Ariel Beery
Dedicated to solving problems facing humanity with sustainable and scalable solutions

Stop focusing on the ‘day after’

Demonstrators protest for the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip, outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 7, 2024. Einav Zangauker, the mother of hostage Matan Zangauker, is standing in the cage at left. The slogan on the cage reads, 'Netanyahu, it's in your hands.' (Itai Ron/ Flash90)

All wars have a day after, eventually, but true victory is established not on the day but in the decade following the end of hostilities

The conversation about the Day After has become more pervasive over the nine months since the brutal attacks by Hamas on October 7, 2023. Hardly a day goes by without the phrase featured in critiques of the current war or in calls to action by a concerned citizenry. Yet, I’ve come to believe that our focus on the Day After is actually harming our ability to develop a successful strategy to return the kidnapped and defeat Hamas.

By focusing on the Day After, as opposed to the Decade After, we’ve implicitly assumed that the war will end with a clear winner and loser. We’ve assumed that if we accept Hamas’ demand to declare an end to hostilities in return for the captives, thereby ending the war before Hamas is defeated, Israel will lose and those enemies near and far seeking our obliteration will gain. By limiting the timescale of our strategic focus, we’ve set up a dilemma, imprisoning us in the false dichotomy of victory and defeat, as if this war is the war to end all wars.

If our intention is to ensure Israel remains a national home for the Jewish People in our ancestral land—a goal that will require us to defeat the resurgent Islamic imperial ambitions of Iran and Qatar—then we need to move from what the philosopher James P. Carse called a “finite game” mindset into an “infinite game” mindset. As Carse explains in his book Finite and Infinite Games, “A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” A finite game has a day after. An infinite game develops a strategy that stretches decades into the future.

Winning strategies for infinite games are inherently different from those for finite games. As Robert Axelrod and his team at the University of Michigan learned when they explored this concept in the 1970s, the best strategy for iterative games was one that was tough on one hand and forgiving on the other. Developed originally by the psychologist Anatol Rapoport and called Tit for Tat, this strategy recognizes that, in the long term, cooperation wins. It even works for ideologically diverse parties — those who find the other irrational — because the strategy shapes the opponent’s expectations and creates common understanding concerning actions and their consequences. The insight Tit for Tat provides is that achieving cooperation requires more than just punishing bad behavior. It requires one party to provide a clear set of justifications as to why others should cooperate to bring about their desired outcome.

What could a Decade After strategy look like? That depends on the vision for Israel in 2035 we hold in mind. If we imagine Israel entering a messianic era in which the Lord of Hosts will defeat all our enemies with fire and plagues and we will feast on the Leviathan in the outskirts of a heavenly Temple, then we should keep doing what we’re doing. If we would like Israel to be a thriving state with a healthy population able to pursue happiness, each citizen in their own way according to their values and traditions, then we need to develop a strategy to get us there in the decade to come.

Taking an infinite game approach means we need to consider how the people of Gaza and the people of Lebanon—and those of the global powers currently arrayed against us—fit into this future. Understanding why and how they would cooperate. Communicating to them the benefits, directly, persistently. It means being willing to concede short-term interests for long-term gains. It means shifting focus from the current application of power to building power for sustained application to achieve our long-term goals. It means that victory will be determined more by what happens within Israeli society than between Israel and Hamas. It means recognizing that defeating Hamas in the current war is instrumental but not essential, while the internal cohesion of Israeli society is existential.

Those of us who believe this war has been managed poorly, that the country and its coherence and its promise have been sacrificed on the altar of personal power, need to stop speaking about the Day After and start speaking about the Decade After. We need to come together around a vision of a society defined by the thriving of its communities. One whose neighbors will benefit from living next to and trading with. An inspiration to the nations of the world. A political entity that will enable our People to live up to our calling as an Am Olam. To get there, every plan, every strategy, needs to begin with the words, “If we want Israel in 2035 to become…”

About the Author
Ariel Beery is a strategist and institution builder dedicated to building a better future for Israel, the Jewish People, and humanity. His geopolitical writings - with deeper dives into the topics addressed in singular columns - can be found on his substack, A Lighthouse.
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