What is currently happening in Israel is a microcosm of an acute global issue. That is why Israel’s response at this juncture can be a significant historical turning point or a monumental wasted opportunity.
This is true not only in moral and strategic terms, but also for the intricate interplay between them.
The waves of pacifist-liberal appeasement that have swept through Europe since the Second World War have encountered significant challenges in recent years, particularly due to the influx of Muslim immigrants and the bloody conflict in Ukraine.
Europe is in a state of confusion as a surge of conservative and nationalist sentiments in numerous European nations, ranging from Finland and Sweden to Hungary, Poland, Germany and France, signals a growing disillusionment with the efficacy of liberal discourse as an adequate tool for the management of both domestic and foreign policy, even if those sentiments at times drift into xenophobic territory.
The abuse of Western liberalism by anti-liberal forces within Islam has rendered the exclusive or near-exclusive emphasis on individual rights, an ethically questionable stance for a culture and society that thereby disarms itself of the means to safeguard itself.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. This may be just the first, troubling stage, while the real predators ominously lurk around the corner.
The tremendous placatory confusion in the West’s approach to Iran, coupled with its complete disregard for Iran’s Muslim-Messianic ideology and aggressive inclinations, as well as its attempt to translate the Iranians’ motives into the language of Western interests, poses a genuine threat to the Western world.
This is a direct result of the pacifism embedded in the West and its fear of engaging in a conflict that could result in far-reaching suffering to uninvolved populations.
The West’s reluctance to take decisive action while it still can may lead to catastrophic consequences when the day of reckoning arrives.
If Europeans want to envision the potential outcome, the collaborative efforts between Iran, a Shi-ite power, and Sunni political Islam — represented by Hamas in our region — can provide them with a graphic illustration.
And now back to Israel.
The horrific events we've witnessed in the past few days are just a small preview of the potential disasters that could unfold if Israel persists in its failure to grasp the dynamics of this region, and continues to behave as if the one hundred thousand missiles (100,000!) with which Iran has armed Hezbollah are merely sitting around “to rust in warehouses”.
The recent developments should dispel any lingering doubts harboured until this week: Israel cannot afford to simply accept the empowerment of monstrous terrorist organisations on our borders, and the intensified training of the 2,500 elite fighters of the Radwan force is a profoundly concerning development that cannot be overstated.
And regrettably, there is no way to eliminate this threat without causing significant collateral damage to the rest of the population.
But the West has become impotent in terms of its capacity to use force. A combination of liberal pacifistic rhetoric, Christian roots and the scars of a fascist and totalitarian past has taken its toll.
Regardless of the reasons, this is the current reality and the source of the confusion that is significantly impacting the mindset of the elites in Israel too, who are closely aligned with this perspective in the West.
And this is also a window of opportunity that has opened.
The devastating 7 October attack on Israel offers us the possibility, justification and legitimacy to help the West shift its paradigm. The Western world is watching with silent expectation that we offer a viable alternative to the impractical language of individual rights that it itself is still speaking.
The terrible price in blood that we have paid, and may yet pay, is a searing pain beyond measure, but our historical and moral obligation to the victims is to transform the tragedy of their deaths into a moment that will avert an even greater catastrophe for Israel and the world.
It will require an extraordinary societal effort to counter our natural tendency to cling to established paradigms, which are hardwired into our brains at an almost biological-evolutionary level.
But it is a matter of survival and existential necessity to envision a new regional order and strive for its realisation while this unique window of opportunity remains open.
This new order consists of several components, ranging from milder to more substantial measures:
1. The complete and decisive elimination of Hamas military capabilities and all of its governing structures.
2. The strategic relocation of the Gaza Strip's population, from north to south in response to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) airstrikes, with the ultimate goal of encouraging their resettlement in Sinai or other countries.
It is important to note that this population consists mostly of refugees, whose resettlement has been hindered by the Arab world, unlike other refugees from the mid-20th century.
Furthermore, approximately half of the population is under the age of 18 and has grown up under the educational influence of Hamas. The dire implications are obvious.
3. Assertion of sovereignty over the northern half of the Gaza Strip and the establishment of a substantial security buffer zone along the entire length of the Gaza Strip, devoid of civilian populations and structures.
4. This process should serve as a model for ongoing proactive measures against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. This sequence of actions will yield several desired outcomes.
It will send a clear message to our enemies regarding the consequences they face if they pose a credible threat to us. While this may not eliminate the problem immediately, it will undoubtedly deal a significant blow to their morale and motivation.
It will fundamentally eliminate the threat emanating from the Gaza Strip. This approach can serve as an appropriate model for addressing ongoing threats from the north and, no less importantly, for how the West should deal with the challenges emanating from Iran.
Additionally, it will signal a new stance toward totalitarian countries that pose a threat to world order, with a particular focus on China.
While this basic framework does not delve into the range of operational and international challenges it presents, it must be evaluated from a strategic, deterrent and utilitarian perspective.
I see no moral advantage in continuing to assess the situation solely through the lens of the suffering of the Gazan population, an approach marred by both a moral and existential distortion.
(The author Assaf Malach is a scholar of nationalism and political philosophy at Shalem College, Jerusalem. He is the founding director of the Jewish Statesmanship Center in Jerusalem and the head of its ethics and International Relations Program)
Translated by Ruchie Avital.
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