The Cost Of Fighting Within A Democracy

The Cost Of Fighting Within A Democracy


Leonard Zwelling

The pictures in this article in The New York Times on October 7 tell the story. This morning, Hamas in Gaza launched an all-out attack on Israel with over 2200 rockets and raids by sea and land. As of this writing on October 7 at 2:45 PM CDT, at least 200 Israelis have been killed and many injured. Hostages have been taken, soldiers and civilians. There is no doubt who started this war and war is what we have.

I believe that the story that will be written about this latest chapter in the Israeli-Arab conflict is that of the monumental failure of Israeli intelligence, making the Yom Kippur War fiasco look tame by comparison. Then, fifty years ago this week, it was mostly the military who suffered the casualties. This time Hamas troops killed innocent civilians in towns and kibbutzim near Gaza. Reports are still coming in, but this is surely the worst attack on Israelis since 1973 and may mark the start of a third intifada. We have yet to know whether or not the West Bank will explode or whether Hezbollah will invade from Lebanon. As this clearly has the backing of the Iranians, a coordinated attack on Israel from the Iranian surrogates should not be a surprise.

This is the ultimate cost of the foolishness of Israel’s current governing coalition which is obviously too busy fighting with its own citizens to keep its eye on the ball in Gaza. This may rank right up there with 9/11 as one of the greatest intelligence failures of all time.

I am sure that Mr. Netanyahu will blame members of his own cabinet, let alone the Israeli generals, for this attack, but my guess is that Iran saw the bickering among Israelis as a true sign of national weakness and chose this time to exploit the divisions among Israelis and attack now. We will have to see if any reservists who had threatened not to respond to calls from this Israeli government to show up did so. My guess is that all of Israel responded.

Son Andrew has been in contact with our Israeli guide who lives outside of Jerusalem. Rockets were being intercepted over his head and he is on neighborhood watch in his development. His family has hidden in their safe room five times today.

This is an existential moment for Israel or should I say yet another existential moment for Israel. The country is going through two of them. Will it remain a true democracy or will Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox and Mizrahi coalition turn Israel into a theocratic autocracy having a unicameral legislature with no judicial check on its power? And, can Israel sustain itself under the onslaught of a Pearl Harbor-like moment emanating from Gaza, but likely to be joined by other Arabs across the region.

Here’s what I believe we must watch for:

  1. Will Israel single out Iran as the culprit in this attack and respond militarily in more than just Gaza?
  2. Will Hezbollah move in from the north?
  3. Will the West Bank erupt in violence creating a potential three front war for Israel?
  4. What will the rest of the Arab world do, especially Saudi Arabia? Will it condemn this unprovoked attack or side with the Palestinians as having been justified in this use of violence?
  5. What will the United States do if Israel calls for help?

There are a lot of moving parts in this one, but I cannot help but feel that without

the current domestic crisis in Israel, Iran wouldn’t have been so emboldened so as to back this surprise attack on Israel.

This should also be a lesson for the United States which is living through its own political crisis of having severely, but narrowly divided government at the federal level with a remarkable dearth of competent leadership.

All Israelis are supposed to be countrymen with the goal of strengthening the society. That has not been the case since this current government took power. This has proven to be very dangerous. The United States should learn this lesson and heal the rifts in the Republican Party quickly and then let’s have an election about ideas not cults of personality.

If the United States’ government further weakens, it too could be susceptible to a surprise attack and it may in the form of Russian aggression in Eastern Europe or Chinese aggression against Taiwan.

Democracies need to be extra strong to survive. We shall see how Israel does in its eighth decade and how the United States does as it approaches its 250th birthday. A lot is on the line in both places.

Dr. Zwelling’s new novel, Conflict of Interest: Money Drives Medicine and People Die is available at:,

on amazon if you search using the title and subtitle, 


directly from the publisher Dorrance at:

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