Fifty years ago, Israel was caught unprepared for the Yom Kippur War. Following a devastating surprise attack by Arab armies to the north and south, the 19-day war saw Israel emerge victorious, with IDF forces closing in on Damascus and Cairo. But the war also left Israel traumatized for a generation.
Over the past 24 hours, Israel has experienced a sense of déjà vu. The mighty IDF was once again caught unprepared, enabling Hamas terrorists to enter Israel freely via land, air and sea. The terrorists indiscriminately murdered civilians in their homes, on the streets of cities and towns, and on kibbutzim. They succeeded in kidnapping dozens of hostages, including women, children and the elderly, taking them back to the Gaza Strip.
It took place on Shabbat, as we marked the holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. We spent the morning hours and midday in our synagogue praying. Then it began. News began to trickle into our shul. We saw young worshippers being called out and instructed to leave and join their military units immediately. It was no different from 50 years ago.
Heavy barrages of rockets were fired all day at southern and central Israel, as far north as the Netanya area, with numerous Iron Dome interceptions heard far and wide. Authorities have confirmed that hundreds of civilians have been murdered. At least 1,500 have been wounded, many seriously. These numbers are expected to rise.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner commented on how astounding it was that “Israeli intelligence did not see this attack coming. With the combined efforts of Shin Bet, Israeli domestic intelligence, Mossad, its external spy agency, and all the assets of the Israel Defense Forces, it is frankly astounding that nobody saw this coming. Or if they did, they failed to act on it.”
He added that, when he spoke with unnamed Israeli officials, their only response was “We have no idea how this could have happened.”
Clearly, the security establishment’s traditional concepts of “containment” and “mowing the lawn” have spectacularly imploded. It appears that the security and political establishments cannot be trusted to make strategic decisions and, over the years, only brought terror literally to our front door.
This began with the signing of the Oslo Accords 30 years ago and then in 2000 with the sudden retreat from Lebanon. These resulted in the Second Intifada, in which over a thousand Israelis were killed as supposed “victims of peace.” In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, setting up the eventual Hamas takeover. Then there was the failed 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Many of those who presided over these disastrous policies still serve in high places in the security establishment. Many of their predecessors have been involved in the year-long protests against the government, distracting the IDF from its central tasks of preparation and training. They must be held accountable.
It now appears that the Israeli government and the security establishment have decided to destroy the Hamas regime in Gaza by military means. This means that what was will no longer be. This is what has to happen. There is no backing down. The entire Muslim world is watching to see how we respond. No doubt, there will be a high price in blood for an effective, game-changing response, but we have no other choice.