Gil Lewinsky

Many Questions as October 07 War Still Doesn’t Resemble Victory

On February 24, 2022, after surrounding Ukraine for months, including from neighboring Belarus, Russia invaded its neighbor. It soon proved to be a game-changing conflict, as a war meant for a week is now approaching the 2-year mark.

Israel’s war since October 7 is quickly turning into its own debacle. A record number of civilians were slain, including hundreds of soldiers to an inferior enemy. Most importantly, four months later no difinitive victory is in sight.

Imagine this: We tune into Channel 12 to news of an elite commando operation near Khan Younis. On television screens, we see pictures of emaciated individuals being escorted out of a tunnel, with what appears to be IDF soldiers. They looked like they haven’t eaten in over a month. After around 50 or so were escorted out and to a nearby helicopter, bodies in body bags were carried out. Soldiers awaited a second helicopter to arrive on-site to take the bodies. The television crew then turns to the picture of several Israeli tanks near the scene. Israel has accomplished the mission; it has rescued the hostages.

Why must the above, considering Israel’s history, be wishful thinking? The previous paragraph has become, as of the time of writing, a piece of fiction, and while some believe, many are increasingly pessimistic.

For 110 days, Jews remain hostages in Gaza. Hostage families are growing ever more desperate, even breaking into the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and crashing a hearing of the finance committee led by MK Gafni of United Torah Judaism. “You dare to bring down a government over hametz but not over the return of our loved ones!” cried a protester. MK Gafni tried to reassure the crowd that the return of the hostages was of the utmost importance. Outside, a protester told Channel 12 that she is tired of hugs and wants to see action from the government.

Their plight is justified. They expected the Israeli state to protect their families, and if not protect them, to rescue their loved ones. Nearly four months on, the war has become a slog. Israel has shown itself great at destroying buildings; however, only one hostage has been rescued by the Israeli army. Over a hundred hostages were released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Four have been killed (Saar Baruch was killed in the botched rescue operation) with the involvement of our own soldiers.

Additionally, Hamas’s ability to dictate policy remains largely intact. Only around 30% of its militia has been wiped out, and none of its senior leadership has been killed. When it comes to Israel’s two main goals: to destroy Hamas and to return the hostages home, this war has so far failed to bring results. Even if the hostages would be saved, many are no longer alive to be rescued. Four months in a territory the size of some North American cities, the IDF is powerless to rescue its own kin.

While not a military strategist and seeing the conflict away from classified information, it appears new thinking is urgently required, and not only on the battlefield. Internationally, what used to be a pro-Israel West is quickly morphing into an international consensus not to Israel’s interest. A new campaign that combines the “moderate” Arab states, the United States, and Europe is demanding a cease of hostilities, a release of hostages, for the creation of a Palestinian State. Israel may gain out of it a peace deal with Saudi Arabia. However, Hamas may survive intact in the agreement. If such an agreement comes to fruition, then Hamas’s originally goal of October 07 bore fruit at our expense. It will be celebrated on the streets of the Arab World for not only slaughtering Jews with impunity but also for creating the push for the realization of Palestinian statehood.

For all those criticizing Netanyahu, he is the only one bucking this trend. However, his popularity is approaching historical lows.

With protests starting to erupt demanding new elections, the government’s time to prosecute the war may be winding down. The following are important questions to ponder for any Israeli strategist:

1) Can the Israeli government bring the hostages home militarily? If no, should it admit to the Israeli people that it has failed in its mission? If yes, what time frame is realistic? Nearly every day more hostages are revealed killed.

2) How should Israel react to growing international pressure from its “allies” to secure a roadmap to a Palestinian State? How should Israel ensure that its own interests are met in such a grand bargain?

3) Is it possible that no solution for the hostages is found, and that it must begin to think of the possibility that none will come home? What will this mean for Israeli society?

Considering the international pressure facing Israel, it is important not to give in. If Israel ends up being forced to surrender to Hamas for the return of a minority of living hostages, then this may become the one war Israel has truly lost. It will impact society for a generation. We all share the plight of the families of the hostages and want them home today.

However, at the end of the day, with the might of Israel’s army, why are they still in Gaza four months later? There isn’t an Israeli that isn’t pondering this question.

About the Author
Born in Israel but raised in Canada, Gil Lewinsky worked as a journalist in Jewish newspapers including the Jerusalem Post after completing a Masters degree at the Munk School of Global Affairs from the University of Toronto. He also has a LLM in International Law from Lancaster University in the UK. His past topics include a book written about the Status of Gaza under International Law soon after its conquest by Hamas in 2007. He is perhaps best known as one of two people that brought a flock of Jacob Sheep from Canada to Israel in 2016, making history. He currently works as a teacher and English public relations professional in Israel.