The war between Israel and Hamas, which began on 07.10 with a cruel and vicious terrorist attack by Hamas on the settlements of the Otaf, is a low point in the history of the State of Israel—years of buying silence exploded inside the Israelis, with a severe sense of disappointment from the Israeli leadership and the army. But even so, every low point is also an opportunity. The ones who understood the magnitude of the option are the Americans, who are working with many players in the region to design “the day after.” On the face of it, this is a wise and even necessary step – the newly created situation requires us to recalculate our course and move towards a different reality.
But despite this, there is a very central challenge that the decision-makers should discuss with dignity. Can and should the start of a regional-wide political process result from Hamas’ brutal acts of violence? More than that, when we Israelis look in the mirror, do we prove to our enemies that we only understand power?
First, the most classic example is the Yom Kippur War and the peace with the Egyptians. Anwar Sadat, the new president of Egypt, tried to find ways to return to Egypt the Sinai Peninsula that Israel captured in the Six-Day War. After losing faith in the political process, he launched a surprise attack together with Syria, which sought to return the Golan Heights to its territory. The result? A bloody war that became a national trauma. Despite the trauma, Israel started a political process with Egypt under the first Rabin government, culminating in the peace agreement between Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat.
Another case study is the first intifada and the beginning of the political process that led to the Oslo Accords. The first intifada caught Israel off guard. The army, as the governing body in the West Bank, did not know how to deal with a struggle that broke out from below when women and children took to the streets. Of course, the intifada quickly turned into a violent event led by the PLO and the exiled Arafat in Tunis. Yitzhak Rabin, who was the Minister of Defense during the first intifada, spoke on the stage of the Knesset and said that “violence will be met with force, and if the Palestinians have something to say, we will meet in negotiations.” Rabin understood the situation, and when he was elected Prime Minister with Shimon Peres, he led a political process with the Palestinians, which gave birth to the Oslo Accords.
Another clear example is, of course, the departure from Lebanon. After the First Lebanon War, the IDF remained in the security zone for about 20 years. Simultaneously with her stay in Lebanon, she grew a movement that would become one of the main threats to the State of Israel, Hezbollah. During Israel’s stay in the Security Strip, Hezbollah engraved on its banner the struggle to expel the Israeli occupier from the land of Lebanon. Finally, at the beginning of the millennium, Israel withdrew from Lebanon, a unilateral withdrawal without a political settlement vis-à-vis Lebanon or Hezbollah. Hassan Nasrallah, in his famous “Spider’s Web” speech, claimed that although Israel is the most powerful country in the region, with the use of force and a continuous struggle, it can be defeated.
Undoubtedly, “the day after” is a tremendous opportunity to shape the face of the Middle East. I understand those who claim that we must shape a new political line, which includes, among other things, starting negotiations with the Palestinians and trying to reach new agreements that will shape the fate of the region. The conclusions from the events of the terrible 07.10 require a recalculation of the route and the utilization of the new platform, the destruction of Hamas’s military capacity, to attempt to change the situation and improve Israel’s position and security. Despite this, the Israeli leadership must do everything to separate the use of violence against the State of Israel from a political process in which Israel takes part. Israel must not appear to be dragged into negotiations following violence against it. Such a situation will encourage our most bitter enemy, for example, Hezbollah, to start a war as brutal as possible against the State of Israel and its citizens to achieve its goals. The Middle East is a difficult neighborhood, and the use of violence can be seen as a political tool. Arafat, who saw how Nasrallah’s use of violence fulfilled his political goal, tried his luck and caused the outbreak of the second intifada. As mentioned, the second intifada did not break Israel, which finally embarked on the “Protective Wall” operation, at the end of which the Palestinian Authority found itself in a worse position than before the intifada. That’s how it should be today. Israel, as a peace-loving democracy, needs to prove to those around it that it wants to integrate into the region and secure its future – but the use of violence will not lead to that.