Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel, resulting in hundreds of Israelis killed and dozens taken hostage, clearly represents a major intelligence failure. But it also represents many years of political and diplomatic failures, including refusal to come to grips with the actual nature of the enemy we face. Israel’s goal has always been peace, but the enemy’s goal has always been victory. Today’s fighting should prove to us once and for all that we can never achieve peace in our region without first achieving victory.
The Hamas attacks should not have come as a surprise. They’ve been proclaiming their intention to launch such attacks, and actively preparing and training for them, for years. It wasn’t a question of if they would attack, but when. Israel’s error was to sit back passively while Hamas made its war preparations right under the IDF’s nose.
Even now, Israel is thinking in defensive terms rather than offensive ones. Many people are talking about Israel’s right to defend itself, as if this could even be open to question. Netanyahu has proclaimed that Hamas will pay an “unprecedented price” for its attacks. But this statement implies that Hamas will still be standing at the end of the conflict. If Hamas is still standing, and still wields any power in Gaza at the end of this conflict, then the conflict will have been a victory for Hamas and a defeat for Israel, regardless of how many Palestinians are killed or how much infrastructure is destroyed. Eliminating Hamas permanently is the only adequate response to the attacks.
And after Hamas is destroyed, the next step must be to eliminate the Palestinian Authority, which has provided so much support, encouragement, and shelter to Palestinian terrorists against Israel. Israel must take full responsibility for security throughout the land, and not rely on proxies that are enemies themselves. But it has to deal with terrorists in such a way that their fear of Israel will exceed their hate. In other words, the terrorists must be terrorized themselves. Only then will they desist.
A big question is, what to do about Palestinian civilians? Are the Palestinians basically good people who just happen to have bad leaders, and are therefore deserving of IDF protection, or are the Palestinians themselves enemies of the Jewish people and unworthy of consideration? Is this a war between leaders or a war between entire peoples? Keep in mind that every Palestinian schoolchild is relentlessly taught that Jews are the eternal enemies of Arabs and Muslims, and that suicide martyrdom against them is the noblest possible act. It would seem to be sheer foolishness that IDF troops should ever put their own lives at risk in order to spare Palestinians civilians. In fact, that type of behavior is taken by the Palestinians as a psychological weakness that they can easily exploit to their advantage, such as by utilizing their own people as human shields. Yet there have already been reports of Israel making telephone calls to buildings in Gaza warning them to evacuate before the buildings were destroyed, thereby sparing some civilians but also enabling terrorists to get away.
Another big question is, does Israel have a greater right to the land than the Arabs do? Most Arabs say that this is exclusively Muslim land and Jews have no right to it whatsoever. Do we believe in our own right to the land more than they believe in their right to it? Because if we don’t, if we’re not willing to make the same level of sacrifices that they’re willing to make for it, it’s going to be very hard to hold onto it.
But the most important question of all is, what does our present situation look like from the point of view of the Almighty? The Jewish nation was founded thousands of years on two central principles, the supremacy of God and the truth of His covenant. He promised to give us the land of Israel, and protect us from our enemies, in return for our adherence to His commandments. We cannot succeed as a nation by rebelling against Him. To ensure victory, we must remove from ourselves everything that is detestable in His sight, including false ideologies that deny His very existence, and dedicate ourselves first and foremost to serving Him according to His commandments as our ancestors did on Mount Sinai. When we do this, we’ll gain the ability to permanently defeat groups like Hamas and their foreign supporters, and we will ultimately be able to live in peace in our own land according to His promise.