Emanuel Shahaf

Before the Reckoning

Israel has been hit very hard and we are hurting badly. This was more than a sneak attack and a rude awakening. This was a shock, bigger than the one we sustained in the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. It has shaken the foundations of our belief in the IDF’s ability to protect us and it’s not clear, certainly not yet, if and when public trust in the security apparatus can be reestablished. In 1973 it was the army that bore the brunt of the initial enemy assault and our soldiers and their leadership kept their end of the bargain. On Shabbat Simchat Tora 2023 it was the civilian population of the area around the Gaza Strip that became the victim of Hamas’ deadly attack and the army utterly failed to prevent the catastrophe. Most of the more than 1,000 civilians who died were massacred in their homes where they felt safest. Their houses were burned down to force them into the open and there, most were gunned down, including women and children, some of the women raped. Whole families were wiped out. About 150 men, women and children including babies, toddlers and the elderly were abducted to Gaza. The connotations of these events for a Jewish State cannot be overlooked. This is a disaster of proportions never encountered in Israel, it’s the equivalent of 30,000 murdered in a terror attack in the US.

While the IDF is playing pick-up trying to get its act together in order to engage in a credible counter attack on Gaza, not before wiping out the last of the 1,500 or so Hamas terrorists that had intruded into Israel, the political echelon remains shell shocked, under lock down. The thought that the conflict may expand into the North of the country involving Hizbollah in Lebanon is certainly worrisome. It took PM Netanyahu five hours or so before he showed his face in a brief, taped message on TV. Other members of his government stayed away from the media completely and only the Minister of Defense made several appearances. The government knows that it’s time is limited. Even if it will be able to get the IDF to conduct a counter attack that will satisfy the public’s need for retaliation and revenge on Gaza, it will not be able to stay in power. Considering that Hamas is holding about 150 Israeli hostages, that will be a rather complicated task without endangering them. And, as the NYT title this Monday said so aptly: “Attack, retaliation, war. And then?”

Benjamin Netanyahu’s gamble on maintaining the status-quo with the Palestinians forever and ever has failed completely. Israel is paying a heavy price. The trivial adage that bad things, left alone and not taken care of will become even worse has proven itself again. Netanyahu has brought a disaster upon Israel that is second to none, seriously harming Israel’s social fabric, its deterrence stature, its start-up economy and its place in the Middle East. It will take all the support we can get from the diaspora and inspired leadership to get us back on track. I hope we find it, as we did in 1948.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".
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