans have been slaves to the conseptzia since at least 1967. Biden, Blinken, and the rest continue to talk about a “two-state solution”, by which they mean a Palestinian state under the PA in Judea/Samaria and Gaza (sometimes even with a road between them cutting Israel in two!) What happened on October 7 shows that this is unacceptable. If Israel loses control of Judea and Samaria, the horrific events in the lightly populated Gaza Envelope could be repeated, this time in Tel Aviv. Even if the PA were more moderate than Hamas (it isn’t), who is to say a moderate leadership wouldn’t be replaced by an extreme one? Indeed, Gaza was originally ruled by the PA, but Hamas won the PA elections; and when in 2007 it wasn’t allowed to take power, it overthrew the PA in Gaza, tossed local officials off buildings, and took over.

Ordinary Israelis understand this, and our government seems to as well. This is why it announced that it did not want to decide at this time what would happen in Gaza after Hamas is defeated. It is obvious to us that only some form of Israeli control in both Gaza and Judea/Samaria can protect us, and it is equally obvious that the Americans oppose that. That’s why they are demanding that we come up with a plan for “the day after.” Israel would prefer not to have this argument today.

There are two kinds of people that favor a two-state solution: those that don’t understand Palestinians, and those that do and want to hurt Israel. I believe that Biden belongs to the first group, but there are far too many in his administration and the State Department in the second.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Jew Hatred, Terrorism, US-Israel Relations, War | 4 Comments

We Forgot

You shall remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out of Egypt,

how he happened upon you on the way and cut off all the stragglers at your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he did not fear God.

It will be, when the Lord your God grants you respite from all your enemies around in the land which the Lord, your God, gives to you as an inheritance to possess, that you shall obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens. You shall not forget! — Dvarim 25:17-19

I have heard this read in the synagogue numerous times, and taken part in discussions of the meaning of this mitzvah (commandment). But I did not truly understand it until Simchat Torah of this year.

A mitzvah can always be understood in relation to actions. The well-known injunction to “love thy neighbor” in Lev. 18:19 appears in context as “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” It does not require me to have a warm feeling toward the residents of the apartment next to mine. Rather, it orders me to avoid feuding with other Jews (not always an easy thing).

The commandment to remember Amalek does not mean to produce in myself a certain state of mind, similar to what I aspire to when my wife tells me to remember to bring home a carton of milk. That would be impossible anyway, because I wasn’t there in the desert when Amalek first did its dirty deeds. How can I remember what I didn’t experience? So what does “remember” mean here?

What I realized on Simchat Torah was that it means that we must not only keep in mind the evil that Amalek intends, but we must act on that awareness. It means that we must not let our guard down, we must take positive actions to prepare for Amalek’s viciousness. Only after we have achieved our independence in the land of Israel and fully defeated all of our enemies, can we stand down from our condition of high alert. Only when Amalek is finally obliterated will it be safe to obliterate our memory of it.

This has actually been the human condition for ages, and remains the condition of most of the world’s population today. If a tribe forgets that it has enemies, it will soon be swallowed up. But recently, several generations have grown up in North America and Western Europe whose enemies have been kept far enough away from them that they’ve come to believe that it’s normal to live in peace. It is actually exceptional. I think that shortly they may find out that this isn’t true.

For Jews, the wolf of Amalek is always at the door. This is certainly true in Eretz Yisrael, where Amalek has been battering at us for at least the last 100 years. But since 1967, many Israeli Jews have lost the existential anxiety that gripped the generation of 1948. The Yom Kippur War was a reminder of it, but the fact that we recovered from the initial defeat and won a clear-cut military victory (though it was taken from us diplomatically) and that our enemies didn’t penetrate our home front, soon erased the fear of the first days of the war. There were other warnings, but the desire to live as though we were one of the large Western democracies made us suppress the precarious reality of the Middle East in which we live.

So we reduced the size of our ground army, and relaxed many of the procedures that were, it turns out, essential to protecting our people. We have become dependent: on America, on technology, on our Air Force. Officers assumed that we were so strong that nobody would challenge us, so it was safe for them to fudge a little on their reports to higher-ups. What could happen? Our General Staff decided that technology could replace boots on the ground; they advocated for a “digital battlefield” on which every soldier would be tied into sophisticated information systems that would provide real-time intelligence and command, blah blah blah. Their reports all said that goals were achieved. A whole paper structure was built that did not reflect reality. The map was not the territory. “We’ve never been stronger,” said the top generals, until Hamas revealed their nakedness on October 7.

Our leaders should have known the intentions of our enemies. All they had to do was listen to what the spokespeople of Hamas, Hezbollah, the PLO, and Iran said in public. But perhaps because they themselves were so easily bought, they held our enemies in contempt. They assumed that quiet could be purchased with American dollars to the PLO and Qatari cash for Hamas. But it turns out, as anyone who has studied the Middle East even a little knows, that money was only a means to an end. They were happy to take it and build fancy villas for themselves, but they also dug tunnels and manufactured rockets. And they never lost their aspiration to once and for all kill and drive out the Jews from what they claim as their land.

The generals and the politicians forgot that we are not a large western democracy, but rather a small country in the Middle East. They forgot that our enemies are not stupid. They forgot that honor and deterrence go together. They forgot that the more complicated a system, the more weak points it has, and that technology can fail. They forgot that Maginot Lines never work. They forgot that only ground forces can hold territory.

Most importantly, they forgot how much our enemies hate us and how this motivates them. They forgot Amalek.

Posted in Israeli Society, Jew Hatred, War | 2 Comments

When We Said “Never Again,” We Meant It

My heart is breaking. What I surmised yesterday, but was afraid to write has turned out to be true. I have never wanted to be wrong more than I do this morning. But I can’t pretend that “it will be OK,” as Israelis like to say.

The IDF has been ready for some time to begin the operation to eliminate Hamas from Gaza. The plans were made long ago, and updated regularly. Hundreds of thousands of reservists have left their jobs and families, at great expense to the government. The tanks are poised near the border. Why aren’t they moving?

The reason is that they have been ordered not to by the Americans. Whether or not they planned it, Hamas struck gold when some twelve Americans and ten British subjects were included among the roughly 200 hostages that were carried back to Gaza by the terrorists. Now negotiations are taking place, brokered by the despicable Qatari regime, to obtain their release. The demonic Hamas have released two American women (for what in return?) to prove that a deal is possible.

I’m not surprised and I’m not criticizing the US president and British PM for trying to protect their people. That is the top job of a government – a job, incidentally, that ours has been failing to do for some time. But that’s another story.

Now our government has a different job. This is our last chance, after the disasters of Oslo, the withdrawal from Gaza, the Second Lebanon War, the Shalit trade, the ongoing loss of Area C, and countless other losses and humiliations, to end our slide to destruction. If Hamas is not ripped out of Gaza by its roots, the immediate result will be the loss of the northern and southern parts of our country (who would live there?) and the evaporation of any honor and deterrence that the State of Israel still has. And then there will be no peace agreement with Saudi Arabia, no hope of preventing a nuclear Iran, and no possibility of obtaining sovereignty in the strategic hill country and the Jordan Valley. We are suffering the death by a thousand cuts, and today the knife is poised over a vital artery. We are at the point of no return.

Israel today has no choice but to invade Gaza and wipe out every trace of the poison that poured out of it two weeks ago today. Otherwise, we are finished here. And if we are finished, the Jewish people are finished too, perhaps for another 2000 years or perhaps forever.

The situation of the hostages, American, British, and Israeli, is horrific. You may ask: would I say the same thing if my children were among them? Of course not, because I am only human. But that doesn’t make me wrong.

Maybe there is some magic by which the IDF can effect an Entebbe-like rescue. Who knows? I’m sure the IDF is trying mightily right now to locate them. If we invade now we may lose some or all of them, and if there is hope of rescue, then perhaps we can delay a few days longer. Of course, we have already lost 1400. And every day the international pressure not to invade, thanks to the media’s embrace of Hamas lies about its suffering civilians, is growing, along with the vicious antisemitism that our humiliation feeds.

My heart is breaking. But I say to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, and the Chief of Staff: do it. Give the order to start the tanks, to open fire with the artillery, to bomb every military target (even if it is called a “school” or a “hospital” or if it is the property of the UN). Do not allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, force Egypt to open the Rafah crossing, and let the world community express its love for the Gazan civilians there, in the northern Sinai. Make the campaign as short as possible and as brutal as necessary.

Show the world: when we said “never again,” we meant it.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, US-Israel Relations, War | 5 Comments

Biden’s Bear Hug

President Biden came to Israel and distributed hugs and promises of undying support in public. In private, he forced Israel to agree to the entry of “humanitarian aid” via Egypt. He promised to provide Gaza with $100 million in food, medicines, fuel, and who knows what else. Although it is impossible to know for sure, it seems as though he also has delayed the entry of our ground forces into Gaza.

This is despite the fact that Hamas is holding about 200 Israelis hostage, after they were kidnapped from their homes in the midst of an orgy of murder, torture, and rape of Jews unprecedented since the Holocaust.

What could be simpler than to say to the rulers of Gaza, return the hostages and then you’ll get your aid. What could be more just than humanitarian aid in return for acting like humans? But no – the President chose to speak to Israel instead. “Let them have the aid, or you will not get the weapons and ammunition you need .”

Does anyone think that this aid can be delivered to Gaza and not fall into the hands of Hamas? Even if all of those trucks only contain “humanitarian” goods, how precisely do the Americans plan to distribute the diesel fuel and gasoline so it will only benefit civilians? Biden said that “international officials” in Gaza will distribute it. The only such officials are those of UNWRA, many of whom are members of Hamas, and all of whom are deathly afraid of it. Hamas controls absolutely everything that happens in Gaza. Of course it will take what it needs to power its electric generators, to feed its soldiers, and to treat its wounded! There is no other possibility.

It should be known that despite the horrors visited on us, the air campaign against Hamas is limited. Gaza is full of “hospitals.” A few of them actually treat patients, but many are simply places to store and launch rockets against Israel. We are forbidden to attack these locations. There are also UNRWA schools, which double as military installations. They too are off limits, unlike the Jewish children of southern Israel, who apparently were fair game for Hamas to torture and murder.

There is also the question of the ground invasion. When asked about it, Biden said there had been “a long talk about alternatives” with the Israelis about it. In the meantime, the troops and tanks are not moving. This is disastrous to us. After the shock and loss of honor and deterrence that resulted from the terrorist attack on Simchat Torah, it is essential that we destroy Hamas and return security to the southern part of our country. Otherwise, no Jew will be able to live in Ashkelon or south of it. This cannot be done without the ground invasion that is presently stalled. The whole world, particularly our enemies, is watching.

How is it possible that a sovereign state can allow a foreign power to sit in its war cabinet – as US Secretary of State Blinken did for seven hours the other day – and dictate strategy and tactics? It is not possible, and therefore Israel is not a sovereign state. Our political and military leadership sold our sovereignty in return for military aid. We took what the US wanted to give us, what was most suitable for American defense contractors (and not always for our needs); and they were in turn paid top dollar from the pockets of American taxpayers. The US tried to determine the outcome of our elections and intervene in our politics in ways that are just beginning to become clear.

The Biden administration ignored the Taylor Force Act and restarted aid to the Palestinian Authority even when it refused to stop paying the terrorists who murder us on a regular basis. The US supplies weapons and training to the Lebanese army and intelligence apparatus, despite the fact that Lebanon is 100% controlled by the Iranian proxy Hezbollah, which has 130,000 rockets aimed at Israel – including precision-guided ones that are far more dangerous than those of Hamas. And speaking of Iran, the US has recently freed up $6 billion which Iran can use to fund Hamas and Hezbollah as well as its nuclear project.

These are not the actions of an ally; they are those of an imperial power that uses its satellites in the service of its own interests. And American interests, as seen by the Biden administration, are not coincident with Israeli interests: today they are directly opposed. With the exception of the Trump period, American policy since the Iraq war, as expressed in the 2006 Baker-Hamilton report, has been to obtain a détente with Iran, and to allow it to obtain the hegemony it seeks in the Middle East. Although the US at least pays lip service to the existence of a Jewish state, it expects Israel to return to an attenuated, pre-1967 shape.

The policy is contradictory for several reasons. Iran sees the US and Israel as enemies, and is committed for both geostrategic and religious reasons to destroy Israel. It also implies that Israel will give up control of Judea/Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the Golan heights, which would make her impossible to defend.

But today Israel faces an immediate problem: how to escape the American “bear hug” for long enough to recover her deterrence in the region. I don’t know the answer to this, but it seems to me that we must try. It will require our leadership to summon up the courage to say ‘no’ to the Americans. Can we do this, or has the “bear hug” already squeezed the freedom and sovereignty out of us?

The next few weeks, perhaps days, will tell.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, US-Israel Relations, War | 5 Comments

Why We Failed

Volumes could, and will be, written about how Israel allowed herself to be raped by Hamas on 7 October 2023. But to focus on the forest rather than the trees, I see two major failures:

The first was the reliance on interconnected automated systems to secure the border, replacing traditional human observers and patrols. In exceptional situations, humans can take initiative and act outside of the system. They can act alone when communication is cut off, and they can recalibrate themselves to entirely new operational environments that were previously unexpected. A military unit can be designed to operate together under centralized control, but individual soldiers can also fight independently if they must.

This is precisely the capability that was not designed into the automated systems that were supposed to replace traditional boots on the ground. The remote cameras, sensors, and remotely operated or automated weapons that were installed did not have the distributed intelligence that human armies do. Even after a surprise attack, human soldiers can regroup, make new plans, and counterattack. The automated systems could not. They were dependent on communication links, both between themselves and with a central control center. These links could easily be cut by anyone who knew how the system worked and which parts were critical to its functioning – and Hamas had excellent intelligence (I’ll discuss this further below).

The more sophisticated a technology, the more complicated it is, the more parts it has, and more possible avenues there are to attack it. I don’t have all the details, but I know at least that Hamas attacked cameras, communication antennas, and power sources, which allowed them to blind the system and shut down the autonomous weapons that might have stopped or at least slowed them.

Anyone who works with technology knows that the keys to reliability are backup, and redundancy of critical components. The border fence itself was not redundant and there was no “kill zone” alongside it. The last line of defense should have been provided by human soldiers. Perhaps this was the original intent, but in a disastrous failure of vision, operational commanders seem to have assumed the fence was impregnable and neglected to ensure that there was a working human backup in the event that it was breached.

Apparently, the soldiers of the Gaza Division were not adequately staffed or operating in a condition of alertness that would be appropriate to the importance of the mission. This cost them, and many others, their lives.

The second major failure was similar to the disaster of the Yom Kippur War: what Israelis call “the conseptzia.” The conception, in this case, was that Hamas was not interested in a major confrontation with Israel, that it was concerned with the practical matters of governing Gaza, and that it could be bribed by allowing the influx of cash from Qatar (much of which went directly into the pockets and villas of the top Hamas leaders), permitting more Gazans to cross the border to work in Israel, letting construction materials be imported into Gaza, stopping the enforcement of a no-go zone near the border, and so on. Improve their economy, and they will become less hostile, seems to have been the thought. There has never been a more incorrect assessment. In fact, Hamas leaders were planning the vicious assault for months, while they negotiated about work permits.

Israel’s leadership ignored the bloodthirsty threats that continued to issue from Hamas, ignored the buildup of its forces, and ignored the ongoing training exercises intended to develop their ability to invade Israel’s bases, towns, and kibbutzim (Hamas even built a model kibbutz that they practiced attacking). If Hamas wanted to improve the conditions in the strip, why did they funnel the cement that Israel allowed them to import into the construction of tunnels and other military infrastructure instead of civilian construction? Why were there recent tests of rockets over the Mediterranean? These questions were not asked or they were answered with a shrug.

Some of the Gazans who were given permits to work in Israel were in fact spies who gathered information about the targets that would be attacked on 7 October. Detailed maps of army bases, towns, and kibbutzim were found on terrorists that were killed in the attack. In the future, Jews will have to do their own farming and construction work, or bring in foreign workers that aren’t moonlighting as terrorists.

I’ve heard it said that there is no possible explanation other than a deliberate conspiracy to let it happen in order to embarrass Netanyahu. Our army and intelligence services are too good, they said; it must have been an inside job. But that’s nonsense. The more one looks, the more one sees the pervasive complacency, incompetence, laziness, corruption, and lack of imagination among our top people that gave Hamas their chance. Indeed, it’s too bad it isn’t true, because then all we would have to do would be to hang a few traitors. The real problems will be much harder to fix.

It seems to be generally accepted that “things will never be the same” after this, that we’ve learned lessons. I’m not so sure. Right now, we have no choice but to keep the politicians and generals who were responsible for the failures until the war is over. Have they learned that in the Middle East, the winners rule and the losers are killed or banished, and fight until we achieve real victory? Will their replacements be entirely free of the “conception?” Will they understand that Hamas and the PA are two peas in a pod? Or will they allow the Americans to push us into the usual stalemate, or worse?

Certainly the Americans are still committed to the idea of a Palestinian state in the territories, even if they have learned that Hamas – at least by that name – can’t be part of it. Moti Kedar said that the top leadership of our military establishment “speak American, not Hebrew.”  That, too, will have to change.

Posted in Israeli Politics, US-Israel Relations, War | 4 Comments