Scott Kahn
Director of

The War Cabinet – and Israel – in Grave Danger

דוד דנברג - איתמר בן גביר

It is obvious that there can be no more serious decision for a government than whether or not to go to war.

The answer is sometimes yes, the answer is sometimes no. However, no matter what a country’s leaders decide, any determination to fight must be made with extreme care, extraordinary caution, and intense deliberation.

Our Sages, too, determined that a decision to engage in warfare requires first discussing it with military experts, then getting the permission of the Sanhedrin, or high court, and finally consulting the Urim v’Tumim, the High Priest’s breastplate through which the people would be apprised of whether God Himself approved of the proposed military action. Only after these three steps would the king instruct his minister of defense to prepare the army for battle.1

For this reason, populist chants of “War!” should be treated as the immature and, frankly, un-Jewish phenomenon that they are. Regardless of how passionately they yell, or how convinced they are of their proposed course of action, those who demand that the country go to battle without considering whether another course of action might better accomplish the country’s goals, or if the terrible price of a potential war is worth the anticipated gains, are acting against the Torah’s demands. Moral and ethical people who have imbibed the Torah’s essential values insist that calls for war must always be tempered with cool deliberation and careful decision making.

This is why the potential ascension of Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir into Prime Minister Netanyahu’s war cabinet is cause for grave concern.

Earlier tonight, National Unity chair Benny Gantz left the emergency government formed after the Hamas atrocities of October 7th. And with his departure, Ben Gvir demanded that he be included in Netanyahu’s war cabinet in Gantz’s place. Earlier today, he argued that if the government had listened to him all along, “maybe October 7th would have looked different.”

Never mind that in the nine months of 2023 before October 7th, thirty people were killed and 94 were injured through acts of terror in Israel – under the watch of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. Never mind that the worst day in the history of the State of Israel, where 1200 people were savagely murdered and over 250 taken hostage, took place under the watch of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. Never mind that the Minister of National Security oversees the Israeli police, the Israel National Fire and Rescue Services (which includes rescue from terror attacks), and the Israel Border Police – all of which failed tragically and to an unprecedented degree under National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Itamar Ben Gvir, then, is yet another government minister responsible in part for the massive failures of October 7th, who refuses to take any responsibility for his massive failures on October 7th. In his arrogance, however, he goes further by claiming that he could have prevented the disaster altogether, if only the government had listened to him (though he has not shared what, exactly, he supposedly told them).

Itamar Ben Gvir is holding a sword of Damocles over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s head, threatening to bring down his government should Bibi ignore his demands. And these demands, in all likelihood, include war with Hezbollah.

The situation on Israel’s border with Lebanon has become hot and dangerous. Since October 8th, Hezbollah has been firing rockets, missiles, drones, and other munitions into northern Israel. So far, approximately fifteen Israeli soldiers and ten Israeli civilians have been killed in the onslaught, while 80,000 residents have been evacuated. The situation has become more serious over time, as Hezbollah has fired deeper and deeper into Israeli territory, and with greater frequency and lethality. Israel has responded in kind, as tens of thousands of soldiers are now stationed by the Lebanese border, and air force sorties fly deep into Lebanese territory in order to downgrade Hezbollah’s significant military capabilities.

The displaced residents of Israel’s northern communities must be returned, and Hezbollah’s ability to perpetrate a massacre worse than Israel experienced at the hands of Hamas must be downgraded. Unfortunately, Israel may need to go to war in order to achieve these twin goals. An intense war with Hezbollah, however, will not be a bloodless affair; Israel, with God’s help, will win – but the damage to the country in both blood and treasure will be extremely grave. And this doesn’t even account for the possibility that Iran and other proxies may join the fight… and war, by its nature, is always unpredictable. Once again, it is clear that the decision to go to war requires deliberation, careful calibration, and due diligence. The last thing it needs is a cheerleader who ignores nuance and whips his charges into a frenzy.

Five days ago, in the wake of disastrous fires started by Hezbollah rockets, Ben Gvir demanded that Israel go to war against Hezbollah, saying that, “They’re burning here, we have to burn all of Hezbollah’s strongholds to destroy them. War!”

It is that last word that chills me to the bone. “Mil-cha-ma,” he said, emphasizing each syllable.

Israel may be forced to stop its tit-for-tat aerial campaign and wage war against Hezbollah. Ben Gvir’s wish may yet become a reality.

If, however, Israel is drawn into war without the careful consideration that waging war requires – if Israel goes to war, that is, without the modern equivalent of consulting King David’s military advisor, the Sanhedrin, and the voice of God – our government will have violated the trust that the hundreds of thousands of soldiers, millions of soldiers’ family members, and nine million Israeli civilians have placed in its hands. It will be playing a dangerous game, and we will pay the price.

Itamar Ben Gvir is acting in a manner that is arrogant, delusional, condescending, and immature. He calls for war without ever having served in the Israeli military himself, and without the requisite security experience that such calls presuppose. He dares to absolve himself of responsibility for the October 7th disaster, while simultaneously shouting simplistic slogans that can bring Israel to ruin. And he demands a seat at the small table where decisions about the life and death of the Jewish state are made… while threatening to bring down the Netanyahu government if his demand is ignored.

Let’s hope that more and more Israelis recognize that Itamar Ben Gvir’s reductionist philosophy puts us all in grave danger. May we realize that his simplistic chants are a desecration of the divine name. And may our leaders have the wisdom and fortitude to stay strong in the face of his electoral might.

May God save us from the likes of Itamar Ben Gvir.

About the Author
Rabbi Scott Kahn is the CEO of Jewish Coffee House ( and the host of the Orthodox Conundrum Podcast and co-host of Intimate Judaism. You can see more of his writing at