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Urgency Brings Unity

One couldn’t help but wonder why the Jewish People only seems to come together in times of horror

Photo: Flash90


IT was a moment that distilled the state of the nation after a week of war. Outside the secured bunker in the Tel Aviv Kiryah, where the cabinet had assembled for an emergency meeting with top military officials, Aryeh Deri made Kiddush. The IDF generals in the room donned their berets and said Amen, and one couldn’t help but wonder why the Jewish People only seems to come together in times of horror.

From the first day of fighting, when Blue and White chair Benny Gantz offered to join an emergency government unconditionally, to the moment Netanyahu took him up on that request and brought him in, four days elapsed. Insiders got the impression that the move had practically been forced on the prime minister.

A day before the new government was sworn in, coalition leaders had demanded that Netanyahu complete the process. The leading architect behind the scenes was Aryeh Deri, who made it clear to Netanyahu that he wouldn’t be comfortable serving in a narrow government waging a war under such horrific circumstances.

At the other end, Yair Lapid refused to join, after conditioning his entrance on the unrealistic demand of removing Ben Gvir and Smotrich from the government. Lapid sustained unusual criticism even from within his own party — whose MKs he essentially hand-picks. He later clarified in a press conference that the government won’t be able to function in its current format.

Benny Gantz thinks otherwise, and so apparently does the Israeli public. Despite his burns from the last time he joined Netanyahu, Gantz explained that this is no time for political considerations, and that rallying to the flag is a duty and not a choice.

When queried by associates whether he’ll be able to work with Netanyahu, given their history, Gantz reminded them that he’d already handled a military operation at Netanyahu’s side (Operation Guardian of the Walls) as part of a transition government.

The solidarity in Israel’s political echelon is encouraging, but it can’t help but lead to some dour reflections. True, Netanyahu is responsible for Israel’s policy of containing Hamas over the past 15 years, but Gantz, as chief of staff and later defense minister, as well as Eizenkot, fully shared in the doctrine that has led Israel into a nadir in its 75-year history.



The swearing in of the emergency government last Thursday was without doubt the most depressing such ceremony in Israeli history. The images of Netanyahu and Gideon Saar whispering to each other and leaving the plenum hall were believed impossible until Simchas Torah. But under the mask of unity, deep resentment still boils.

After days of shock, Netanyahu has evidently recovered. In 2009, when he was the opposition leader, I accompanied him on a visit to the Gaza Envelope, where he promised to destroy Hamas. In the following 14 years, Netanyahu did the opposite, opting to bolster Hamas and keep it in power to avoid having to make concessions to the PA.

Netanyahu returned to his opposition-days rhetoric last week, although during the first few days, he pointedly avoided calling for the toppling of Hamas. That posture only became clarified after immense public pressure.

There were two key developments that Netanyahu couldn’t ignore: the sense of unity on the street and overwhelming public opinion that Hamas can’t still be in power at the end of this operation. Netanyahu was dragged into both these realizations almost against his will.

But the moment the cabinet set the elimination of Hamas as the goal of the war, there was no going back — from a PR perspective. No military accomplishment will atone for the fiasco of Simchas Torah, but only the utter eradication of Hamas will restore some semblance of hope to the devastated Jewish People.



When the cannons roar, the political muses fall silent, but public opinion polls are already marking Benny Gantz as Israel’s next prime minister, by a crushing margin. Even if Netanyahu does notch the downfall of Hamas, it’s hard to see him coming out of this politically intact.

The man who built himself an image as “Mr. Security,” with an eye to the future, hoped to be remembered as one of the Jewish People’s saviors. Instead he presided over the biggest massacre in the history of the Jewish state. Granted, Netanyahu isn’t alone. Ever since the ’90s, all Israeli governments have been slaves to the same doctrine. From the Oslo Accords that installed Arafat in Ramallah and gave guns to terrorists, through the Gaza disengagement, to the policy being pursued the night of the massacre, the strategy of containment was embraced by nearly the entire country’s political and military leadership.

All of Netanyahu’s cherished doctrines collapsed in a matter of hours, including his preference for former US president Donald Trump over President Joe Biden. In the moment of truth, we all learned which of the two is a true friend who stands by Israel’s side in its darkest hour.

As a historian’s son, Netanyahu is well aware of the fate of those Israeli prime ministers who presided over bloodbaths: Golda Meir after the Yom Kippur War, Menachem Begin after the first Lebanon War, Yitzchak Shamir after the wave of terror attacks in the cities of central Israel, Shimon Peres after the horrific terror attacks following Yitzchak Rabin’s assassination, Ehud Barak after the Second Intifada, and Ehud Olmert at the end of the Second Lebanon War. No prime minister has been able to survive a mass casualty event, and all of the previous ones pale in comparison to the Simchas Torah massacre.

Bibi seems to be the only actor onstage who believes in his own survival. His delay of the emergency government was interpreted by his own ministers as reluctance to bring in his political rivals before having made a powerful military response, so as not to be perceived as needing help for the war.

On the eve of the Six Day War, it was Prime Minister Levi Eshkol who tried to delay the formation of a unity government, out of fear that the lionized chief of staff Moshe Dayan would get all the glory as defense minister — as indeed happened. In this war, there will be no glory, even if it ends with the complete destruction of Hamas. No political scheming will prevent the Israeli public from settling scores with its failed leadership. But for now, the entire Israeli public is demanding that the government lead the country to victory and rise above any political considerations.

Since we started with Deri’s Kiddush at the Kiryah, we might as well end with another moment he was involved in that summarizes the sense of urgency and unity. Picking up the phone to invite Avigdor Lieberman to join the government was none other than Shas chair Aryeh Deri.

Rivers of acrimony have flown between these two former friends as Lieberman became the chareidi community’s biggest political foe over the past two years. Until Hamas murderers came along and showed us what real anti-Semitism is like, restoring a sense of proportion. We’re blood brothers, and it’s a pity we only remember that when our blood is actually being spilled.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 982)

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