The Real Lesson For Israel Is About Hubris — And The "Hell" Next Door
Blaming intelligence and military failure for the Oct. 7 assault diverts attention from Israel's real weakness — a distracted and divisive political leadership that ignored the fact that people just a few miles across the border are confined in a living hell.
In the dramatic early hours of the brutal Hamas attack in southern Israel, the most repeated word seemed to be "surprise."
But is this resurgence of conflict, which has already taken hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives and is destined to claim thousands, really all that surprising? What lingering truth hides behind the immediate shock?
An attack of this scale and complexity takes months of preparation. The Hamas militias, supported by Iran, did not improvise here. Rather, they meticulously planned every detail of the attack, including its military, political, intelligence, propaganda, and terror ramifications. They managed to do this despite Israel boasting some of the world's most advanced technological surveillance tools; the services of political informants; a complete blockade of Gaza, where 2.3 million Palestinians have been living in an open-air prison since 2005; and collaboration with Arab countries, starting with Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE.
How is it possible, then, that such a plot managed to go unnoticed? Focusing on intelligence and military shortcomings diverts attention from the real failure, which is political. It is a failure on the part of everyone: Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Arab countries, and the West.
Unprepared and deluded state
Israel, led by the most extremist government in its history, has been decidedly 'distracted' in the past year. For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was focused internally on undermining the judiciary and internationally on rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian issue was almost non-existent.
This was despite the rising violence in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza: from January this year until the day before yesterday, already over 200 Palestinians and 30 Israelis had been killed during protests, clashes, and military operations, a significant increase compared to the previous year. But not only was there no talk of it, there was even an illusion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was dormant, if not on the verge of stabilization, through generous Saudi funding against the backdrop of normalizing relations with Israel.
All the political, economic, and security capital were used to put a band-aid where there was no wound.
This state of affairs demonstrates the unpreparedness of a government and a state deluded that overwhelming force —assisted by the subservience of a morally and financially corrupt Palestinian Authority, which has for years acted as Israel's armed wing in the West Bank — would be sufficient to erase the memory of the trampled rights of the Palestinians.
Israeli society, convinced of the security guaranteed by its own armed forces, is in shock. A shock that rekindles the trauma of exactly 50 years ago, when Egypt and Syria trapped Israel in a surprise war: the Yom Kippur War. It is difficult to imagine that the anger and pain of Israeli society will not have long-term consequences for Netanyahu and his government.
But it also exposes an illusion that runs deeper. To echo the words of an Israeli colleague: how can you believe you live in paradise when there is hell all around you?
At the 2023 UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is close to making historic peace with Saudi Arabia as accepting Israel as a Jewish State, and would truly create a New Middle East.
Reward for Riyadh
To be fair, wild delusion is not exclusive to Israel and its government but also stretches to the Arab countries. For months, news coming out of the Middle East has been dominated by the negotiations for the normalization of Israel-Saudi Arabia relations, mediated by the United States. In turn, Riyadh would be rewarded with an enhanced security partnership similar to what Israel has enjoyed for decades.
Of course this is significant. But the Israeli-Saudi thaw has always been, at most, a secondary issue because the two states not at war. The real knots in the Middle East concern ongoing conflicts, starting with the mother of all evils, the Israel-Palestine conflict, moving on to Lebanon and Syria, and ultimately to the giant issue involving Iran.
Hamas has openly claimed Iranian support in terms of political, financial, technological, and military aid. Tehran has a clear interest in sabotaging the any deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which would have slowed down or even compromised its own rapprochement with Riyadh, established last spring with the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two main Gulf rivals.
But instead of healing the Middle East's open wounds, all the media attention and political, economic, and security capital were used to put a band-aid where there was no wound. Thus was born the naïveté that the region's real problems would remain dormant.
The hypocrisy of the west
Responsibility for this failure lies not only with the Middle East, but also with the West.
Just eight days ago, Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor of the Biden administration, had declared that the Middle East had not experienced such a peaceful period in decades.
There is no peace without justice.
Regardless of the absurdity of those words in hindsight, the most glaring fact is the enormous shortsightedness and hypocrisy of both the U.S. and Europe. Because if the U.S. has done little good in the Middle East in recent years, Europe has done even less.
In Ukraine, we know that there is no peace without justice, and stability will not come with a "freezing" of the conflict, allowing Russia to continue occupying territories and suppressing Ukrainian populations. That is why we support Kyiv.
Yet, in the Middle East, we deluded ourselves that a similar solution could be possible. We let the "two states for two peoples" solution, born 30 years ago with a handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn, die at the hands of Israel's hubris, the moral weakness and corruption of the Palestinian Authority, the cynicism of Middle Eastern regimes, and Western hypocrisy.
The solution faded into oblivion. But the problem, as it has emerged in the wake of this violent shock, is all too alive.
- Financing Hamas: How Cash Gets In The Wrong Hands In Gaza ›
- Hamas Hunts Palestinian Spies Collaborating With Israel ›
- The Why And How Of Hamas’ All-Out War Against Israel — That It's Doomed To Lose ›
- Collateral Tech Damage Of Hamas Attack: The Final Demise Of Twitter - Worldcrunch ›
- Dispatch From Ashkelon, Front Line Of Israel's "Existential War" - Worldcrunch ›
- Palestinians In Israeli Prisons Doubles Since Oct. 7 — A Bargaining Chip For Hostages? - Worldcrunch ›