Jonathan Zausmer

The Pied Piper of Caesarea

What world leader would be renovating his private swimming pool at the taxpayer’s expense in the middle of a war of survival in the aftermath of a mega-onslaught of murder, rape, and infanticide of its citizens? Only one. His name is Benjamin Netanyahu. We sometimes use the derogatory term “Banana Republic” to describe failed states. Israel is not a failed state, but it is tragically on the way towards becoming one, while the piper from Caesarea plays the role of state leader, yet leads us steadily off the cliff. 

All the alarms, the warnings, the messages from abroad both polite and not so polite, are being echoed across the world while Israeli leadership stubbornly pursues its war of revenge on Hamas without a clue as to where, when, and how it will end. 

The recent editorial in the New York Times by Israel friend and stalwart supporter Tom Friedman (27th February 24), which sincerely and honestly tries to outline the current danger arising out of the complex Israel-Gaza campaign, specifically the growing loss of support and sympathy for Israel, has fallen on the deaf ears of the government here in Israel.

The moderates in opposition, who have joined the Israeli cabinet in order to bring some logic, clear thinking and solid experience are increasingly sidelined. From an onslaught of mega proportions by Hamas on the 7th October, including infanticide, rape, killings, abuse of every kind – the government of Israel has managed to transform, by its own misjudgment and sheer stupidity, the sympathy of the world at large to a rising current of condemnation, concern, dissociation, and sadly hatred and antisemitism where the victim, Israel, and its citizens, are now viewed as the guilty party in this conflict. 

Well, what were they thinking when the strategy, if one can call it that, is to destroy and kill over 20,000 human beings – mostly civilians, in carpet bombing one of the most highly populated areas in the world?. 

The shocking error of judgment and dismissal of all the warning signs prior to the Hamas attack on the 7th October falls squarely on leadership. This government led by Netanyahu and supported by fanatical messianists, land thieves, and so-called reformers of a solid justice system that has been the pride of Israel for decades, was so deeply involved in creating a “new” Israel run by lawless settlers that they could not see the wood for the trees. They had no clue, no understanding, no insight, no reflective debate or thought process as to the future regarding the Palestinian issue and specifically a vision regarding Gaza. 

So bizarre are the extremists in the coalition government who have turned away from simple logic in favor of biblical fantasy, they began just recently a campaign of promoting resettlement of Jews in Gaza itself with the assumption of complete conquest and destruction following this war. 

From a world that witnessed the brutality of extremist Muslim fanaticism – the murder, rape and destruction of innocent citizens on the 7th October resulting in empathy, sympathy and shock, including amongst the Arab citizens of Israel, we now have a world that has now seen bombing and destruction that goes in scale beyond two years of war in the Ukraine and is sick with the continued death, desperation, hunger and hopelessness consequent to Israel’s campaign. 

Now that Gaza is in ruins, with citizens killing each other to access food, water, medication and shelter and with a Hamas that has been battered to the ground, what can possibly be done to restore some semblance of life, and a future for the two million people living there to say nothing of a strategy for the future? Netanyahu’s government has done nothing to seek a solution and a reasonable future for the citizens of Gaza and a long term plan of safety and security for those who live there and for the people of Israel.

What should have been done? It makes little sense now, however there was a solution at the very outset. Firstly Israel needed to internalize its security vulnerability, not only at the level of military weakness for such an event, and not only erroneous military intelligence and the interpretation thereof, but at the level of government. Netanyahu’s government swallowed the Hamas bait – hook, line and sinker, believing that by allowing 20,000 Gazans a day to work in Israel and by transferring financial aid to Hamas, this would keep the peace. We now know that all the warning signs were there, but either they were ignored, or those who made the decisions chose not to believe them. This is a replay of the 1973 Yom Kippur War with respect to leadership, government, general arrogance, and shocking intelligence failures. 

What could have prevented this catastrophe?  We know now that the intelligence network and its various branches chose to ignore multiple warnings (for months!) from soldiers, many of them women, monitoring the Hamas maneuvers on the ground. Had these been taken seriously, the entire event might have been avoided. However it also seems that at the level of deep intelligence regarding our hostile middle east neighbors namely Iran and its network in Syria and Lebanon, there seems to have been a black hole regarding information. Let’s not forget that the catalyst for this onslaught by Hamas and its Iranian masters, was generated by the upcoming peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. That of course is now history.

Yet even at the last minute, immediately following the attack of the 7th October, when hostages were taken in their hundreds, there was a ray of light that may have stopped the disaster in its full scale. An immediate recognition of defeat and error, on the part of Israel could have led to what is known now as the all-for-all solution. Namely the full release of all Hamas prisoners for all the hostages that would have had a solid chance of success. Scholars and peace activists who were deeply involved with Hamas negotiations in the past raised this option on the premise that Yahya Sinwar has, since his release, been completely committed to releasing his fellow prisoners in Israeli jails. This has been documented many times before the present crisis. If we look at this in retrospect – yes all the Hamas terrorists in Israeli jails to be released in Gaza for all Israeli hostages, it seems like a fantasy, but it could have – maybe should have happened. No war, no more deaths, no bombing yet a humiliating admission of defeat (to be honest – which it was!) could have brought our hostages home. Today there are 134 Israeli hostages still in Gaza either in tunnels or in conditions we do not know. This wasn’t even proposed seriously by Israel. Why not? Failed leadership and myopic vision. 

But hey, the pool is fixed.

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.
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