Emanuel Shahaf

Existential Endgames

Despite the terrible upheaval and the anguish caused by the tragic events of October 7th 2023, it is by no means certain that the full recognition that things cannot continue the way they were before that date has begun to sink in. While there is talk about the endgame for Gaza, mainly by our allies, considerably less so by our own politicians, there is no talk whatsoever about the endgame for Israel, and I mean not only with regard to Gaza but the endgame with the Palestinians.

In case you didn’t know it, this time there will be an endgame with the Palestinians. There cannot be a return to the situation before Oct. 7th because that situation was not normal. The fact that we were able to live with it for 56 years was a pathology which to no small extent contributed to the terrible events of Oct. 7th even though it is at present politically not correct to point that out and people have actually been threatened with dismissal from work for doing that, even indirectly. UN Secretary General Guterres has been pilloried for claiming that the events of Oct. 7th “didn’t occur in a vacuum” and Israel’s Ambassador to the UN has called for his resignation, repeatedly. We really would like to think that Hamas did its massacres out of the blue, just like that. It would so help us to maintain the facade..

We are presently wallowing in our pain and sorrow which reinforces our already considerable capacity for denial. How could what happened happen when we did everything to prevent it? Or did we? After trying to negotiate with Hamas a couple of times but never getting anywhere we settled, in the end, for placating them by paying them off. Those bastards, they took the money and used it to attack and murder us….

Our present political leadership is incapable of introspection, of soul-searching, of doing tshuva. All it wants to do is go forward as quickly as possible so we all forget the past. But the past remains with us to haunt us.

How could we maintain a miserable, cruel and belligerent occupation in the territories for 56 years and even contemplate that it was possible to subdue five million or so Palestinians for all that time without dear consequences? Oh the hubris of believing that our technological prowess and our brutal military force could do away with determined Palestinian resistance for more than five decades running and continue to do so indefinitely.

Those who thought they knew better and looked for compromise were belittled,  made fun off, written off as leftists, do gooders, defeatists, know nothings, what not, certainly not taken seriously. Now all those who knew better beforehand are expected to change their ways, after all, their approach didn’t work. As if that is so. Only force and wiping out Hamas or Gaza or the Palestinians, whatever, will do. And it’s certainly not politically correct to protest the large scale killing of innocent civilians. Aren’t we lucky that they are not…

We have to realize that the future of Gaza and the future of the Land of Israel/Palestine may not be the same but they must be determined at or around the same time. That continuing our killing spree in Gaza and to a lesser degree, in the West Bank will make it infinitely more difficult to settle the conflict.  That no amount of applied or accumulated force will be able to give us the security of a peaceful arrangement.

The endgames for Gaza and the West Bank need to be visionary with a long range future and cannot include continuation of the occupation except for a transient period. They must include a release of all Palestinian prisoners and our abductees and it makes no sense of releasing Palestinian detainees and prisoners into the same reality out of which they were put in detention in the first place. And we have to realize that both for Gaza and for the West Bank, these endgames are existential in the sense that they will determine if Jews will be willing to continue living in Eretz-Israel/Palestine or whether they will slowly but surely leave because they have no safe future here. Threatening as the diaspora appears to be in these days of increasing anti-Semitism, Jews are still in greater physical danger in Eretz Israel than anywhere else.

Are there visionary endgames? There certainly are. Regional governments and local autonomies will figure big in all of them. Are they being discussed? Not really. Our government just isn’t with it. PM Netanyahu is a “dead man walking”  who thinks he still has something to say while the government around him is barely functioning and civil society is running the country. Netanyahu will fall, sooner or later. The reason it’s not happening sooner is that there’s no apparent alternative and the opposition is almost as uninspiring as this government. But we will rebound if we discuss and plan visionary alternatives and keep in mind to tell the truth, because only the truth will set us free. And if we do all that, the leadership to make it happen will be there. Like it was in 1947.

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".