We’ve been at war for over two months now, and after a year of being torn apart, our enemies have finally united us. Our society was on the verge of implosion, and the savagery of the aggressor made us stand together. Our leaders are far from being unanimous among the people, but like the dust under the carpet we are putting off our disputes. There is a consensus to end this war with the threats to the South and the North annihilated. Once this goal has been achieved, the villages and towns of these regions will be repopulated and we will know peace.
Alas, we must be aware and face reality, not the way we would like it to be, but the way it could be. We are living in a paradoxical situation where success can lead to failure and vice versa. If Israel does not succeed in curbing Hamas and Hezbollah, then it will be a bitter failure, the villages that have been evacuated will not be repopulated, the confidence that we have had since the creation of the State of Israel will crumble, we will look for the guilty parties and our divisions will reappear, until the next conflict.
But if, on the contrary, thanks to our inner strength and despite the enormous pressures that surround us, we succeed in neutralising our enemies, we could then be faced with a situation that is far more worrying than anything we have known since 1948: the Palestinian question. Indeed, the problem of how to manage Gaza in the post-Hamas context will inevitably raise this issue.
The question of who will manage the Gaza enclave will be very critical for the State of Israel. It is unthinkable that Tzahal should be responsible for the daily life of a population of 2.3 million, as it has been done in the past, a large majority of Israeli and world opinion would be vehemently opposed. The word occupation, with all its pejorative connotations, would resurface. Moreover, it is unlikely that any international organisation or third country would accept this responsibility. The only visible alternative would be for the Palestinian Authority to administrate the territory. The latter will show its reluctance to do so and will be then in a position to dictate its conditions, namely the creation of a Palestinian State, a position that will likely be supported by practically every country in the world, starting by the United States.
It is probable that at this stage there will have been new elections in Israel and that the future government will be centre-right and will be reluctant to accept the idea of a State on its borders which would surround all the country’s vital and urban centres and which could be hostile. The issues and difficulties are well known, principally : the unity of Jerusalem; territorial continuity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; the absence of a Palestinian army; diplomatic representations – we can imagine an Iranian embassy in East Jerusalem – borders protection; dual nationality; exchanges of territories; access to the sea; dismantling of certain settlements and others…
The problems are immense. Israel will find itself isolated as never before. But that’s not the worst of it; the worst will come from our internal fracture. The mere fact that the government might be thinking of negotiating will be intolerable to a significant minority in the country who might refuse to play the democratic game and will be ready to resort to armed struggle. At this stage, civil war is upon us. A war that will take place when Israel is alone and isolated among the Nations…
In our long history, we have already found ourselves in similar situations. Sometimes we have escaped, sometimes we have lost our identity. In 66 AD, the war against the Romans, combined with a civil war, led to the destruction of our society, and it took two millennia for us to recover. In 732 BC the Kingdom of Israel disappeared, but its brother, the Kingdom of Judah, persisted for almost two additional centuries, despite the hostile giant powers surrounding it (the Chaldeans, the Medes and the Assyrians) who wanted its destruction.
This Kingdom of Judah was a pocket handkerchief centred on Jerusalem, yet it survived for three and a half centuries surrounded by enemies far more powerful than it was. This kingdom was on the verge of succumbing on several occasions, but it endured for a long time against all the odds.
The paradox that the elimination of Hamas would lead to a short-term existential confrontation within Israel must be taken seriously. We must prepare for this and do our utmost to avoid this scenario. We are not alone and we must engage in dialogue.
The Ideal of ‘Greater Israel’ is not the supreme value of Judaism; the sanctification of Life comes first. Let’s not forget that we have already been through similar circumstances; sometimes we stumbled but survived, sometimes we have fallen. Let us remember the past and not repeat the same mistakes. Without going back thousands of years, let’s just remember the situation into which Israeli society was plunged this past year until October 7! Since then, we have been temporarily united, let’s stay that way even if the winds of discord sweep across our yards.