December 5, 2023
Sondra Oster Baras
On June 7, 1981, the Israeli Air Force destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor, deep in Iraqi territory. Menachem Begin was Israel’s prime minister at the time and US President Ronald Reagan was furious when he heard about the attack. The US quickly condemned Israel for its aggression against Iraq and the relationship with Israel suffered a temporary setback.
On August 2, 1990, Iraq attacked Kuwait, setting off a series of events that would culminate in the US invasion of Iraq and the first Gulf War. Years later, El Qaida terrorists attacked and toppled the World Trade Center in New York, which led to the subsequent US and allies invasion of Afghanistan, and later, again, of Iraq. If Iraq had been allowed to go forward with its nuclear weapons development, the US and their allies would have confronted a far more dangerous threat in the Persian Gulf.
Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear plant because it posed an existential threat to Israel. In 1991, Iraq attacked Israel daily for more than a month with scud missiles. Had those missiles possessed nuclear warheads, Israel could have been destroyed Israel attacked the Osirak plant to protect itself. But by doing so, Israel protected the US and its allies throughout the West.
Today, Israel is facing a different and far more dangerous threat to its existence. While Hamas does not have nuclear capabilities, it receives its funding, training and inspiration from Iran and Qatar. Iran is barreling towards nuclear development, seemingly unhampered by the west. Qatar is the main bankroller of Hamas, including its heinous terrorist attacks on October 7th. Israel has stood firm in its opposition to Iranian nuclear development. But what became apparent on October 7th, was the direct and existential threat posed to Israel by the violent population of Gaza, just a few miles from the pastoral farming communities in the Western Negev.
Zionism has always been about the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland, Israel. But from the beginning of the modern movement, settlement and self-defense have always been seen as the twin pillars that sustain Zionism. In October 1946, as the international community began to debate the borders of a proposed State of Israel, Ben-Gurion sent brave pioneers to establish 11 new communities in the Western Negev, in order to solidify the Jewish claim to the south of Israel. Ben-Gurion knew that the borders of Israel, would, in large part, be determined by the extent of Jewish settlement along Israel’s frontier. Indeed, those 11 settlements, together with the brave fighters of Israel’s fledgling IDF in 1948, ensured that the State of Israel would include the Negev.
When Hamas attacked the kibbutz settlements in the western Negev on October 7th, they attacked many of those same 11 communities. In recent years, these communities suffered regular artillery and missile attacks from Gaza, but they held on. They knew that if they were to leave their homes, Hamas would attack and fill the vacuum their departure would create. The battle would then continue until there was no more Israel to defend.
For nearly two months now, Hamas has continued to attack Israel with its missiles, while Hezbollah has been attacking Israel with its missiles from Lebanon. Close to 130,000 Israelis, from both the north and south of the country, have been evacuated from their homes because it is too dangerous for them to stay at home. These people are willing to pay this heavy price to ensure that, one day soon, they will be able to return home and not have to worry about missiles landing on their homes, or terrorists massacring their families.
The US is exerting enormous pressure on Israel to limit the level and extent of the war. It does recognize the immediate threat to Israel’s existence that both Hamas and Hezbollah pose and, implicitly, understands that these terrorist organizations and their state sponsors threaten the west and world peace. Essentially, though, they are demanding that Israel destroy Hamas but refrain from moving the Gazan population out of their homes and at the same time ensuring that Gazan civilians are not harmed. They are also insisting that the war end in a few weeks, and that we do not initiate a war in the north. They have also stated their commitment to ultimate control of Gaza by Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.
The US is making impossible demands of Israel. Israel cannot possibly destroy Hamas in a matter of weeks. It cannot possibly ensure the safety of its citizens in the north without attacking Hezbollah and forcing them to retreat north to the lines mandated under UN Resolution 1701, dating back to 2006. It cannot possibly destroy Hamas without attacking the civilian areas where Hamas maintains its headquarters, hiding behind their human shields. It cannot possibly protect Gazan civilians without moving them out of the war zones. And it cannot possibly keep our people safe if the PA ends up running Gaza — the very same PA which has been supporting terrorism against Israel since its inception and which has refused to condemn the Hamas attacks.
Netanyahu has made it very clear. Israel will do whatever it has to do to protect its people. We are facing an existential threat. And we must ensure the safety and continued survival of Israel.
We will fight until Hamas is destroyed. We will fight until Hezbollah is no longer a threat in the north. And we will ensure that the IDF maintain security control in Gaza, and that whoever is given civilian control of Gaza does not pose a threat to Israel.
If we continue to be firm, against our enemies and in the face of international pressure, and if G-d blesses our efforts and gives us the wisdom and the strength we need to succeed, we will not only ensure a safe and secure Israel. We will also go a long way towards ensuring a safe and secure world. This is the time for the world to unite with Israel in her fight against evil. There can be no compromise with evil. Evil must be uprooted, destroyed, purged, or it will drown us all.