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Ending the War Won’t End Jewish Problems

The war will end. But the new reality it leaves behind will require an entirely different approach for both Israel and Diaspora Jews.
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January 10, 2024
Israeli soldiers in an armoured personnel carrier head towards the southern border with the Gaza Strip on October 8, 2023 in Sderot, Israel. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear last week that it will be many months before Israel’s war with Hamas will end. But let’s take a step back from the ongoing violence and acrimony to imagine what the world will look like when the Gaza War is over (at least until the next Gaza War, and the one after that).

The State of Israel will never be the same. No matter how persuasively Hamas is defeated, the Jewish state’s reputation of invincibility is gone for good. Israel’s foes now understand that that the country’s intelligence can be compromised, its defenses can be penetrated, and that its people can be killed or abducted in large numbers. The IDF is still far stronger than any other force in the region, but their soldiers bleed too. Others will now be emboldened to make similar attacks – and they will. We first talked about Oct. 7 as Israel’s 9/11. Now we must think about the war’s aftermath as Israel’s post-Vietnam moment, when military superiority no longer guarantees victory.

Israel’s safety now becomes much more reliant on the strength of its relationships with partners in the region. An anti-Iran coalition that formally joins Israel with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, and that strengthens its relationships with existing allies like Egypt and Jordan now become necessities on this new landscape. These partnerships will not happen until Israel’s leaders take steps to improve relationships with the Palestinians, which will require an intricate effort to differentiate between Palestinians officials who harbor no love for Israel but recognize the need for stability from those whose hostility toward Jews leads inexorably toward additional violence and bloodshed. 

After weeks of dismissing the Palestinian Authority’s role in a post-Hamas Gaza, Netanyahu’s government let it be known for the first time last week that they could work with some local Palestinian leaders to administer the area. But that will require a painstakingly difficult process of first identifying those leaders, then training them and finally learning to trust them. That process will not come easy and it will not come fast. After the trauma of Oct. 7, Israelis are not obsessing over a two-state solution: The question is whether these first tentative steps toward cooperation can change those attitudes. If not, it’s difficult to see how and whether the Saudis and other regional stakeholders could justify moving forward.

Israel’s domestic politics will be fundamentally altered as well. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled against Netanyahu’s judicial reform proposal, he could conceivably drop the plan, ditch his right-wing partners and fashion a center-right coalition that looks a lot like his war cabinet. His current ultra-conservative partners are taking increasingly uncompromising positions on war-related issues such as Palestinian deportation. A new coalition causes other problems for him, but Netanyahu would certainly prefer a center-right coalition that includes him to one that does not. And his dramatically diminished poll numbers will continue to limit his options.

Many of us have spent the last few months coming to terms with the fact that the anti-semitism we assumed was part of the past is very much part of our present – and our foreseeable future. 

The challenge for American Jews is just as seminal. Many of us have spent the last few months coming to terms with the fact that the antisemitism we assumed was part of the past is very much part of our present – and our foreseeable future. We now understand that this challenge will continue for us long after the war has ended. Gaza didn’t create this antisemitism: it merely exposed it. The Jewish community here faces years of repair work before we can again be confident that partners who we thought would stand with us as we have stood with them will return to our side. Like the Israeli military, we convinced ourselves that we were invulnerable to attack. Like them, we now know that strength and past success offer no guarantees of safety.

The war will end. But the new reality it leaves behind will require an entirely different approach for both Israel and Diaspora Jews. As we obsess over daily news bulletins in both countries and worry about our immediate challenges, it’s not clear who – if anyone – has begun to focus on these long-term challenges. Who would have thought that beating Hamas would be the easy part?


Dan Schnur is the U.S. Politics Editor for the Jewish Journal. He teaches courses in politics, communications, and leadership at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine. He hosts the monthly webinar “The Dan Schnur Political Report” for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall. Follow Dan’s work at www.danschnurpolitics.com.

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