The Israeli strategic affairs expert calls the war against Hamas as one where the “entire free world” is against “extreme religious tyranny”.
Dror Eydar, a distinguished figure in the realm of strategic affairs and an accomplished author, was until recently the Israeli Ambassador to Italy. Eydar holds a doctorate in Hebrew and Jewish literature from Bar-Ilan University and is a columnist in Israel’s Hayom daily newspaper. Eydar’s literary contributions include Alterman–Baudelaire: Paris–Tel Aviv: Urbanism and Myth in the Poetry of Nathan Alterman and Charles Baudelaire (2003), and The Last of the Lord’s Poets: Myth, Ethos, and Mysticism in the Literary Works of Yosef Zvi Rimon (2009). In this exclusive interview with Frontline, conducted from East Jerusalem, Eydar offers an Israeli defence. Excerpts:
What are the lessons for Israel from October 7 and why did it fail to anticipate the attack?
It is too early to draw lessons. We are at the beginning of a long military campaign, at the end of which we will destroy the terrorist organisation that has sprung up on our southern border. We must not forget the other terrorist organisation, Hezbollah, which is on our northern border. Both operate under the command of Iran. Iran is also the financier of this terrorism.
We are not dealing with a normal political entity, nor with ordinary soldiers. The motto of the Hamas charter is the destruction of Israel, and a total commitment to killing Jews wherever they are. I know a similar document that was written about a century ago in German and was the basis for the establishment of Nazi Germany. Hamas is therefore a neo-Nazi organisation for all intents and purposes. If you want another comparison: Hamas is ISIS.
This is not Israel’s war only, but the war of the entire free world against extreme religious tyranny that seeks to enslave us all. Currently, there are dormant cells of these organisations throughout the free world. They are waiting to see how Israel will react and whether the free world will support Israel, and then decide how to act.
Many in the world see the Israeli response in Gaza as disproportionate. How do Israeli civil society and government alike deal with the killings of children and other civilians across the fence?
Are there proportions for a war against Nazis or ISIS? It is important to understand what happened on October 7. Thousands of terrorists infiltrated Israel and slaughtered unarmed Jewish youths. Does the requirement for “proportions” mean doing the exact same thing to the other side? Or does this demand intend to stop the Jews from defending themselves against an enemy who declares his desire to commit genocide against us and has proven that when he had the ability to do so? We are talking about 1,400 dead in one attack and more than 3,000 wounded, and the count does not end. This was a genocide. If the terrorists could continue, they would execute all millions of Israeli citizens by similar means.
Are any other options available for Israel to respond to the Hamas attack or think of any lasting solution to the Palestinian issue?
When you say “Palestinians”, who do you mean? Hamas in Gaza does not recognise the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. It sees them as an enemy. In the Gaza Strip, there was a great experiment of two states for two peoples. Israel had left the region completely. We displaced dozens of flourishing Israeli settlements. We even took our graves from there. The Palestinians had the opportunity to turn the area into a thriving place, a good example of how peace would be in the Middle East. We left them Israeli technology, agricultural buildings and greenhouses, and offered to help them further.
When talking about a Palestinian state, it seems to people that it is located hundreds of kilometres away from Israel. Wrong. From the balcony of my house, I can see with the naked eye the mountains where the city of Ramallah is located. The distance between us is 36 km, and the distance from Ramallah to Jerusalem is about 10 km. Does it seem to anyone in the world that we are so insane as to allow a Nazi-ISIS terrorist entity to be placed in front of Israel’s population centres? On October 7, we saw the murderous significance of living next to such an entity in Gaza. I believe we have learned our lesson.
You have mentioned that in West Asia not every problem has a logical solution; often the problem is left to be solved with time. But if you leave the problem unattended, it will blow up in your face. How do you defend the argument of leaving the problem to time?
The term solution is a rational concept. From Aristotle to David Hume, we rightly assume that every phenomenon has a cause, and if we find the cause of the problem, we can solve it. The whole world thinks the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is territorial. For the last hundred years, we have been offering the Palestinians to divide the land between us and live in peace side by side. Every time we offered, their answer was no. Instead, they launched war and terrorism against us.
We have to believe our enemies. The Hamas charter openly says there cannot be any compromise on land. The same with the Palestinian Authority: their National Covenant does not recognise Jews as a people. We are a nation more than 3,000 years old, but they claim that we are only a religion, therefore we have no right to self-determination. They also claim that there is no historical or religious connection between the Holy Land [Israel] and the Jewish people. If so, where did all the events in the Bible take place?
But the two-state solution was the basis of the Oslo Accords, and that is what India and almost all in the world support.
At the base of the will for compromise is the assumption that the Palestinians are interested in an independent state alongside the state of Israel. I challenge your readers to search a statement by any Palestinian leader at any time that recognises the right of Jews to any part of this land. There is no such recognition, so what compromise are we talking about? The Western world is speaking with Israel about a compromise, but the Palestinians have never accepted it. Everything I have written so far can be used as a basis for negotiations with a normal entity, but not with Nazi Germany and not with ISIS. Such entities endanger the entire world, so they must be eliminated.
US President Joe Biden cautioned Israel not to repeat the mistakes the US made after 9/11. It invaded Afghanistan, but after two decades returned power to the Taliban. It invaded Iraq and literally gave Iraq to Iranian proxies, making it more dangerous for Americans. What will life be like after the elimination of Hamas if it happens?
It seems to me that after October 7 we should abandon all our previous assumptions. The comparison between the US in Afghanistan and Israel in Gaza is not correct. The Gaza Strip is only hundreds of metres from our villages and towns. We also have no desire to educate the people of Gaza. From our point of view, whoever wants to kill Jews should be eliminated first. I agree that we should not give Gaza to another Palestinian entity. They have already proven that they do not care about the lives of their residents.
Regarding Iran, it is indeed dangerous, not only to Israel or the Americans but to the entire world. If the Iranians obtain nuclear weapons, it will encourage and energise all the terrorists in the world and cause a nuclear arms race in the region. Moderate Arab countries are afraid of Iran.
“Our national anthem speaks of the 2,000-year-old hope to be a free people in our country and in Jerusalem. This hope is also the hope of the whole free world.”
Also Read | Gaza: Scarred, ruined, and silenced by death
As a former diplomat and a strategist, what in your opinion will be the endgame?
Right now, Israel has embarked on its second war of independence. It is a war for our very existence. Israel is the front post in defence of the entire free world. That is why they attack us first. After us, they will come for you too. The Jewish people are an optimistic people. We have gone through difficult events in our long history. Less than 80 years ago, the Nazis and their collaborators tried to destroy our people. We overcame them.
The war against the Jewish people and the state of Israel is a failed attempt to stop the historical process of the return of the Jewish people to Zion as the prophets of Israel promised us in the Bible thousands of years ago. Our national anthem speaks of the 2,000-year-old hope to be a free people in our country and in Jerusalem. This hope is also the hope of the whole free world.
Iftikhar Gilani is an Indian journalist based in Ankara.