This current war with Hamas is a far more dangerous threat to Israel than the 1973 Yom Kippur War, almost exactly fifty years ago. In 1973, it was solely a military contest, one that the Israelis, despite suffering staggering losses, could manage to turn around. No one thought that the existence of the State of Israel was at risk then.
This time, it is different. This is a political war, and initial indications are that Israel is losing it.
This is far more dangerous because what is at stake is its legitimacy in the eyes of many. The Israelis may think and believe that this is wrong and that the brutality of the October 7 attack is being overlooked. It does not matter; impressions are impressions, and they do not disappear, and the carnage in Gaza feeds daily into the Hamas narrative.
Let's face it: Hamas may have already won the political battle.
At the heart of this Israeli debacle lies one person: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is, of course, ultimately responsible for Israel being unprepared and for pursuing constitutional changes that were strictly intended for his personal benefit.
But Netanyahu’s role in this tragedy is far greater; he is a leader with no international credibility. Over the years, his arrogance, lack of empathy, espousal of illegitimate and callous policies in the occupied West Bank, and probably most shocking to all, appointing overtly racist politicians to his cabinet and diplomatic corps. Imagine for a moment the descendants of the Holocaust, humanity's worst xenophobic experience, have self-described racists at the highest levels of their government.
He has alienated and is disliked by many of the leaders who even support Israel. His presence at the head of the government makes it very easy for people not to believe Israeli claims and arguments. He demonstrated his total inability to assume accountability for his failures by publicly blaming the intelligence leadership for the October 7 attack (he had to withdraw the statement under public pressure).
In addition to the world community, therefore, why should Israelis trust Netanyahu to conduct this war with the country’s interests at heart? He knows he is finished politically and will not survive the political accounting that will take place once the conflict is over. He has been reduced to hoping to extract some “victory” from this war with Hamas to salvage his reputation. After all, he is the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history, and this catastrophe will be what he will be remembered for forever.
He also refuses to grasp the bigger political picture and insists on prosecuting a disastrous war that Israelis were clearly unprepared for. As a result, this conflict is going to get worse by the day, as demonstrated by all bombs that kill Palestinian civilians erode any support.
History also provides a path. The Agranat Commission, after the 1973 War, blamed the political leadership and the higher ranks of the Israeli Defense Forces for the failures. Prime Minister Golda Meir fared somewhat better than Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, the hero of the 1967 Six-Day War. He offered to resign at least twice, but Meir refused to accept it. His impeccable reputation was sullied. It must be remembered that the 1973 war ended with what most observers consider to be an Israeli victory as the Israelis crossed the Suez Canal, encircled the Egyptian Third Army, and pushed Syrian forces back beyond their starting point.
The failures of 1973 ultimately led to the emergence of the right-wing at the expense of the long-ruling Labor Party in Israel. This time, too, one can expect a similar outcome to occur as Israeli voters severely punish Netanyahu and the right wing. However, unlike Labor, which peacefully accepted its fate, one cannot be sure that the right in Israel still believes in democracy.
If Netanyahu really wants to be remembered somewhat favorably or rather less adversely, he should resign and support the creation of a national unity government under the leadership of someone who will inspire confidence at home and abroad. One name that has been bandied about is retired Air Force general Amos Yadlin.
Israeli society is strong, as demonstrated by all the reservists, including those who demonstrated week after week against Netanyahu's constitutional amendments, who immediately joined their military units, many flying back from destinations abroad. Netanyahu is risking further fracturing this compact.
It is worth remembering that Netanyahu benefited from his brother, Yonatan Netanyahu’s heroism back in 1976 in the rescue of civilian hostages from Entebbe airport in Uganda kidnapped by Palestinian and German terrorists. Yonatan Netanyahu, who commanded the special operations raid to rescue them, was Israel’s only casualty.
His brother sacrificed his life for the country, and today, “Bibi” Netanyahu should, like his brother, put the country’s interests first and resign.
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