Israel has suffered an unprecedented attack since Syria and Egypt breached its defenses 50 years ago, triggering a war that traumatized the country. This new Yom Kippur, this new war, is a devastating blow that Israel receives in one of its worst moments, with society fractured by the ultra-religious and ultra-nationalist drift of the Netanyahu Government.
The consequences will be enormous for Israel and the entire Middle East. The normalization of diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia now seems impossible.
How is it possible that so many Israeli civilians have been murdered and kidnapped?
Iran, an ally of the Palestinian rebels, is stronger today. Washington’s diplomatic maneuvers to find a new understanding with Tehran will therefore be much more complicated. The fate of the Palestinian people, who seemed condemned to live under the Israeli will, is now once again a primary question.
On October 6, 1973, Arab armies took advantage of the Yom Kippur holiday, the holiest in the Jewish calendar, to attack Israel. Now Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian militias have done it from the Gaza Strip. An unprecedented offensive by land, sea and air has breached Israeli defenses and brought fighting and destruction to the streets of cities like Sderot, which is half an hour south of Tel Aviv.
At least one hundred Israelis and 200 Palestinians have died. The injured number in the thousands. Several Israeli civilians and soldiers have been kidnapped and taken to Gaza. This is devastating news for everyone. The Palestinians are already paying the price for Israeli military superiority. The Gaza Strip, where two million people live and which Israel, with the help of Egypt, has blocked for 16 years, is a target of Israeli fighter jets and will continue to be so.
But Israel has also suffered tremendous damage, under a hail of more than 2,000 rockets that have reached the outskirts of Jerusalem and shocked a nation with sky-high anxiety due to the rise of religious extremism and colonial expansion. in the West Bank.
The consequences will be traumatic. Yesterday, Israelis had no answers for what they were experiencing and what was coming their way. The invulnerability of the army and the secret services was blown up. Their antennas and confidants in Gaza did not warn them of what was going to happen. Nobody notified the population on their weekly day of rest. This time there were no warning sirens. The attack caught the military completely off guard. How has it been possible that so many civilians have been murdered and kidnapped, victims of atrocious fury, of war crimes recorded on video and uploaded to social networks?
The last soldier Hamas captured was Corporal Gilad Shalit in 2006. The kidnapping lasted five years and Shalit was freed in exchange for a thousand Palestinian prisoners, many convicted of terrorism crimes with blood on their hands. What will Hamas now ask for in exchange for the lives of the hostages it has captured?
This second Yom Kippur places Prime Minister Beniamin Netanyahu before a terrible decision: free thousands of terrorists, strengthen Hamas and other enemies of Israel, in exchange for recovering alive the citizens he has failed to protect.
Al Qasam has stated that the attack is “in defense of Al Aqsa”, the most sacred mosque, the one that stands on top of the Western Wall, and that thousands of Jews have visited these weeks, encouraged by the most radical members of the Government. Israeli.
The coalition government, the most conservative in the history of Israel, with ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious ministers who aspire to the annexation of the entire West Bank, has opened a fracture with unpredictable consequences in society.
Secular Israelis see their freedom threatened, fearing that Israel will become an ultra-Orthodox theocracy. Plans to cut the power of the Supreme Court, subjecting it to the parliamentary majority, are said to be a step in this direction. The dispute is existential, over the identity of Israel and the role of Judaism in the public life of the State, and over the future of Israel itself as a State of law.
A few days ago, in the middle of Yom Kippur, on the occasion of the tensions that the ultra-religious had created in Tel Aviv on the occasion of a prayer segregated by sex in Dizengoff Square, the center of Israeli secularism, President Herzog said that “in 50 years Historians and leaders will see these days, the terrible price of this dispute, and will wonder how we did not understand the magnitude of the danger, the depth of the abyss. At the end of the day, they will say, ‘it was in front of them.’”
Hamas has deepened this chasm. Israeli military superiority will once again subdue the Gaza rebels and restore security, but Israel needs much more to live in peace with itself, with the Palestinians and the entire Arab world.