Ian Joseph

The Day After, the Month After, the Years After

“Israel was justified in hitting back at Hamas for breaking the cease-fire that existed on Oct. 7 and indiscriminately murdering, raping or maiming more than 1,200 people and kidnapping some 240 others in its path that day. Hamas plotted and executed a campaign of unspeakable barbarism that seemed designed to make Israel crazy and lash out without thinking about the morning after the morning after. And that is just what Israel did.

But nine weeks later, we can now see the morning after the morning after. In pursuing its aims of dismantling Hamas’s military machine and wiping out its top leaders, Israel has killed and wounded thousands of innocent Gazan civilians. Hamas knew this would happen and did not care a whit. Israel must. It will inherit responsibility for a gigantic humanitarian disaster that will require a global coalition years to fix and manage.” Thomas Friedman NYT Dec 12, 2023

“…no Gulf Arab states (not to mention European Union states or the U.S. Congress) are going to come into Gaza with bags of money to rebuild it unless – and even this is not a sure thing – Israel has a legitimate, effective Palestinian partner and commits to one day negotiating a two-state solution. Any Israeli official who says otherwise is delusional. “We need to see a viable two-state solution plan, a road map that is serious before we talk about the next day and rebuilding the infrastructure of Gaza,” Lana Nusseibeh, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United Nations, said in an interview Tuesday with The Wall Street Journal.” Thomas Friedman NYT Dec 12, 2023

“1, 2, 3 what are we fighting for?” Country Joe and the Fish Woodstock 1969

Let me state from the outset that the barbaric attack by Hamas on October 7 is not justifiable by any means. The world and Israel should not and cannot tolerate such barbaric terrorism under any circumstances. Furthermore, Israel has a right and a duty to protect its citizens, ensure their safety, and defend its internationally recognized borders. As a proud Israeli and an ex-IDF combat officer, I am concerned for the future of Israel and its continued existence for our children and grandchildren.

What will the day after Israel declares victory over Hamas look like for Israelis? The week after, the month after and the years after?

What will victory over Hamas look like? Will it be the total destruction of Hamas, its military, political and civil infrastructures, not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank, Qatar and anywhere else Hamas has a presence?

Is it possible for Israel to even decisively win against Hamas and Hezbollah? This is especially critical when one considers that Israel is facing an existential crisis. It is not an existential crisis in the sense that external armies are attacking and could overwhelm the country. Rather it is an existential crisis in the sense that if Israel cannot guarantee peace and security for its citizens on the border with Gaza and on the border with Lebanon, then  In the current age of rockets, missiles and drones with a reach of tens or hundreds of kilometers, nowhere in Israel is safe from an enemy in Gaza or Southern Lebanon armed with modern weapons capable of easily reaching the heart of Israel.

While Israel can and will defeat Hamas on the battlefield, in the backstreets, tunnels and bunkers of Gaza, Israel cannot resolve the conflict with the Palestinians by force of arms. There is no military solution to the conflict. The tragedy of October 7 has conclusively destroyed the prior Israeli concepts that the conflict can be managed, that Palestinian terrorists can be kept out through fences, sophisticated electronic surveillance and through deterrence. There is no army that cannot be taken by surprise. There is no intelligence service that cannot be fooled. There is no fence, wall or obstacle that cannot be breached or bypassed. While Israelis know that they cannot afford to lay down their arms, force of arms alone cannot provide Israelis with peace, quiet and a secure environment.

October 7 has shattered and destroyed a number of key concepts. This will cause Israel to re-examine, in depth a number of beliefs that were taken as gospel truths before October 7. Some of these, in no particular order, were:

  • Terrorists can be deterred via our superior technology and superior forces.
  • The Palestinian conflict can be managed on Israeli terms, forever, with a minimal acceptable loss of life to Israel.
  • Palestinian forces/terrorists are not capable of planning and executing a large scale coordinated attack.
  • Placement of civilian settlements along the borders and in the West Bank enhances and aids Israel’s security.
  • Seven million Jews can rule over, control, oppress and discriminate against seven million Palestinians without resulting violent, unpredictable reactions on a periodic basis.
  • Israeli intelligence is so comprehensive and deep that Israelis forces cannot be surprised.
  • A wall can be built, that is high enough, deep enough and technologically capable of detecting and repelling any enemy forces.
  • Israel can, by force of arms, ensure that a second state is not established in the area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
  • The state of Israel can guarantee security to its citizens in a post-Holocaust world.
  • Stability can be guaranteed in the Middle East while bypassing and excluding the Palestinians.

“But if Israel does not come up with a long-term political vision to entice the world to help it fund the rebuilding of Gaza, it is going to be in for a lot of diplomatic and economic hurt. Gaza could end up a giant, sucking chest wound that overstretches Israel militarily, economically and morally — and takes its U.S. superpower patron along for the ride.” Thomas Friedman NYT December 12, 2023

To date, nearly eleven weeks after October 7, and no clear sign in sight for an end to this war, Israeli leaders have not come up with any vision, let alone a compelling one, as to how Gaza will be governed and how, if in any way, progress will be made towards a peaceful solution, with the Palestinians and Hezbollah.

I personally have lost count of how many rounds of fighting, carnage and campaigns there have been in the Gaza Strip since 2005, after the Israeli withdrawal. The average Israeli soldier, officer and politician are quite clear in why they are fighting; For family, friends and country, to eliminate Hamas and remove the threat on the Southern border. But… every previous campaign and outbreak in Gaza had a similar, if not identical aim; To remove the threat of Hamas and deter them from future violence. How is one to justify the next round of violence? And a next round will break out, sometime in the indeterminate future, without a political settlement. How is one to justify the ongoing and future loss of life to all the families who have lost loved ones if a military war and the military approach does not bring a permanent solution and resolution to the violence? How is one to justify the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Gazan civilians if, as a result, Hamas 2.0 arises from the devastation, ashes and radicalization caused by the massive bombing of Gaza?

In short, how is one to justify a massive, overwhelming military approach if it just does not work as it has demonstrably and conclusively not produced peace with the Palestinians for 75 years? What concerns me is the lack of thought and public discussion as to what will happen in the future after this war ends. What will happen in Gaza? Who will care for the thousands of orphans being created in Gaza? What economic relationship will there be between Gaza and Israel? Who/which body will govern Gaza? What security provisions will be in place to guarantee that October 7 cannot be repeated?

If Israel cannot guarantee peace and security for its citizens then many will vote with their feet and elect to live elsewhere. This has already started to happen on a small scale with Israelis seeking second passports and some electing to relocate to Cyprus and other European countries. A political solution is a must if Israel is to avoid its best and brightest leaving for better shores. In order to avert an existential crisis the government of Israel must develop and present a compelling vision for its citizens of how Israel will, in the near future, live in peace with all its neighbors including the Palestinians.

It is nothing short of tragic that more than 75 years after the creation of the state of Israel, Israelis are still living by the sword. 67 years after the murder of Roi Rothberg in the fields of Nachal Oz, Moshe Dayan’s eulogy for Roi still rings true: “…we are a generation that settles the land and without the steel helmet and the cannon’s maw, we will not be able to plant a tree and build a home.…This is the fate of our generation. This is our life’s choice – to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down.”

So… in short, and simplistically, can anyone tell me, “What are we fighting for?” What is the compelling vision for peace, security, reconciliation and politics for the future that makes it worth while to sacrifice and fight for?

About the Author
Born and educated in South Africa, a graduate of Jewish day school and Habonm Dror, Ian Joseph served in the IDF as an officer in combat units, and currently resides in North Carolina and Cyprus. Ian holds an MBA from Shulich School of Business in Toronto, is certified as a Master Instructor by the American Sailing Association and is currently retired from IBM. Among other pursuits Ian edits a weekly newsletter of Israeli news items, teaches sailing around the world and certifies sailing instructors.