14 октября 2023 года

Israel – War of the Year 2023 and Yom Kippur War

Tatiana Nosenko

Keywords: Israel, Hamas, Yom Kippur War, Gaza Strip, Palestine

The unprecedentedly brutal attack by Hamas militants on the Israeli territory on the 7th of October, 2023 coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of another fateful event in the history of this state - the beginning of the Yom Kippur War on the 6th of October, 1973. There is no evidence that the militants deliberately chose this date. However, the symbolism is obvious: the Arabs consider themselves victors in that conflict that occurred half a century ago. At the same time, other than the suddenness of the attack and the unpreparedness of the Israeli army for it, there is nothing in common between the two events. In the year 1973 the military operations took place not on the Israeli territory - its positions on the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights were attacked, the lands captured by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967. At that time no one killed the Israeli civilians or took them hostage. Considering the civilian casualties, the current situation has no analogues at all in the history of Israel. At the same time 67% of its residents consider the “failure of 2023” to be greater than the “failure of the Yom Kippur War.”


Based on available information, Hamas has been preparing the attack since at least the middle of the last year. The Israeli leadership was aware of the militants' training and accumulation of weapons in the Gaza Strip. But the Hamas leaders managed to create an illusion that it was more important for them to solve the socio-economic problems of the Gaza Strip at that time. This deceptive maneuver dulled the vigilance of Israel's military and its political leaders.

At the same time, over the past three years, a very unstable situation has developed in Israel due to frequent changes of governments and to the interests’ conflict of various socio-political forces. From April 2019 till November 2022 the country held five unscheduled elections to the Knesset (parliament). The coalition government created following the last elections led by Benjamin Netanyahu is being the most right-wing in the history of the state. In addition to the Likud, which represents the right wing of the Israeli political spectrum, the government included small parties with religious-nationalist ideological orientations, as well as religious orthodox parties. The response to the judicial reform they had launched was a colossal protest movement. Many citizens decided that the government was trying to upset the balance between the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government in its favor. Thousands of demonstrations took place in Israel for 40 weeks, the participants demanded not to undermine the democratic foundations of the political system. The state weakened because of this confrontation among the government and the opposition.

Today the Israeli army and intelligence services admit the responsibility for the failure that cost the lives of hundreds of people - not only Israeli citizens, but also young people who had come from the other countries to a music festival held near the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, a number of experienced Israeli intelligence analysts warned of a possible strike. Yoav Galant, the Israeli Defense Minister, has repeatedly stated publicly that the likelihood of a military outbreak was high. But the political leadership, preoccupied with internal strife, apparently underestimated this danger. No one believed that Hamas would dare to strike.

In the Gaza Strip and in the Arab and Iranian circles in accord with it and hostile to Israel, the political crisis in this country has long been perceived as a sign of its self-destruction and a suitable condition for an attack on the “Zionist entity.” Those who planned this monstrous attack, calculated, apparently, basing not least on the fact that a weakened enemy would not be able to give a proper rebuff.

Many people ask themselves a question: could Hamas’s leaders not understand the doom of their enterprise and the incomparability of their military capabilities with Israel’s? What was the point of the massacre they carried out? Here we may recall the history of the Palestinian resistance movement. The methods of terrorist struggle have never been alien to its radical wing. Palestinian terrorism entered the international arena in the 1970s, it became a brutal but effective way to draw the attention of the world community to the problems of the Palestinian people.

In modern conditions Hamas, recognized in a number of countries as a terrorist organization and sponsored by Israel's sworn enemy Iran, has again resorted to large-scale act of terror in order to return the Palestinian issue to the center of whatsoever diplomatic efforts on normalizing the relations among Israel and the Arab states. The so-called Abraham Accords, concluded by Israel with a number of countries in the region (UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan) for the sake of establishing multifaceted cooperation, were in no way linked to the solution of the Palestinian issue. At the negotiations with Saudi Arabia during the recent months, the Palestinian issue has been actually taken out of the equation. Hamas has decided to put an end to this trend. And for this sake, apparently, the organization is ready to sacrifice its stronghold in Gaza and to allow the destruction of its military and political structures.

The leaders of Hamas strife to justify their barbaric raid on the Israeli territory by the necessity to protect Al-Aqsa, the third holiest shrine in the Muslim world. It is located in Jerusalem in the protected area of ​​the Haram al-Sharif (in the Jewish tradition - the Temple Mount). The calls for the protection of Islamic holy places always have a good propaganda effect and provide support for Muslims around the world. Moreover, Jewish religious radicals are increasingly trying to expand their presence in this sacred complex. In an already tense situation, regular restrictions on access to the Temple Mount for Muslims, accompanied by violations of the long-standing ban on Jews praying there, are causing an aggressive reaction from the Palestinians. In addition, acts of violence against Palestinians by extremist groups of settler youth are increasing not only in response to terrorist attacks by Arabs. The settlement movement, which strengthened its position with the coming to power of the most radical parties, is actually increasingly legitimizing its right to violence against the Arab population.

The vicious circle of violence, which has worsened in the recent months, played into the hands of Hamas and allowed it to form the image of a fighter against the occupation. In the absence of any glimpse of a political settlement, Hamas has positioned itself as the only force capable of resisting the Israeli occupation. Basing on this, its leadership calls for an armed uprising of Palestinians in the West Bank, and the Arab population inside Israel counts on the support of the paramilitary pro-Iranian organization Hezbollah, based in Lebanon.

Israel is facing numerous challenges. Devastating casualties among the civilian population, hostages taken to Gaza, the necessity to confront the enemy on several fronts at once - in Gaza, on the northern border, repelling Hezbollah attacks, in the West Bank, preventing a new Palestinian intifada. This war does not pose an existential threat to the state. It is difficult to predict what the political consequences will be and whether the Netanyahu government will retain power. According to the results of recent polls, the balance of forces on the political arena has changed dramatically. The opposition parties receive an absolute majority in the Knesset. There is no doubt that when hostilities are over, a thorough investigation will be made into the causes of the army's helplessness.

But Hamas’s “autonomous navigation” in the Gaza Strip has probably come to an end. In the near future, the Israeli army, apparently, will undertake a radical clearing operation in Gaza. Now it is difficult to say what the future fate of this territory will be, which had been home to about two million people before the current crisis has begun. One thing is clear - Israel will do everything possible to prevent recurring of October 2023’s horrific events in the future.