| The Rose Report |

Unsettled Business from Six Months of War

After six months of fighting, here's what we've learned

Photo: Flash90

Israel’s citizenry, the IDF, and even the political echelon have demonstrated remarkable resilience during six months of warfare along multiple fronts. Much has been accomplished to make Israel a safer and stronger country, but the road ahead is strewn with obstacles. Here are a handful of issues that politicians, military leaders, and even private citizens will be grappling with.

Even before the October 7 massacres, Israel and Hamas had fought five major battles after the IDF’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and evacuation of 9,000 Jewish residents. The IDF and Hezbollah also squared off in 2006 in the monthlong campaign known as the Second Lebanon War.

All of the clashes proved indecisive, contends Col. (res.) Shay Shabtai, deputy director of the Begin-Sadat Center, because Israel settled for a limited goal of “restoring deterrence.” The barbarity of the October 7 sneak attack forced Israel to drop its deterrence doctrine, but six months of fighting has not brought Israel anywhere near a grand victory, which Shabtai defines as one that ends in a formal peace treaty and/or the total dissolution of terror groups.

Shabtai contends that Israel’s new goal is somewhere in between, namely a “strategic victory.” This would require ongoing IDF military operations against Hamas while working to weaken its grip on the Gaza population and inhibit its ability to rearm, recruit, and train the next generation of terrorists, but these won’t lead to any long-term fundamental change on the ground. If his analysis is correct, strategic victory is just one more limited goal. It comes across as disappointing after the sacrifices Israel has made, and the beating it has taken in world opinion.

Not a day goes by without some player in the international community, mainly the United States, pressuring the Netanyahu government to announce a “day after” plan for Gaza — one to their liking, of course. But how about devising a day-after plan for Israelis displaced and, in some cases, bankrupted by the war?

Israel’s National Emergency Management Authority reported that approximately 253,000 Jewish citizens were evacuated from their homes along the Gaza and Lebanon borders following the October 7 raid. Some 70% of Gaza border residents have returned as of early April, but many of their homes were either destroyed or badly damaged. While rocket attacks against those communities are now few and far between, rocket fire has intensified in the north, with no estimated date of the return for Jewish evacuees.

According to the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), at least six government agencies share responsibility for attending to their needs, and even born-and-bred Israelis don’t know where to turn for help. State Comptroller and Ombudsman Matanyahu Englman published a scathing report at the end of December detailing a “substantive failure” by state authorities in matters directly related to the war, including treatment of evacuees, providing information on protected spaces, the activity of educational institutions, and eligibility for special grants.

As long as the war rages and other battles lurk in the background, the government must create one central agency with the authority and know-how to rush aid and information to where it’s needed.

One of the few positives in the last six months is the impressive showing of unity among Israelis of all stripes, and even among normally warring political parties who banded together to achieve a common goal.

That said, as I have written more than once in this column, don’t mistake unity of purpose with a meeting of the minds. I’ve also often quipped that in Israel, the concept of achdus is based on an expectation that the other guy will come around to my way of thinking, and that’s a rarity.

The leftist media and politicians haven’t changed their orientation. The street demonstrations against the Netanyahu government are getting more violent and uglier, even if attendance and support are shrinking. The ambitious politicians looking to undermine Netanyahu to curry favor with the Biden administration or the like-minded in the Israel electorate are growing more impatient with each passing day.

The pressure from the attorney general and the High Court of Justice for a new chareidi draft law now couldn’t have come at a worse time and also has the potential to widen longstanding rifts at a time when we can least afford it.

There will be a public reckoning as to the failures that led up to October 7, and there will be new elections and leaders in the not-too-distant future, but the timing is still up in the air. Efforts to force it on the citizenry prematurely could backfire in ways that we can’t foresee.

The heady days when President Joe Biden visited Israel with hugs of support and the promise of a blank check for Israel’s war effort are long forgotten. The Biden administration has slowed military supplies to a trickle. It has shut the faucet on political support, at the UN, and also domestically, as more polls show Donald Trump beating him in November.

But the idea that someone put a bug in Biden’s ear that his re-election is contingent upon winning 100,000 Arab-American votes in Michigan, or that he has to please a handful or two of Squad members in Congress, misses the main point. Biden may be from a different generation, but he knows which way the Democratic Party has lurched, and the Squad has a large supporting cast. Some 100 of the 213 House Democrats belong to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. This is no longer the party of Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson, or even Joe Lieberman z”l, who passed away two weeks ago. It’s the party of AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Pramila Jayapal.

Israel can’t look at the Republicans as saviors, either. While a core group of solidly pro-Israel members endure, younger GOP members have taken a sharp isolationist turn. Donald Trump has counseled Israel to finish the war and then get back to peace, whatever that means to him. That may all clear up in time, and Trump’s pro-Israel instincts could prevail, but Israel must prepare to chart a new and far more independent course.

You can’t believe much of what you read on social media, but fake news isn’t always the worst offender. In what it terms the “Islamist Civilian Influence Campaign,” the Institute of National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University warns that a community of Arab Muslims is flooding X, formerly Twitter, to shape Israeli public opinion in a manner that aligns with Hamas’s objectives.

Known as ISNAD, an Arabic term for support, the group saturates X, and also Telegram, with messages posted by more than a thousand profiles of people masquerading as Israelis. ISNAD is run by Ezzeldeen Dwidar, an Egyptian film producer associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, who was expelled from Egypt and currently lives in Turkey. ISNAD supporters are fomenting chaos within Israeli social networks, leveraging the bereavement of Israeli families to create the impression that a growing number of Israelis have turned anti-war.

The four authors of the INSS report on ISNAD warn that the Israeli government must acknowledge the threat posed by these citizen-led influence campaigns and develop a tailored civilian response of strengthening regulatory, intelligence, and educational measures.

Are they up to it?


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1007)

Oops! We could not locate your form.