What was Hamas’s October 7 attack? A horrifying revelation of the depth of evil; an astounding failure of Israeli intelligence assessment and military preparedness; an unspeakable nightmare in broad daylight.
But just three months later, with a whole country still processing trauma and large numbers of Israelis requiring mental-health support, a different take on October 7 keeps gaining traction. In this view — increasingly prevalent among supporters of Israel — October 7, with the multifront war and ongoing hostage ordeal that have followed, is being seen as… a doorway to a Palestinian state and a final, definitive Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Amid mounting pressure for such an outcome from the Biden administration and the EU, a group of 15 Jewish Democrats in the US House of Representatives have chimed in with statements such as this, from Representative Jerry Nadler of New York: “We strongly disagree with the [Israeli] prime minister…a two-state solution is the path forward.”
Or from Representative Brad Schneider of Illinois: “I agree with Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken that a future peace between Israel and the Palestinians…requires both a true safe and secure, democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a very real pathway for Palestinians to realize their own peaceful aspirations for a viable state.”
Or from Congressman Brad Sherman of California: “First Netanyahu fails Israel by basing a highly inadequate portion of the IDF near Gaza in the months before October 7. Then he ignores the warnings of October 6. Then this.”
In other words, Netanyahu’s stated opposition to a Palestinian state is in the same calamitous league as his failed policy in the leadup to October 7 itself.
Apart from the fact that US members of Congress would never have to live beside the envisaged Palestinian state and hence can blithely advocate it without incurring any risk whatsoever to themselves and their loved ones, there’s also the fact that Netanyahu’s stance on the issue is not a right-wing phenomenon, but actually shared by a wide majority of Israelis.
That is clear from a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute reported on December 5, in which Jewish Israelis were asked whether Israel should “agree or not agree to pursue the two-state solution in order to continue to receive American assistance.” While 35% said yes, 52% were opposed — even at the risk of losing US assistance.
Likewise, a Gallup poll reported on December 23 found that “one in four Israeli adults currently support the existence of an independent Palestinian state, while most (65%) oppose it.”
That Israeli attitude was articulated by President Isaac Herzog, a scion of the Labor Party and in no way a right-winger, when he told the World Economic Forum in Davos last week: “If you ask an average Israeli now about his or her mental state, nobody in his right mind is willing now to think about what will be the solution of the peace agreements, because everybody wants to know: Can we be promised real safety in the future?… Israel lost trust in the peace processes because they see that terror is glorified by our neighbors.”
Immigrant Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata of the centrist National Unity Party put it this way: “Before October 7, many people had hope for peace. Now it is more despair at which path the Palestinians have chosen…. Not only Hamas terrorists invaded Israel that day, [there were] civilians who stole everything, televisions, refrigerators, clothes. When the terrorists came back with the hostages, with Israeli children and bleeding women, they cheered that. It is a shame. Now many people in Israel realize: They want to throw us into the sea. You want Tel Aviv. You want Jaffa. You want everything.”
Indeed, despite Representative Sherman’s above-quoted words about Palestinians’ “peaceful aspirations,” Israelis are well aware that there, too, the survey data tells a different story. A poll reported on December 13 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 72% of Palestinians — including no less than 85% in the West Bank — approving of the October 7 attack. A poll by the Arab World for Research and Development, reported on October 20, found that “85% [of Palestinians] support the ‘October 7 attacks’ either strongly or at least somewhat” — 68% “strongly” in the West Bank and 47% “strongly” in Gaza.
Not surprisingly, then, when a poll by the same Palestinian Center, reported on December 23, asked Palestinians, “What is the best means of achieving Palestinian goals,” 24% chose “negotiations,” 19% chose “peaceful popular resistance,” while 56% chose “armed struggle,” also known as terrorism.
All this does not mean it is desirable for Israel to rule over hostile Palestinian populations forever. It does mean that, given fundamental Palestinian animosity toward Israel that has not changed in 75 years, solutions that would not ensure Israeli security are infeasible in the foreseeable future.
It also means that, in continuing to talk about solutions and peace in the same robotic ways, purported friends of Israel appear not to have taken in the reality of October 7 and its aftermath as Israelis have, and to lack empathy for Israelis and be blind to the situation they confront.