Israel

Protesting weapons shipments to Israel in front of the White House, Washington, D.C., May 2024. Craig Hudson / Reuters

On May 8, the Biden administration confirmed that it was withholding a major weapons shipment to the Israel Defense Forces. It was the biggest step that the United States has taken in decades to restrain Israel’s actions. The decision concerned a consignment of 2,000-pound bombs—weapons that the United States generally avoids in urban warfare, and which White House officials believed that Israel would use in its Rafah operation in the Gaza Strip—and did not affect other weapons transfers. Nonetheless, the administration’s willingness to employ measures that could materially constrain Israel’s behavior reflected its growing frustration with Israel’s nearly eight-month-old war in Gaza.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman stands with an Israeli flag during a two-minute siren in memory of victims of the Holocaust, in Jerusalem, May 6. (Ohad Zwigenberg/AP)

As Israel marks its 76th anniversary this week under the shadow of the Oct. 7 massacre and the Israel-Gaza war, the country’s underlying Zionist ideology is being called into question. Various groups distort and weaponize the term “Zionism”, depicting it as a malignant form of tribalism or even racism. To understand current developments in Israel, as well as the country’s tumultuous history, it is necessary to clarify what Zionism has really meant over its 150 years of existence.

Born in the late 19th century, modern Zionism is a national movement similar to the ones that arose during the same period among Greeks, Poles and many other peoples.…  Seguir leyendo »

This picture taken from southern Israel, near the border with the Gaza Strip on November 7, 2023, shows smoke rising from northern Gaza during shelling by Israeli forces amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images

From Israel’s founding to the present, no concept has so thoroughly dominated the country’s strategic imagination as much as deterrence. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once said deterrence was the country’s “main weapon—the fear of us”. “Israel”, remarked the fabled Israeli general Moshe Dayan, “must be seen as a mad dog; too dangerous to bother”.

That’s why, after the attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, an unprecedented existential urgency was placed on reestablishing the country’s deterrence, which had been steadily waning since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. “What happened today has never before been seen in Israel”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis after the Oct.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Syrian tank from the Six-Day War in the Golan Heights, February 2019. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

To Israelis, October 7, 2023, is the worst day in their country’s 75-year history. Never before have so many of them been massacred and taken hostage on a single day. Thousands of heavily armed Hamas fighters managed to break through the Gaza Strip’s fortified border and into Israel, rampaging unimpeded for hours, destroying several villages, and committing gruesome acts of brutality before Israeli forces could regain control. Israelis have compared the attack to the Holocaust; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described Hamas as “the new Nazis”. In response, the Israel Defense Forces have pursued an open-ended military campaign in Gaza driven by rage and the desire for revenge.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Israeli anti-missile system operating after Iran launched drones and missiles, seen from Ashkelon, Israel, April 2024. Majid Asgaripour / West Asia News Agency / Reuters

On April 13, Iran launched Operation True Promise, its response to Israel’s April 1 attack on its consulate in Syria. Over the course of less than 24 hours, Tehran fired a combination of more than 300 hundred drones and missiles at Israeli military facilities. Senior commanders hailed the attack—which involved the first-ever direct strikes launched against Israel from Iranian territory—as successful in sending a message, even though Israel and its allies successfully downed nearly all the incoming fire.

Policymakers and pundits have known for days that the Islamic Republic would retaliate for Israel’s strike in Damascus, which killed several senior Iranian commanders and personnel.…  Seguir leyendo »

El paradójico ataque contra el consulado iraní

El pasado 1 de abril, el jefe de operaciones de la Fuerza Quds en Siria y Líbano era asesinado desde el aire junto con otros siete Guardianes de la Revolución. Aunque todas las miradas se centraron en Tel Aviv, nadie parece haber reconocido ni probado la autoría de la acción. Todo lo que ha rodeado a esta operación -un ataque aéreo a la embajada de Irán en Damasco- es absolutamente paradójico, y las promesas de venganza que podría tomar el régimen iraní contra Israel, al que considera responsable del ataque, también.

La primera de las paradojas que rodean a esta acción en particular, y a la conflictiva relación Irán e Israel en general, es que a ninguno de los dos les interesa un enfrentamiento abierto.…  Seguir leyendo »

The site of an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian embassy building in Damascus, April 2024. Firas Makdesi / Reuters

On April 1, Israel launched its latest attack on Iran in the two countries’ ongoing shadow war, with an airstrike that flattened a section of Iran’s embassy complex in Damascus and reportedly killed at least 12 people. Among the dead was Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who headed Iran’s military operations in Syria and Lebanon, where he worked for decades and became a close interlocutor with Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah. The strike also killed Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, Zahedi’s deputy, and at least five other officers in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Israel crossed a new line with the strike on Iran’s diplomatic compound, which Iran and many other governments see as tantamount to striking Iranian territory itself.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israel y las guerras sin fin

El acuerdo que parece ir abriéndose paso en la comunidad internacional para poner fin al conflicto entre Israel y Hamás desencadenado por los atentados del pasado 7 de octubre se articula en torno a dos principios expresos: la salida del primer ministro israelí, Benjamín Netanyahu, y el inicio de negociaciones que conduzcan a la solución de los dos Estados en el territorio del antiguo mandato británico sobre Palestina. Pero existe, además, un principio implícito, que es el que probablemente acabará marcando la evolución del conflicto en los próximos meses y años: al contrario de lo que han venido sosteniendo Netanyahu y sus aliados, incluyendo los patrocinadores de los Acuerdos de Abraham, la completa anexión de Gaza, Cisjordania y Jerusalén Este, ocupados a raíz de la guerra de 1967, no conducirá a la “extinción” del problema palestino, sino a la profundización de la fractura política, social y religiosa que ensombrece el futuro de Israel.…  Seguir leyendo »

Oct. 7 Shattered Netanyahu’s Legacy. The War Saved Him — for Now.

The moment Israel’s devastating war in the Gaza Strip ends, the unfinished conflict within Israel over its future will begin again. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition partners know this. That may be, in part, why they have set the improbable aim of “total victory” as the war’s ultimate objective, and why they have so far refused any deal that would end the fighting in exchange for returning the roughly 100 hostages still in Hamas captivity. After almost six months, this war is already Israel’s longest since Israel’s war of independence.

The assault on Gaza has nearly frozen Israel’s fractious political system.…  Seguir leyendo »

La razón de ser de Israel sigue siendo válida

En 2009, el difunto historiador británico Tony Judt sostuvo que la identidad de Israel en cuanto estado distintivamente judío era «perjudicial para Israel» y «perjudicial para los judíos en otras partes a quienes se identifica con sus acciones». En aquel momento sus apreciaciones generaron controversia; pero la reacción mundial ante la guerra entre Hamás e Israel que se desarrolla en Gaza parece darle la razón, mientras judíos de todo el mundo ven que se les echa la culpa por el presunto «genocidio» israelí contra el pueblo palestino.

Durante los últimos seis meses, tras las noticias de atrocidades en Gaza se produjo un súbito aumento de incidentes antisemitas en ciudades como Londres, Nueva York y Viena.…  Seguir leyendo »

President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III at a news conference in 1991. Dirck Halstead/Getty Images

On March 25, the United States took the highly unusual step of abstaining in a vote at the U.N. Security Council that called for a cease-fire in Gaza after six months of a relentless Israeli military campaign. However, immediately and controversially, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. made sure to deem the resolution “nonbinding”. Other Biden administration officials have also taken pains to “talk down” the significance of the vote.

The curious imbalance in the U.S.-Israel relationship has come into focus in recent weeks as the Biden administration slowly sharpens its criticism of Israel—and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains defiant.…  Seguir leyendo »

Palestinians gathering near an airstrike crater in Rafah, Gaza, February 2024. Mohammed Salem / Reuters

In February, Israeli military intelligence reportedly informed the country’s leaders that Hamas will survive as a terrorist group after the war. Despite this assessment, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to declare that there will be “total victory” over Hamas, and that it will take “months, not years” to achieve.

In part, this is because October 7 changed Israel, inflicting trauma and hardening Israelis’ belief that they cannot live with Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip. Israel’s air and ground campaign into Gaza seemed designed to root Hamas out—a daunting task given its extensive labyrinth of tunnels and its cynical use of the entire population of the strip as its shield.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israeli soldiers standing near the border with Gaza, March 2024. Ammar Awad / Reuters.

Since Hamas’s October 7 attack, Israel has found itself embroiled in a multi-front war for the first time in nearly 60 years. It is fighting in Gaza, countering armed groups in the West Bank, and facing missile strikes from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Israel seems less safe than most Israelis assumed it to be on October 6—and its leadership must now reshape the country’s national security policies accordingly.

For the moment, Israel’s priorities are to secure the release of the remaining hostages, eliminate Hamas’s military capabilities, and ensure the safe return of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens to their communities in both the north and south of the country.…  Seguir leyendo »

How Oct. 7 is forcing Jews to reckon with Israel

Since the 2023 Hamas-Israel war broke out, almost no subject has garnered more global attention than Israel. For many Jews, both outside and inside Israel, the Gaza conflict feels pivotal. Since Oct. 7, Jews everywhere, whether sympathetic to Israel or critical or some combination, have found they have no choice but to deal with Israel’s impact and significance on their lives and feelings — whether they want to or not. This experience calls for a new account of what Israel means for being a Jew today.

To avoid oversimplifying would take a whole book — and in fact this essay is drawn from a book about being a Jew today that I’ve been writing for the past three years and thinking about most of my adult life.…  Seguir leyendo »

A protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv, Israel, February 2024. Dylan Martinez / Reuters

After more than four months of war in Gaza, two starkly different but equally accurate portraits of Israel have emerged. On the one hand, the war has showcased the tactical prowess of the Israel Defense Forces, inspired a high degree of unity among its troops, and promoted a sense of solidarity among Israeli citizens, who remain collectively traumatized by the barbarous October 7 terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas. On the other hand, the war has revealed the staggering strategic incompetence of the Israeli government and an astonishing leadership vacuum at the top. Members of the ruling coalition have dragged their feet on critical decisions, failed to cooperate with each other in navigating the war, attacked the IDF’s senior ranks, and appeared embarrassingly indifferent and unfocused when it comes to managing relations with Israel’s most important ally, the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israel’s Rafah offensive: a tipping point for US support?

President Joe Biden’s patience with Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip is wearing thin.Only days after describing the conduct of Israel’s response to Hamas’s terrorist attacks on October 7 as “over the top”, the US president made a specific and immediate demand on Monday.

The military operation planned for Rafah, a city along the border with Egypt where 1.5mn people — more than half of Gaza’s population — have sought sanctuary after being forced from their homes, “should not proceed”, Biden said, without a “credible plan” to ensure the people there are not in harm’s way. They are “exposed and vulnerable”, the president added.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israel’s Fragile Democratic Future

In normal times, thousands of people would have poured into the streets to celebrate the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a central piece of the Netanyahu government’s plan to cripple democracy. The so called reform had triggered immense, constant protests for months.

Alas, since the horrific Hamas attack on Oct. 7 and the ensuing war in Gaza, celebration would have felt grotesque. But the all-consuming conflict should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the struggle for democracy in Israel continues.

In a single decision handed down on Jan. 1, the court ruled on two issues. The first concerned an overarching principle: The court affirmed that it could overrule even constitutional measures if they violated core democratic principles.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israel’s Self-Destruction

One bright day in April 1956, Moshe Dayan, the one-eyed chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), drove south to Nahal Oz, a recently established kibbutz near the border of the Gaza Strip. Dayan came to attend the funeral of 21-year-old Roi Rotberg, who had been murdered the previous morning by Palestinians while he was patrolling the fields on horseback. The killers dragged Rotberg’s body to the other side of the border, where it was found mutilated, its eyes poked out. The result was nationwide shock and agony.

If Dayan had been speaking in modern-day Israel, he would have used his eulogy largely to blast the horrible cruelty of Rotberg’s killers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ori Wagenstein, the author's daughter, with her mother, Shiri Weissner, in Tel Aviv in November. (Oded Wagenstein)

Few sounds are more haunting than the wail of a siren signaling an impending missile attack. Every passing motorcycle becomes a jolt to the heart. More chilling still is the explosion that follows.

I awoke to a siren at 6:29 a.m. on Oct. 7 in my home in central Israel, marking the beginning of Hamas’s murderous attack. I scooped up my 2-year-old daughter, Ori, from bed, and we sought refuge in a bomb shelter, her eyes betraying a profound fear.

Israel’s promise has been that we would be protected, that it is the safest place for our children. Life here has always been challenging, with soaring living costs, societal divides and periodic wars.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Man Who Could Unseat Netanyahu

Just over 100 days ago, Benny Gantz was the leader of a small Israeli opposition party. Now, in a shared office inside a nondescript building within the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv, Mr. Gantz is helping lead Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza as a member of the war cabinet formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Gantz spends his days poring over operational plans, not just of the ongoing campaign in Gaza but also of contingencies for a war that may erupt with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite organization, on Israel’s northern border.

But the most complex challenge facing Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »