החיילים בשטח
החיילים בשטחDavid Cohen/Flash90

It painful for me to write this column, because I want to write a column of truth, and not one of tribal cheerleading. And the truth is a bitter one. The truth is that we will win our current war against the Hamas, but our victory will be at the end of a long war of slow and painful progress.

And this war of slow steps will require many painful sacrifices from the Jewish public, the type of sacrifices we have not been used to paying for over two generations. Of course I am talking about the sacrifice of the many precious soldiers who will not come home. But this long war will probably also require a decline in our material standard of living, because of the need to direct a greater amount of GNP to defense expenditures..

And we will have the strength and endurance to win this multi sacrificed war only if we have a very strong surge of ‘old fashioned, Jewish Zionist nationalism’ surging though our arteries, , and pumping our Jewish , nationalistic heart. Without a strong, permanent sense of Jewish nationalism we will not win our Gaza war and the Lebanon one that may come next.

My anger-disappointment at many Left and haredi commentators has forced me to write this painful column

Like all Israelis and Jews the world over, it is literally a horrible feeling to wake up every morning and confront the names of our fallen, courageous soldiers.

This pain then turns into anger at the Left media commentators who are so fast to use, almost gleefully, the headlines of our fallen to scare us and undermine our morale. They then joyfully start enumerating why we are not winning the war, why the goals stated by our political leaders are not being fulfilled, why the Hamas has not yet been broken as our leaders wanted us to believe, how the war will drag on (Vietnam style) forever, how we will become increasingly diplomatically isolated, how we will have to have our soldiers patrolling the streets of Gaza for another two generations, and, if we do eventually destroy the Hamas, how we have no clue what to do with two million homeless, poverty stricken Gaza residents whose social service structure has been destroyed along with their homes. Meanwhile, we are actually steadily winning the war.

The Left is almost hinting that ‘an Oslo like coexistence with a Hamas mini state as our neighbor’ is a better solution that an ongoing, bleeding war and military occupation of Gaza (ie. They want to repeat the tragic decisions of Arik Sharon with the disengagement from Gaza, and the one sided withdrawal of Barak from the Lebanese security zone and then wait for the next October 7th).

Criticism of the current government’s policy also comes from the more militant Right that basically says we are still fighting because we have not bombed enough neighborhoods, and expelled enough Palestinian Arabs, but that is at least a pro-victory stance.

And then on the fringe, some (not all) haredi leaders are telling students not to visit injured soldiers, and tell their media not to tell stories of our soldier’s heroism, because these acts will burn a flame of Jewish nationalism in the Haredi population, at the expense of a devotion to Torah learning. On the other hand, some haredim are enlisting.

This ‘depressing criticism’ of the Left media must be answered, before it gets out of control, and destroys the holy contribution of our fallen heroes. It can also be made irrelevant if we stop reading them or watching and listening to them.

Ironically, much of the above Left’s critical commentary on our war effort actually confronts us with reality based, true dilemmas. Their questions do ring true, but their implied conclusions (like stop our ‘futile’ war effort) are unproven and contradict the evidence in the field.

My answer to the critics of the Left is as follows:

On October seventh-Simchat Torah- we awoke and found the last thirty years of diplomatic illusions shattered on the floor. I spent almost twenty years opposing and demonstrating against the Oslo agreements, intifada violence, and the expulsion from Gush Katif. So I can tap myself on the shoulder that ‘I was on the right side of history’. But in reality this self righteous congratulation is also a falsehood.

Deep inside even we demonstrators still hoped that some type of diplomatic solution could bring an acceptable degree of security to Israel without our boys having to risk their lives, and that we would not be condemned to ‘live eternally by the sword’’.

After Oct. seventh I think it should be clear to most Israelis, that we will have to ‘live by the sword’ for the foreseeable future. We now find ourselves in a long ‘war’, of which our war in Gaza is only the first phase.

Our fate is to ‘live by the sword’ for many days to come, because:

One, the Palestinian Arabs refuse to commit themselves to a long term, historical coexistence with a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. For even ‘moderate’ Palestinian Arabs Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ashdod and Beer Sheva will remain ‘occupied territory’ waiting to be liberated one day . No Palestinian Arab leader will sign a permanent agreement based on the historical legitimacy of the Jewish people to build a state in its biblical, ancestral homeland

Two, and now more relevant, Iran is becoming the new ‘policeman’ of the Mid East, replacing the ‘Big Satan’ –the United States- because the West does not believe it is in its national interest to enter into a military confrontation with Iran. Iran is a jihadist Islamic state whose constantly repeated goal is to wipe the ‘little Satan’ (Israel) off the globe before it turns to the big one.

This means that even if a ‘moderate’ Palestinian Arab government is established some place, Iran will use it to establish a base for terrorism against ‘the little Satan’ as it has done in Gaza and Lebanon It is inconceivable that a ‘moderate’ Palestinian Arab government will effectively fight jihadist Islamic terrorism aimed at Israel. The only solution is for the Iranian government to be overthrown by the suffering masses of Iran.

Third, on October seventh, we learned that all of our diplomatic dreams and efforts, of the last thirty years, to achieve security (‘peace’) failed miserably. These included strategies based on diplomatic compromise-rapprochement (the Oslo agreements) , territorial withdrawal (disengagement from Gaza, the one sided retreat from the Lebanese security zone) , and the ‘economic betterment’ and ‘contained conflict’ strategy. Iran has simply exploited all of these ‘diplomatic peace/security’ efforts to place Israel under a three sided, terrorist siege.

Thus, history and diplomatic realpolitik has condemned Israel to a very long, difficult, painful survival war of living by the sword. This is truly a semi horrific prospect. We want to think that such a fate is a ‘dream-nightmare’ from which we will awake and discover it is not true.

But after Oct. seventh most Israelis realize that this ‘nightmare’ is true and has become our new reality, and we better take this reality very, very seriously. We can ‘somewhat jokingly say’ that with Iran having put us under a three front siege means we have historically entered the ‘Third Siege of Jerusalem” (the first two sieges being those of the First and Second Temples.)

What does this long term war mean?

This long term war will really test the strength and resilience of our Jewish-Israeli society.

One, it will be a difficult, psychological-emotional burden. It will not be a happy ending in Six Days (we were happy, though 775 soldiers fell in those Six Days). It will not be the Yom Kippur War with a conclusive ending (although for the first days of that war, we were on the verge of defeat and and ended it with 2600 fallen soldiers). There may be no “Victory photo ops”. There may only be a dim, ‘on and off’ light at the end of the military conflict tunnel’. We will always ‘know what to do - to fight courageously’, but we only have a vague idea of what the end of the war will be like.

The obvious answer to all this uncertainty is religious faith, as will be detailed later.

Two, there will be a small, but steady , list of brave men sacrificing their lives so that our divinely promised Jewish State can survive and flourish.

Three, A land war of attrition is only one of the many consequences of the Oct. seventh massacre, and ensuing Gaza War. We will also have to tremendously increase defense spending in order to properly fight this war, and redesign and refurbish the army. This increase will mean less investment in civilian needs, such as health, education welfare and infrastructure.

Four, an ongoing war i.e. continuous military conflict with the surrounding Arab world, will probably increase our diplomatic isolation, tension with our allies, and reduce the possibility of positive, pragmatic diplomatic options.

We should not blame ourselves. Again, the above ‘list of horrors’ is not the result of our failings. Unlike most ‘point the finger’ commentators, I argue we should not feel guilty about finding ourselves under an Iranian siege and fighting a long war Over the last thirty years we sincerely tried diplomatic options, and were willing to entail dangers in order to ‘give peace a chance’. But today Iran, and not the United States, is the dominant power in the Middle East, and we are on the top of Iran’s ‘hit list’.

We should not blame ourselves. Our very vulnerable security situation is also the result of 3000 year old anti-Semitism. Pervasive international anti Semitism went into ‘hibernation’ out of guilt feelings for fifty years after the Holocaust but now historical, international anti Semitism is roaring back in full force.

The only ‘answer’ to this ‘multi border –war is a strong amount of Zionist-Jewish nationalism, and religious faith

G-d has set upon us this ‘trial’ because he knows that we will succeed in overcoming it, and thus proceed closer to His promised redemption. We have done so in the past, throughout Jewish and Israeli history, and will do so now.

Our most powerful ‘coping resource’ is religious faith, the belief that we are doing G-d’s will in building and defending the Jewish state that he has given us on the path to redemption, and that each of our fallen men is an important step forward in our redemption.

But many patriotic Israelis do not have such a sturdy, high degree of faith. And they will hopefully strengthen their patriotic nationalism by looking at Jewish history and realize the historic necessity, and grandeur, of the birth and building of our Jewish State. Unfortunately, believing proponents of Jewish nationalism no longer dominate or control the media, educational system and organs of culture as they did in the days of Ben Gurion and even Golda Meir (Remember the days when patriotic songs filled the airways during a war). Thus today we must use the social media and demonstrations to emphasize the historical necessity to hold the course and ultimately win this holy war.

Our opponents are Islamic jihadists. We do not want to match their bloodthirsty fanaticism. But we have no alternative but to match their willingness to sacrifice. The short history of Israel proves we can manifest such dedication and willingness to sacrifice. One, in our 1948 War of Independence over 6000 Jews gave their lives so that we would have a Jewish State after 2000 years of exile, and three years after the Holocaust. (The population equivalent today of that degree of sacrifice would be over 60,000 civilians and soldiers). In the Suez Canal war of attrition with Egypt, between 1968-1970 there were close to 1000 fatal casualties, with today’s population equivalent being over 2000).

Recalling this past record of tremendous sacrifice and courage should give the determination to continue our ongoing struggle to firmly establish our Jewish state. If our forefathers bravely sacrificed, we can demand the same of our generation.

The holy road ahead

The last three months since October 7th have shown that our Israeli Jewish population has a high degree of unity, dedication and willingness to sacrifice (disregarding the divisive antics of our politicians and the leftist media) . There are many signs that our young people today are willing and able to make the same degree of sacrifice, detailed above, as their forefathers.

But our religious and civic leaders must begin to explain that we have entered a new era in our history. International diplomatic maneuvers may ‘kick the can down the road’, but they will not resolve our existential problem. We are under permanent siege by Islamic jihadists controlled by an Islamic Iran.

We have thus entered a long term holy war. We have no choice other than to win. We have no choice other than to make heavy personal sacrifices. G-d has helped us survive a 3000 year ‘war facing anti Semitism. G-d has given us the religious and patriotic strength to turn our heavy sacrifices in Israeli wars into a flourishing Jewish-Israeli state. And G-d will give us the faith and determination to make the sacrifices necessary for wining our current holy war.

The Jewish state will long survive its current enemies - Hamas, Hezbollah, and an Islamic Iran. How do I know? Because G-d has allowed us to survive 3000 years of all the countless enemies who wanted to destroy the Jewish people and the Jewish state. This time will be no different, G-d willing.

Dr. Chaim C. Cohen, whose PhD. is from Hebrew U., is a social worker and teacher at the Hebrew Univ. School of Social Work, and Efrata College. He lives in Psagot, Binyamin.