Israelis can no longer afford infighting

Israeli soldiers examine an area while sirens sound as rockets are fired from Gaza towards Israel, near Sderot, in southern Israel, on October 9, 2023 (Reuters) (AMIR COHEN/)

Saturday will be remembered as one of the most devastating days in Israel’s history.

The events were too reminiscent of the attacks 50 years ago, last week, on the morning of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. That day in October 1973, Israel was attacked by a coordinated Arab coalition that sparked a brutal three-week war. The country survived only because of the enormous sacrifice of its young men and women. It traumatized an entire generation of Israelis and profoundly changed the nation.

Saturday was our 1973.

The videos that circulate of Israelis – women, children, the elderly – taken hostage, defenseless, They will haunt us the rest of our lives. The images are anathema not only to the basic Israeli ethic of self-defense, but also to the country’s raison d’être as a safe haven for Jews. It shakes us to the core, but we cannot afford to remain in shock. We don’t have time to digest the horrors. The Israel Defense Forces They have to find the strength to regroup immediately and, once they have contained the situation within the borders of Israelrecalibrate, and retaliate in a way that holds people accountable. Hamas and its allies and that also has a strategic logic. Our political leaders must also reexamine the path they have charted and significantly change course.

These tragic events have a protagonist: Hamas. But there are two major Israeli blind spots that have prevented us from recognizing and anticipating what we should not have seen. The first is the policy of trying to appease the enemyhoping that Hamas would end up overcoming its jihadist origin. Instead, it was the military wing of Hamas which grew from a small organization to a powerful army. Our second blind spot was letting our internal political differences consume usdistracting us from external threats and dividing both our society and, above all, the army.

In four years, Israel dedicated three military operations in Loop to fight against Palestinian Islamic Jihada small Iranian proxy organization. Hamasthe ruling party of Loopwhich commands an army with tens of thousands of missiles and elite commando units, had been largely left to its own devices since Operation Guardians of the Wall in 2021. We pay the price of war – as do civilians in Loop– for zero strategic benefit. Because? Because the Palestinian Islamic Jihad It was the easiest target. Israel I wanted to avoid a big war Loopand we got a kill in Israel.

Meanwhile, Hamas He manipulated his way to this moment. He secured de facto immunity from the military force of Israel and obtained Qatari money every month for basic needs to ensure that the population did not rebel. Both politicians and the military have spent the last two years making the public believe that Hamas was dissuaded, was not interested in a full escalation, and was internalizing its role as the legitimate government of Loop.

Now many in Israel are wondering, understandably, how did one of the world’s best intelligence operations miss the signs? One answer is that we tend to ignore details based on our preconceived idea, which in this case was a mistaken idea of ​​what is. Hamas and what their intentions really are.

But this is only part of the story.

In the last five years, while Israel dissolved government after government and held divided elections after divided elections, and even more so in the last year since Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected prime minister, the nation has been busy tearing itself apart from within. The Jewish State seems to have forgotten its second role in the world, as a place that embodies the idea of ​​Jewish solidarity. Instead, Israelis have found themselves in an all-out war, not against terrorists, but against themselves.

Over the past nearly 40 weeks, as the battle over judicial reform raged violently, old questions of identity and religious affiliation, as well as ethnicity, class and privilege, shook the population. Is Israel more Jewish or more democratic? Many in Israel They experienced real anxiety: The judicial change, introduced by the most right-wing government in the country’s history, seemed to threaten the liberal nature of his beloved country. They felt that they were fighting for the soul of the nation and that, in this fight, all bets were off and nothing was sacred, including the previously untouchable idea of ​​avoiding reserve duty in the army. Despite the unrest in the streets, the ruling coalition refused to accept the fact that, with a slim majority, it could not impose such major changes without consensus, and pressed ahead with increasingly anxiety-ridden policies day after day.

As a nation, we Israelis act as if we can afford a fierce internal strugglethe kind in which your political rival becomes your enemy. We let the animosity, demagoguery and poisonous discourse of social media take over our society and tear apart the only Jewish army in the world. This is our tragedy. And it’s a lesson for other polarized democracies: There is someone out there waiting to benefit from your weakness. That someone is your enemy.

If there can be a conciliation after this dark day, it will be that Israel come to your senses, end the political crisis and form a unity government. There are many difficult decisions that await us after the funerals, chief among them how to bring home the young children and many others held hostage by the terrorists of Hamas.

The acts of profound solidarity we have witnessed over the past day remind us of our true nature, beneath the layers of political differences and old resentments. Many have opened their homes to families fleeing the horrors of the south, they have queued for hours to donate food, drink, blood. And then there are the heroes who risked – and in too many cases sacrificed – their lives, going from house to house, saving family after family.

Saturday was a good day for jihadists and their supporters around the world, for people who celebrate the murder of civilians, who thrive on hatred and violence. Tomorrow the Israelis will bury their dead. The Israelis will think about the captive people, regroup and go out to win this battle. But the examination of conscience will have to come with time.

*This article was published in The New York Times.-