The events of Oct. 7 were shocking, not only for their sheer brutality, they for another reason: Hamas, with limited resources, and using simple methods, overran Israel's sophisticated border security system, and operated unchallenged for several hours, even after the fact that the invasion was clearly taking place.
The embarrassing number of failures to act according to procedure, the decision to maintain minimal staffing on the border, despite repeated attempts to breach the security barrier in the weeks before the invasion, the failure to issue an order to helicopter pilots to enter the arena, and even the lack of communication by the government hours after the war had started, all defy rational explanation.
Instead of a swift, coordinated IDF response, local alert squads of civilian volunteers, Israel Police officers, lone civilians armed with handguns, and small numbers of special operations fought at least 2,000 Hamas terrorists for hours.
The conglomeration of failures exceeds the explanation of mere hubris, or over-reliance on technology. The government’s failure to respond quickly to the situation, to engage the enemy with the full might of the IDF, and to issue statements to a troubled population – explaining what it was doing to bring the situation under control – are simply unprecedented and barely believable.
In the aftermath of the horrific attacks and the government’s apparent inability to function properly, Israelis have begun to share wild conspiracy theories – all in an attempt to rationalize what happened.
Unfortunately, the failures did not stop on Oct. 7.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) continue to launch volleys of rockets on a daily basis. The Israel Air Force (IAF) air strikes have leveled entire neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip but they have produced little noticeable impact on the rocket launches.
And over 100,000 IDF soldiers and heavy equipment sit motionless on the southern border.
Israelis expected a ground campaign to begin with hours or perhaps a couple days of the invasion. Yet, the government has given no explanation of whether – or when – it intends to launch an invasion.
Conflicting statements from government ministers, an unnecessary nuisance during peacetime, only serve to erode a fragile public trust in the government during wartime.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, once considered one of the most savvy politicians in the world, has seen public confidence in his ability to lead drop drastically.
The leader, often considered an expert at hasbarah (the Hebrew word used for public relations focused on the outside world), who hired the brilliant social media influencer Hananya Naftali to manage his PR campaign, now appears to be unable to issue critical, timely statements to counter Hamas and foreign slander.
The incident surrounding the explosion at the Al-Ma’amadani Hospital in Gaza last week is a perfect example of the government's failure to run the country in wartime.
It took the State of Israel about four hours to release initial information to the public with a clear statement that the explosion in the area of the hospital area caused by a failed launch of a terror organization from the Gaza Strip.
The event, that triggered headlines across world media stating that it was an Israeli strike, justified releasing an immediate statement by senior political elements in Israel – especially the prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister – clearly stating that Israel does not attack hospitals and calling on international partners to denounce the obvious lie.
After all, that was not the first time that Hamas has lied about Israeli strikes. An official IDF announcement –affirming that Israel does not target hospitals, that no IAF activity took place in the sector and that Hamas and PIJ rockets regularly land in Gaza, killing Palestinians – could have been made within the first hour of the story breaking.
Instead, thousands of Israelis fought for hours to repel this vicious public relations attack across social media, with no political or official help. Civilians and open-source intel accounts obtained photographs and video indicating that there had been a failed launch from Gaza at exactly the same time.
By the time the Israeli government released its statement, most of the major new outlets around the world had already published the false Hamas version of the story, with no official Israeli rebuttal.
Why didn’t the prime minister and his team – or the foreign minister and his team, the highest levels that are supposed to act in such an event – request that the United States and other friends around the world make statements acknowledging the official Israeli government account of what happened?
When the government did respond, it responded first in Hebrew, even though the story was shared with a global audience in English.
It took the government and the IDF some 12 hours to release official explanations with evidence to refute the Hamas propaganda.
It appears that the current coalition parties have become so focused on the cutthroat world of politics related to winning elections, that they have forgotten the skills necessary to lead a nation.
A government that was willing to bring the entire nation to the brink of civil war within a few months over a series of reforms that could easily be achieved by the realities of population trends over the next decade, will not be able to quickly bring that same nation together in unity to confront a world that appears to be uniting against it.
Netanyahu, who has spent decades warning about the threat of organized terror, while proclaiming himself as the only one able to counter that threat, was quickly revealed to be inadequate for the task.
The emergency unity government, which exists because former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz was, once more, willing to compromise his political position to work for the good of the nation, is only a minimal step towards fixing the situation.
Yair Lapid, Avigdor Liberman and other political leaders need to be willing to put politics aside and form a limited-focus unity government. It will be clear to all that they are doing this only to face the severe threat facing the nation. But the nation needs unity in the face of the threats against it.
Netanyahu needs to be willing to ignore his political future and put the success of the military campaign, a clear existential matter, as the only concern of the moment.
Truly great historical leaders, such as David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, were willing to stand up to the most powerful nations in the world in order to see Israel through war successfully.
Netanyahu appears to be willing to let U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration dictate the terms of the conflict and the operational objectives of an IDF ground campaign.
This is unacceptable.
Israelis are reasonably concerned about the security of their nation, its ability to win a war that is clearly being instigated by Iranian elements, and its ability to defend itself morally.
Unfortunately, many Israelis no longer trust this government to do that. For this reason, an emergency unity government, made up of the parties most aligned with the Zionist vision, should be formed immediately – with the promise that it will be dissolved and new elections held once the war is won.
That government, the one elected after the war is over, must have a plan for restoring deterrence and creating a new reality for Gaza. But the war has to be won first, and the people need to be able to trust their government.
[The above was written after seeing the shock and outrage many Israelis felt over the events of Oct. 7. I have attempted to express the ideas and opinions that I encountered from opinion pieces written in Hebrew press and from conversations with Israelis. The blow to the State of Israel from the staggering number of deaths was massive, but the blow to the people's ability to trust their leadership is also highly significant. Now united after more than half a year of political division, many still do not feel they can depend on the government. At this time, more than any other, the nation of Israel needs prayer. They need to look to the God of Israel, the LORD of Hosts for their hope and direction, not to their leaders.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. - Psalm 118:9]
J. Micah Hancock is a current Master’s student at the Hebrew University, pursuing a degree in Jewish History. Previously, he studied Biblical studies and journalism in his B.A. in the United States. He joined All Israel News as a reporter in 2022, and currently lives near Jerusalem with his wife and children.