Israel has never stopped being at war

por Rafael L. Bardají, 8 de octubre de 2023

Let my words go, first of all, to honor the victims, civilian and military, and their loved ones, devastated by this large-scale terrorist attack carried out by Hamas. 600 dead and over 2000 wounded demand not only remembrance, but justice. The State of Israel was created to protect the Jewish people from its many enemies, and it must continue to serve that function.
The Middle East is not a place for do-gooders and much less for that virus installed in the West under the false name of Wokism. Rather than an "awakening", the woke mentality does nothing more than mask reality, disarm good citizens, morally and physically, and leave society at the mercy of barbarism.
The citizens of Israel have known this well since the very day of the birth of the Jewish state on May 14, 1948. Its declaration of independence was answered with an invasion by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon which, had it not been repelled and thwarted by the Israeli defense, would have meant the end of the newborn state. I do not think it is necessary to recall all the attacks Israel has suffered since then, either at the hands of traditional armies or at the hands of terrorist groups. It is an irony of history that this new Hamas offensive was launched on the 50th anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War, October 6, 1973. It is more dramatic that today, as then, Israel's defenses have been caught by surprise.
I imagine that just as after the strategic surprise of 1973 the Agranat commission was set up to analyze the intelligence failures that prevented Israel from being prepared to prevent or effectively repel the attacks from Egypt and Syria, Israel will again set up a commission to study how such a large-scale attack, from so many points of attack, with prolonged infiltration of Israeli soil, with kidnappings of dozens of civilians and soldiers forcibly taken into Gaza, with sustained occupations of police and military bases, with hostages and a level of destruction and chaos never before seen, was possible and took so much effort to stop.
If that commission ever sees the light, all the tactical and operational lessons will undoubtedly be learned. But this attack goes beyond the tactical and operational. It does not even remain at the strategic and political level. From my humble point of view, and as far as I know Israel, the surprise and unpreparedness to limit this attack is rooted in the accelerated "westernization" of the Israeli people. By "westernization" I mean its latest cultural manifestation, the woke mentality. I firmly believe that Israel has every right in the world to be a democratic, modern, dynamic, and prosperous nation. And indeed, the last 20 years have witnessed a profound social transformation that has put Israel at the forefront of technological innovation wherever it has put its mind to it. But the start-up nation, however much it may want to resemble our democracies in Europe or America, has something that we have not yet experienced in equal intensity and extent: the hatred of its neighbors and their desire to annihilate both the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
As a member of the High Level Military Group I have had the opportunity to visit Israel in the last ten years to study and evaluate every military operation with which Israel has had to respond to Hamas in Gaza, as well as to evaluate the situation in the north of the country, against Hizballah in Lebanon and the pro-Iranian militias in Syria and also to learn from the tactics used to prevent the more or less spontaneous attacks with which radical Palestinians have killed and injured hundreds of Israelis resorting to atrocities and kitchen knives. We in Europe have only seen the tip of the iceberg (all the analyses can be found here).
At the end of each operation, the message we got from IDF military officials was always summed up as "deterrence has been re-established".  A statement that was valid until it was no longer valid, and Hamas resumed firing rockets, sending kites armed with incendiary balloons, digging tunnels to access farms and kidnap their residents, firing anti-tank rockets or encouraging mass protests at the fence and penetrating Palestinian Authority land in the West Bank with operatives.  No matter how much we were told, deterrence seemed to us more and more a soluble element as the months went by.
On one of our last visits, in late 2021, under the then two-headed government of Bennet and Lapid, it left us rather concerned, I have to say, that in all the presentations by senior operational commanders the first item to be discussed in the threat arena was climate change. And it wasn't just limited to the role of water scarcity and its impact on regional rivalries.  It was all a display of environmentalism imported from the major climate summits, Davos and American institutions.
For the sake of truth, I must also say that the second major concern of the military commanders was the new era of strategic competition between the great powers and its possible impact on the area. Something premonitory considering that in less than three months there would be the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the gradual creation of the two belligerent blocs, one around Washington and the other in support of Putin.
And certainly, this invasion attack by Hamas can be perfectly explained by resorting to this competition between the great powers. After all, the security of the region and that of Israel have always been influenced by foreign actors and interests.  I do not know whether Putin's hand is behind the boldness of Hamas leaders, but certainly the Kremlin is one of the major beneficiaries of a war between Israel and Gaza. As we well know, wars are extremely voracious for ammunition and weapons systems. So much so that much of the American stocks prepositioned in Israel in the event of open conflict have been taken out of Israel in the last year to be sent as American aid to Ukraine. If Netanyahu is indeed acting like the leader of a country at war, those ammunition stocks will have to be replenished in the coming weeks or months, so aid to Ukraine would suffer. Putin can only applaud, therefore.
Regionally, the best off now is Iran. After the series of mini-deals with the Biden administration for which it has already received at least $6 billion in exchange for releasing a few American citizens imprisoned in Iran, it once again has enough funds to set the whole Levant on fire.
But there is more, within this competition between the great powers, we cannot ignore the growing collaboration between Tehran and Moscow, as seen in the military aid against Ukraine (drones and heavy howitzers ammo, as far as we know), nor the strategic relations between Iran and China.
To think that normalization between the Gulf Arab countries and Israel, especially with what was to be Saudi Arabia's imminent recognition of the State of Israel, was going to come without a high price, they were wrong. It is more than likely that this Hamas offensive has among its objectives to derail the diplomacy that was laying the groundwork for a new impetus to the Abraham Accords.  In the last few days, three ministers of the Jerusalem government had visited Riyadh as a prelude to the formal opening of relations. This scenario that was thought to be so close may now be called into question during a war scenario in which the international community will soon accuse Israel of atrocities it did not commit and will forget to denounce the violations of all norms by Hamas terrorists.
And yet, in my last two visits to Israel with colleagues from the High Level Military Group, just before the summer, the most widespread idea in Israeli security circles was that the relationship with Hamas could be stabilized thanks to economic incentives on the one hand and the lessons they would have learned from their last attack in 2021, where Israel ended up threatening the lives of some of their leaders, on the other. In fact, about 30,000 Palestinians from Gaza have been admitted to work in Israel in recent months as it was believed that this was a measure that could only strengthen stability in the relationship between Gaza and Israel. Forgetting something that Yasir Arafat made clear to us throughout his life: Palestinian leaders always think of Palestine, but never of the Palestinians.  Hamas leaders are not the least bit concerned about the welfare of their own.
Reading strategic reality in such a fluid world is a challenge, I admit. Especially in an environment of political polarization from which Israel is not spared either.  My good friend Col. Richard Kemp and I wrote an article back in February, after seeing the degree of almost unhealthy animosity of the opposition to the current coalition government.  Using the government's proposed judicial reform as a battering ram to completely delegitimize it.  Calls such as those of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak for insurrection or the refusal of reservists to join their units, seemed to us highly dangerous because they could lead Israel's enemies to believe that their internal division was making them weaker.
Inciting the Biden administration to ostracize the new prime minister did not seem to us to serve the purposes of a prosperous, free, and secure Israel either. For Team Biden needed little or no incentive to torpedo all the good achieved by Washington and Jerusalem in the Donald Trump years. The United States brought back the old policy of showering the Palestinians with millions, regardless of whether much of that money ended up as terrorist salaries, Obama's traditional equidistance between Israel and Hizballah, forcing border agreements to the detriment of Israel's interests and, above all, embracing and praising the goodness of an understanding with Iran over its nuclear program.  It would be a joke if it hadn't been, as we learned from Elon Musk's new X, that the White House special envoy and negotiator with Iran was stripped of his security clearances at the end of April and fired from his post after he was suspected of having passed secret documentation to his Iranian contacts. In fact, the US Congress is currently investigating possible Iranian intelligence infiltration of the White House itself.
What can Iranian leaders make of a Joe Biden who is hastily fleeing Afghanistan, who does not want to get his hands dirty directly in Ukraine, who is willing to give them billions in exchange for nothing to hold them back?
How is it possible that the typical Kalashnikovs that Islamic terrorists have accustomed us to see have been replaced in this attack by American M4s?  Those thousands of M4s that Biden left behind for the Taliban in their flight.
Even worse, how is it possible that all this has been disdained by Israeli intelligence? How is it possible that military units have been caught in such a low state of readiness? Isn't Gaza the area of the world most penetrated by civilian and military intelligence means?
he Israeli left is already holding Prime Minister Netanyahu responsible for this catastrophe. They blame him for bringing troops into the West Bank not because the situation has deteriorated substantially (and just look at Jenin, for example), but to satisfy the security of the religious parties in his government. I said it months ago and I repeat it now: the left has gone mad all over the Western world, but in Israel it has become deadly dangerous. If they think that throwing Bibi Netanyahu out of power will solve all their problems, they are more than wrong.
 It is sad and dramatic, but also ironic that many of the victims and kidnapped by Hamas were young people who were attending a peace concert a few kilometers from Gaza. Whoever thought that by talking about peace they were safe a few meters away from Hamas was completely mistaken.
Israel has the right to be a normal country, like any other, but it cannot allow itself to forget that it is surrounded by barbarism whose ultimate goal is to throw all Jews into the sea. Sad and unfair, but no less true for that. A mistake in Spain or France carries costs, no doubt, but a mistake by Israel can lead to its extinction. The woke mentality is suicidal for the West, but for Israel it is an imminent danger. And it is just as woke to believe that Hamas can be tamed through the stomach as it is to believe that Iran can be contained in the Israeli periphery or that the Americans will always be there to defend Israel. Let alone thinking that climate change should be the number one concern.
Israel not only has to recover from this new aggression. It must wake up and re-recognize the hostile reality in which it finds itself. It is its future that is at stake. And don´t fool yourself in the comfort of your armchair:  After Israel, it is us.