Swords of Iron

A Decision is Required

As time passes and it becomes clear that the leadership is unwilling or unable to decide, the demand for “elections now” intensifies. Too much is at stake.

Israel is stuck. The lofty words of our leadership – “total victory” – once again do not convince the Israelis. According to a public opinion survey by Mano Geva at Midgam Research & Consulting, nearly two-thirds (62%) of Israelis do not believe that a total victory is possible. A new Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) survey has also found that confidence in victory among Israeli Jews has dropped by half, from 74% in October to 38% in May. Who is responsible for the loss of faith in victory?

After a massive and successful opening military gambit, Israel became paralyzed. The White House announced that Israel had transitioned to “low intensity” fighting already at the end of November, and within a few weeks this became a fact in the eyes of the Israelis as well. For about half the war, Israel has exerted diminished military pressure on its enemies. During this period, not only have there been no significant achievements – no movement on the ground; no release of hostages; no return of residents to their homes in the North; the humiliating pounding of Israel’s “security belt” in the Upper Galilee continues – but we have retreated.

While we are operating at “low intensity,” the war waged against us by our enemy is at a high and escalating intensity: a political tsunami that tars us as pariahs, and a dangerous deterioration on the front lines of international law that could make every Israeli soldier vulnerable to the whim of political interests in most countries of the world. Israeli internal tensions are increasing dangerously: a senior writer at Haaretz recently abandoned restraint: “I call on the silent majority, the gatekeepers and senior security establishment… to stop Netanyahu. By any means.”

And passing time has awakened the dormant demon: unbridled antisemitism even in the United States – the city on a hill. It is directed not only at Israel but also toward Diaspora Jewry, whose home is beginning to rattle.

Israel’s leadership – the existing one, or the one that will replace it – must make brave decisions, and quickly, on two fronts.

First, the international arena: The time has come to decide whether to acquiesce to foreign dictates, especially from the Biden administration, whose full support for Israel is not in doubt, or to stand against them. The current attempt to walk the tightrope is an utter failure.

Had Israel decided to fully align with the American administration, as it did, for example, in the coordinated response to the Iranian attack, significant achievements could have been realized.

Ending the war would have brought the hostages back and returned the residents of the North to their homes. Were Israel prepared at least to declare its willingness to recognize a Palestinian administration in Gaza, with full military demobilization, it may have been possible to reach a tremendous strategic gain through normalization with Saudi Arabia. All of these could have had a positive effect on Israel’s standing in the world.

Conversely, had Israel decided not to comply with American demands, the saga of occupying Rafah could have ended long ago, with a victory declared through the dissolution of Hamas as a functioning organizational framework. Israel could have ended the war several months ago and dialed back the flames scorching us in the international arena. True, it is impossible to know whether such a move would have improved or worsened the chances of returning the hostages, and this is an important consideration, but the lack of decision certainly harms the hostages, who languish and die in continued captivity.

But Israel did not decide, and thus did not receive the benefits of either option and absorbed the high price of both.

The second front, the domestic arena: The prime minister has refrained from deciding the composition of the government that will steer Israel through one of its most difficult hours. He wants to maintain a coalition whose members are characterized by their converse reading of reality. Like Gulliver, he is ensnared in a tangle of conflicting interests. Thus, in order to maintain the coalition’s stability, he dodged the decision regarding Rafah for several months.

But and this is the main point: there is a price for indecisiveness, both externally and internally: Israel is not being led, and it is losing key assets that are vital to the future of all of us. What could be seen as “caution” in navigating a sea of complicated circumstances is actually a paralysis of decision-making that has only worsened our situation. The prime minister’s lofty words, even when delivered with a fierce gaze and a loud voice, cannot change reality. Israelis see this clearly and their faith in victory is waning.

This is not a decree of fate. The leadership must come to its senses and make decisions. As time passes and it becomes clear that it is unwilling or unable to decide, the demand for “elections now” intensifies. Too much is at stake.

Published by Jerusalem Post