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Lauri: Welcome everyone to this afternoon’s Endowment from the Middle East Truth (EMET) Webinar featuring the brilliant Michael Duran. Michael is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East at the Hudson Institute. I am thrilled to have him join us today to discuss the Hamas War. Michael will discuss the similarities and differences between this war and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He will also cover the broader implications of this current war with Hamas. I highly recommend that you follow Mike’s work. His recent essay, The Hidden Calculation Behind the Yom Kippur War covers the subject matter of today’s webinar and it is a must-read.

While reading Michael’s essay, I noticed several parallels between US policy on Israel in 1973, versus today. As Mike pointed out in his essay, the 1973 war between Israel and Egypt served as a proxy for the US-Soviet war. The current war with Hamas resembles the Yom Kippur war in that we are dealing with a proxy war once again, this time between the US and Iran. I think it is important to keep that similarity in mind throughout our discussions. Welcome Mike, and thank you so much for joining us this afternoon.

Michael: Thank you for having me, and thanks to everybody for tuning in, and thank you for calling me brilliant.

Lauri: You are brilliant. I am going to begin with a quote from your essay on the Yom Kippur War. You wrote, “It suddenly became clear that Israel’s assumptions about its own strength, the character of its enemies, and the fundamental shape of the modern battlefield were erroneous.” Later you mention Golda Meir had said at the time she knew Sadat was not going to go to war. Do you think Golda’s misunderstanding of the situation in 1973 compares with the Netanyahu government’s misinterpretation of Hamas’ intentions? How did Hamas manage to deceive Israel like they did?

Michael: Well, yes, I think everyone sees huge parallels between the causes of the Yom Kippur War and those of the current war with Hamas. The Israeli press is full of these comparisons. They are calling the October 7th catastrophe a word in Hebrew that translates to blunder or a failure to do something that leads to a very costly outcome. According to the Israeli press, this blunder is comparable not just to causing a fire on your stove, but to leaving that fire burning and allowing your house to burn down.

October 7th was a huge intelligence failure. It was a multi-domain intelligence failure. Shabak has responsibility not just for internal Israel, but also the West Bank and Gaza. They did not see it coming. This was a kind of strategic deception by Hamas. They convinced the Israelis, the Qataris and the Americans they were out of the mass casualty terrorist business. They convinced everyone they were trying to grow the Gazan economy because they felt pressured by the local population to deliver on good governance. Everybody bought their lies to such a degree that it is shocking. This level of misinterpretation was similar to that of 1973 when everyone believed Sadat could not enter into war against Israel. In both cases, they failed to imagine the opposite party might initiate a conflict they could not win because it would work to their advantage.

Lauri: You mentioned a failure to imagine. I think, in your essay, you used the term, the concept of operations. Israel defeated the armies of its enemies in just six days during the 1967 war. At that time, Israel appeared to have an unquestionable military advantage over its Arab neighbors. This led to what I think you called hubris. Perhaps the term foolishness naivete would also be appropriate. Israel was caught unawares at the start of the Yom Kippur War and endured massive losses. On October 7th it seems that Israel severely underestimated the extent of Hamas’ capabilities. I have heard you use the analogy of Star Wars and Mad Max. Can you elaborate on that?

Michael: First of all, what is the concept of operations for a military intelligence officer? The concept of operations is how a commander in the field combines his assets to solve his military problems. The concept of operations is somewhere between assets and weapons systems and a plan. It is not necessarily a full-blown plan, but it does involve a high-level strategy as to how to optimize available assets. A great example is how Iran uses its drones, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles. It puts them all together in such a way that they can overwhelm any missile defense system in the world. That is a concept of operation. A lot of people, including those in the military, still have not gotten their heads around this concept yet.

They know Iran has a huge missile arsenal and they know Hezbollah has a huge missile arsenal with drones and other weapons. However, they are not prepared to defend against the impact of all of them packaged together. They do not prepare for how all of them might be employed at the same time. This is the principle that Hamas used on October 7th. They packaged their assets to overwhelm the Israeli censors. You mentioned Star Wars and Mad Max. That is an analogy that I stole from John Casapolu here at the Hudson Institute. John is a first-rate military analyst and the comparison was his. He said the Israelis are living in a Star Wars world while Hamas is living in a Mad Max world. Unfortunately, the world is Mad Max and not Star Wars.

We do not know the full extent of the October 7th failures yet. I am sure we will have a commission of inquiry and lots of analyses. It will be very interesting to find out exactly what happened. On some level, however, the Israelis started believing that they could prevent attacks on their country by sitting behind a keyboard and using sensors on fences and other similar tactics. These did not work. Hamas succeeded by attacking Israel using multiple different vehicles simultaneously. The pictures show paragliders crossing the fence at the same time there was a rocket attack and at the same time terrorists broke through the fence.

The guy on the ground in the first military outpost has just a minute or two to call his commander and describe the details of what is happening. This is very difficult to do when one is confused by simultaneous attacks from different sources. On October 7th, Hamas also blinded the Israelis by taking out the sensors they were using to observe Gaza. I think they learned this from Hezbollah because Hezbollah does a similar thing in the North. The Israelis had a failure of imagination. They never imagined Hamas would combine multiple strategies to maximize the impact of their attack. Hamas did not make use of any single weapon system or tactic the Israelis could not defend against. What was lethal, however, was the combination of these things. That is the concept of operations.

Lauri: That explanation is very helpful in understanding what happened and how it happened. I think people like me, just assumed that Israel’s war room had practiced defense and attack such as this a million times and we were shocked by the success of the actual attack.

Michael: Yeah, what can I say? I think we were all shaken after October 7th. One of the things that concerned me most was that Hamas continued to hold territory for almost two days after breaking into Israel. The Israeli counterattack was so slow that Hamas was able to remain in Sderot for two days. The slowness of the Israeli response is what I am most confused about. I have asked several Israelis for an explanation. Some blame Bibi while others say the Israeli troops were occupied in the West Bank. That does not explain what happened because the West Bank is not that far away from Sderot. So, I do not understand why huge numbers of troops did not flood the occupied zone right away. That worried me because it implied Israel did not have the capabilities to defend against a land incursion.

There was an early Hamas video showing them using a pretty simple drone to drop a grenade on a bunch of Israeli soldiers standing together. In 2020, I was in Azerbaijan during the Azerbaijan-Armenia war, and there was video after video after video of the Azerbaijanis doing the same thing to the Armenians. The Armenians never caught on and never dispersed. At that time, I wondered why the Armenian commanders did not tell their soldiers to disperse.  We saw the same patterns in Ukraine. I have no military background at all. However, if you put me in charge of a platoon, the first thing I would tell my men is not to cluster together, especially out in the open.

The Israelis were not ready in some ways on October 7th, but they are now. From a military perspective, my impression is that this war is going extremely well. All of our concerns about the abilities of the Israeli military have been dispelled. I am speaking now about the war from a military, and not a political perspective. I am reminded of what Dado Elazar, the Israeli chief of staff said during the 1973 war. Around October 14th of 1973, he called Golda and said, “Golda, don’t worry. The Arabs are back to being the Arabs and we are back to being ourselves and so everything is going to be fine.”

Lauri: I love that that is your takeaway and the way to look at the situation going forward. In addition to the failure around the concept of operations we talked about, Golda Meir contended with another issue in 1973. That issue was the constraint placed on Israel by America. You recognized Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger as the greatest supporters of Israel from amongst all American foreign policymakers. However, I am not sure Israelis or American Jews would agree. Kissinger personally instructed Meir not to strike Egypt preemptively even though Israel had received intelligence revealing an attack was imminent. This led to more Israeli deaths than may have occurred had Israel initiated a preemptive strike. You point out in your essay, “The difference between American and Soviet policy was stark, whereas Moscow armed its allies to the teeth and then stepped out of their way, Washington was tying the hands of its ally as it was about to be assaulted.”

Can you discuss the implications of the US preventing preemptive action in 1973? Also, what are the implications of Biden’s demand that Israel not preemptively strike Hezbollah? There are a lot of people who want to see Israel defeat Hezbollah, and Biden is holding Israel back from achieving that goal.

Michael: I do not think those two situations are comparable. Let me just start by explaining why I think Nixon and Kissinger deserve to be labeled the most supportive administration ever, and even more supportive than the Trump administration. First of all, we now take Israel’s qualitative military edge for granted. It is enshrined in US law that Israel should have a qualitative military edge over any conceivable coalition of states that would want to attack her. We consider this guarantee from the United States to be a mainstay of US-Israeli relations. This is a legacy of Nixon and Kissinger from 1970. They also guaranteed Israel that the United States would not force Israel to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, without first getting a full-blown peace agreement from the opposite parties. This agreement must occur via face-to-face negotiations between Israel and the opposite party.

Until 1970, the Israelis were worried about a repeat of the Eisenhower policy of 1957. After the Israelis conquered the Sinai in 1956, Eisenhower forced them out again with basically no concessions from Nassar at all. Nassar gave no promises to the Israelis or the Americans and yet Eisenhower forced the Israelis out of Sinai. This is because the United States could not be seen to be backing Israel in any kind of territorial expansionism. We all take for granted that UN resolution 242 after the 1967 war refers to land for peace. We all take for granted peace between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Syria or Lebanon implies a peace arrived at through bilateral negotiations. That definition of peace, however, only came about in 1970 under Nixon and Kissinger and that definition is a huge deal.

While researching this essay, I learned more about the importance of the War of Attrition. The War of Attrition was the war fought between Israel and Egypt following the 1967 war. The Egyptians started the war to change the status quo. This war ended in a stalemate and there was no change in the status quo between Israel and Egypt. The Egyptians did not succeed in their goal so it may be considered a failure on their part.

I used to teach the Arab-Israeli Conflict at university. I taught a week on the 1967 war and then a week on the 1973 war. I treated the War of Attrition as a type of border skirmish, kind of like the Hezbollah-Israel war is right now. In researching this article, I realized the War of Attrition was an incredibly important event. This is because it was more than just a war between Israel and Egypt. It was a Soviet-Israeli war that threatened to escalate into a Soviet-American war. The US shut the war down because of this threat of escalation. In return for accepting the ceasefire with the Egyptians, the Nixon administration gave the Israelis a qualitative military edge and a favorable interpretation of Resolution 242. Nixon and Kissinger also realized they could use Israel’s military power to force the Egyptians into a peace agreement with Israel. The Nixon administration recognized Israeli military power as an asset for the United States. They saw Israel as a critical partner who would help them pull Egypt away from the Soviet Union and toward the United States. That strategy worked. It delivered a peace with Egypt that still holds today. 50 years have passed without a shot fired from Egypt into Israel. That is an unbelievable achievement.

In terms of restraining Israel, I believe some of the things Nixon and Kissinger are accused of are not true. Others have mitigating circumstances. You mentioned that Kissinger told Golda not to preempt a war with Egypt even though he knew Sadat and Assad were about to attack Israel. Kissinger, like the Israelis, believed the 1973 war was going to be very short and that Israel was going to triumph. Nixon and Kissinger feared there was going to be another 1967 moment. The Israelis were going to trounce the Egyptians, take more territory, and weaken the Egyptian regime. At that point, there would be nobody on the other side to negotiate with and the Soviets would take the opportunity to come in and escalate the situation.

The reason they envisioned that scenario is because they lived through it in 1970. That situation was different from what we are seeing now with the Biden administration. It is also different from what we saw previously with Obama, Carter, and Eisenhower, all of whom believed Israeli power somehow tainted the United States. Nixon and Kissinger did restrain Israel at certain moments. However, I think any accusation against them regarding Israel is very different from indictments of the actions of some other presidents toward Israel. As opposed to the other presidents, Nixon and Kissinger saw Israel as an asset for the United States. Their strategy was successful and resulted in great benefits for both the United States and for Israel. If the Biden administration were to view Israel as an asset fighting on behalf of the US against Iran, the comparison between the two administrations would be more apt.

Iran and its network today is the analog to the Soviet Union in 1973. The United States should view Israel as its asset in the Middle East. Iran and its so-called resistance axis, includes Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, and the militias it created in Syria and Iraq. The US should understand Iran and its resistance axis is a threat to the United States, and it should view Israel as its asset in the Middle East. I do not think the Biden administration is there at all. It is defining this war as a bilateral war between Hamas and Israel. It is supporting Israel in that. That is great. But what is lacking is that larger conception of how Israel is an asset against the strategic rival of the United States.

Lauri: I am going to quote you where you wrote, “To be pro-Israel is to have a vision of the regional system that regards Israel as an asset, and that clearly defines the respective roles of Israel in the United States in maintaining that system.” I am glad you discussed it.

Michael: What it took me ten minutes to say here, I said very concisely there.

Lauri: You added a lot of history which I think is critically important. I was asked by a politician many years ago to write a white paper on why Israel is a strategic asset to the US. I wish that the Biden administration understood that concept at this horrific time. You mentioned this is a war with Iran, and I think that moves us in a different direction from the Yom Kippur War. Sadat’s goals in launching the war with Israel were quite different from Hamas’ goals in committing the atrocities of October 7th. Perhaps you can touch on that. Can you also discuss how the US appeasement of the Islamic Republic led to October 7th? Please explain how Israel’s failure to recognize the broader implications of the US appeasement strategy impacted its national security. As you said in your essay, “Israel’s assumptions about Iran have been fatally flawed for quite some time.”

Michael: Yeah. Let’s take it point by point. Firstly, there is no comparison between Sadat and Hamas, no comparison at all. In 1973, America and the Soviet Union shut down the Yom Kippur War to avoid becoming directly involved in an escalation. Kissinger managed the 1973 war so that Israel had the advantage. When the war ended, Israel had encircled Egypt’s third army. If Israel had been given a few more days, they would have annihilated Egypt’s army and the road to Cairo would have been open to them. The Americans were afraid that an Israeli advance into Cairo would lead to a real Soviet-American clash. I think this was a legitimate fear stemming from their experience with the War of Attrition in 1970.

In 1973, Sadat’s objective was to heat the conflict to involve the superpowers who would then facilitate a peace process. At that point, he would be able to exit the Arab-Israeli conflict. Like Sadat, the Iranians, Hezbollah, and Hamas believe the United States will shut Israel down if they bring sufficient pressure to bear. However, the objectives of Hamas are different from those of Sadat. They are all about destroying Israel. That is all they want to do. There are many in Washington and elsewhere arguing Hamas has accepted Israel. There are also lots of people on university campuses mouthing propaganda and asserting that Hamas represents the will of the Palestinians. They declare Hamas is the angry representation of the Palestinian desire for a solution. It is hogwash. Hamas’ basic statements openly reveal who they are. Hamas’ atrocities on October 7th were not a call for a two-state solution. They sent a very clear message by burning babies and killing young kids in the arms of their parents. These atrocities were designed to send the message that their policy is the annihilation of Israel.

The only similarity between Sadat and Hamas is their reliance on the United States to come in and shut down their respective wars. I think there is still a danger that the US will shut down the war with Hamas and I think we should all be insisting on no cease-fire. We should back Israel to the hilt until it successfully fulfills its war goals of making sure Hamas can no longer make war on Israel and can no longer rule the Gaza Strip.

Concerning Hezbollah, I tend to agree with you. Israel is not going to have the minimum security that it needs until Hezbollah is taken care of. Taking care of Hezbollah does not necessarily mean dismantling all of it. The war with Hezbollah is going to be worse than 2006 and it is going to be ugly. Hezbollah now has 200,000 rockets and missiles, many of which are precision-guided. They have payloads that are much bigger than those of Hamas. They can overwhelm the Iron Dome and David’s Sling. Israeli civilians are going to die and Lebanese civilians are going to die in even greater numbers.

If the war ends today, however, the balance between Israel and Hezbollah will have changed considerably. Israel has evacuated populations from both the South and the North. Israel is not going to be able to repopulate part of the Negev until the people living there are guaranteed that they are not going to be subject to repetitions of the October 7th Nazi-like attacks. The same thing holds in the North. The North has been evacuated with Hezbollah able to turn up the thermostat and heat the border whenever it wants. As long as that situation persists, civilians are not going to go back to live in the northern border area. That is intolerable for any country and so the balance of power has to change. It has to. I think that change has to be the minimum war aim of the Israelis and the Americans as regards Hezbollah in the North.

Lauri: Biden pulled up warships to make Israel feel comfortable. Do not do anything, we have got your back.

Michael: That is a bear hug. The bear hug policy is where they squeeze Israel tight and then they turn to the Zionist Americans and the Israelis, and they say, “Oh, look how I am kissing Israel. I love Israel.” Then they turn to the progressives on the college campuses and to the Iranians, and they say, “Look how I am restraining Israel.”

Lauri: Well, they are not only restraining Israel, they are restraining themselves. There was a New York Times report yesterday asserting Biden has rejected more aggressive bombing options proposed by the Pentagon out of fear of provoking a wider conflict with Iran. How many US servicemen are going to be injured before the Biden administration stops fearing Iran? What are your thoughts on that, and what does this mean for Israel that Biden is so fearful of provoking a wider conflict with Iran?

Michael: Well, you asked that in a previous question and I never responded to it. We have to admit a couple of things about the Biden policy. Number one, Biden’s policy is one of appeasement across the board. We have appeased Iran with its nuclear program. We are attempting to buy quiet on the nuclear program with sanction waivers. We are turning a blind eye to Iranian oil sales to China thereby putting billions of dollars directly into the pocket of the Iranians. The Washington Free Beacon reported news of a new waiver today. There is no doubt in my mind that Biden’s policy contributed to the context in which this war unfolded. Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah all believe it is possible to attack Israel with impunity without fear that the United States is going to retaliate in any way. Similarly, they believe they can attack the United States with impunity. Iranian proxies have conducted approximately 50 attacks with dozens of Americans hurt.

Lauri: Since October 7th.

Michael: Yeah, 83 or so before October 7th, then approximately 50 since October 7th. It is crazy and it is barely being reported. For us to be giving waivers at this moment, sends a message of weakness. It sends a message that the Iranians can push the Americans harder to bring the Americans to shut the Israelis down. That is no way to run a foreign policy. It is hard to fathom what goes through the minds of the guys in the White House but we have been watching this show for a long time. We watched it all through the Obama administration, and we have been watching it through the Biden administration. I have no problems in saying with confidence that they are not going to give up this policy. They love it. They think it is a good policy.

Lauri: We know the Iranians are running rings around the US. Do you think they are creating havoc to distract from their advancing nuclear program? Are we going to wake up one day to a nuclear ballistic missile test?

Michael: I expect we are going to see a nuclear device tested sometime in the next five to seven years but I do not believe that is foremost on their minds right now. They want to weaken Israel because Israel is the primary threat to the nuclear program and the primary threat to Iran in general. I would say the Iranians have multiple different goals with wanting in this war. Number one is to elevate Hamas over Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the Palestinian arena. Number two is to weaken Israel, the primary threat to the Iranian nuclear program and to Iran in general. Number three is to put the Palestine question on the top of the international agenda because that distracts attention from Iran and all of its malevolent activity, including its nuclear program. Number four is to end all of the initiatives that were going to bring about a new Middle East.

A little over a month ago, we were all talking about Saudi-Israeli normalization. We were talking about a new dawn in Turkish-Israeli relations. We were talking about a trade route from India to Europe through Saudi Arabia and Israel. All that is gone, at least for the moment. Some of it will not come back. I do not know how long it will take before we talk once again about improved Turkish-Israeli relations. If Israel wins big over Hamas, I can see the Saudi-Israeli normalization coming back relatively soon. However, feelings in the Muslim world are very hard right now. Very, very hard. I cannot overstate how successful Iran has been in the information war, the propaganda campaign. We see it first-hand on our campuses and it is a lot worse in the Muslim world.

Lauri: Anti-Israel sentiment is one of the things that has me concerned as well. That said, I do believe that the Saudi-Israel normalization will occur when Israel comes out the strong horse. I also agree with you that Israel is going to come out with a win on this.

Michael: Unless America stops it. I have no information to suggest they will, but I have a sense of what those in charge think. Right now, Israel effectively controls the northern Strip of Gaza City. There is still a lot of fighting there. Many of the remaining Hamas fighters are what Donald Trump or George W. Bush, called dead-enders. These are guys who are going to fight to the end on the ground in Gaza City even though the fight is lost. It is a hundred percent lost. There is no way they will be able to do anything more than slightly damage the Israelis. Many of their commanders on the ground have been killed. Their big commanders have gone south. Many of the platoon commanders and the company commanders are dead.

I am sure the remaining Hamas fighters are demoralized. I cannot think of anything worse than sitting in a tunnel with a bunch of wounded guys around me and not knowing where to go and what to do. There will be an awesome story about how the Israelis foiled this tunnel system. I was really worried about how Israel would be able to deal with the tunnel system before they went into Gaza because I did not know any of the plans. Somehow, they cut off the command and control from the fighters in the tunnels. So, we may still see some of them coming out of the tunnels with an RPG and shooting at a tank, but Hamas has lost strategic control of their forces in the north Gaza Strip. The Israelis are taking control over Shifa Hospital as we speak. However, my fear is the Americans are going to come in and try and prevent the Israelis from going to Khan Yunis.

Khan Yunis is the hometown of Yahya Sinwar and it has tunnels under it. I assume that is where most of the hostages are being held although I do not have any specific information on that. So far, the Israelis have bombed Khan Yunis very lightly but they are going to have to go in on the ground. The images we see of victory are not sufficient. We see pictures showing the Israelis blowing up Hamas’ legislative assembly and taking the Shifa Hospital and the Shati refugee camp. These successes are not enough. I will bet you the White House is saying they have to stop the Israelis from entering Khan Yunis. The Israelis need to go all the way to Khan Yunis and we need to convince the White House of that.

Lauri: Do you think things are different this time? As you pointed out, Israelis in both the North and South have been displaced and cannot return to their homes. How are Israeli citizens going to be able to go back to living in the South or the North if these terrorist organizations survive? As such, it appears Israel cannot accept a ceasefire no matter how much pressure they receive from the US and the international community.

Michael: Do you think Golda Meier did not want to destroy the Egyptian third army in 1973? The United States can be very persuasive when it wants to be. Consider a scenario in which the US stops supplying ammunition to the Israelis. Once Hezbollah and Iran get wind of the distance between Israel and the United States, they will take advantage of the situation and this will have a huge impact on their actions and on Israel’s ability to succeed militarily.

There is a little dance that Hezbollah and Israel perform where they maintain the conflict to within five kilometers on either side of the border. This is an unwritten rule. When did they break this rule? They broke the rule right after the Americans told Israel to be more restrained. It is not outrageous to imagine America withholding the resupply of weapons to Israel, making some public statements of concern, and floating a hostage exchange with the Iranians and the Qataris. That would split the coalition in Israel and Hezbollah would then turn up the heat. Israel would have no choice but to comply with the US demands. If the United States wants to put the screws to Israel, it has lots of ways to do it and others will help, believe me.

Lauri: Thank you. I am concerned by the Chinese-mediated Saudi-Iranian détente. Last week we saw pictures of Mohammad bin Salman with Ebrahim Raisi. However, last week’s meeting between the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation did not end with any of Iran’s requests being met.

Michael: They can have all the photo ops they want. The Iranians made a bunch of demands and they all said, what time is it?

Lauri: Are the Saudis hedging their bets at all?

Michael: Yeah, sure. I think the Saudis have made clear what it is they want. They want to revitalize the American system of security. Within that context, they are happy to normalize relations with Israel. I do not think their policy has changed that much since October 7th. The vast majority of Muslims in the world sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians. They think Israel’s policy is excessive and cruel. Every Arab leader, including the Saudis, has to deal with that on one level or another. So, we will see some movement during this crisis period. That said, I am not yet observing any kind of strategic shift on the part of the Saudis. If the United States does not allow Israel to finish the job and get rid of Hamas, I think we will see more of what you mentioned, which is the Saudis edging toward Iran and China.

Lauri: Several days ago, you retweeted an article from one of your Hudson colleagues. His tweet proposed the reinstatement of the Saudi initiative, known as the Arab Peace Initiative. I think this initiative is around 20 years old, but it was never taken seriously. He is suggesting that they bring it back now. This initiative advocates a two-state solution. I am confused as to why people are even talking about the possibility of a two-state solution. It seems to me there is zero chance that Israel would ever accept a Palestinian state at this time, given the new reality created after October 7th. What are your thoughts on that?

Michael: Yeah, I agree with you. I do not think the world has absorbed the enormity of what happened in Israel yet. How many people were slaughtered in the Nova Trance dance festival?

Lauri: around 260.

Michael: These were 260 secular Israelis, many who were sons and daughters of the secular Tel Aviv elite. These secular left-wing Israelis feel betrayed and there is a palpable sense there is no

negotiation partner on the other side. I moved to the right over the years but I still have a lot of left-wing Israeli friends. They are now as convinced as anyone on the right that there is no partner on the other side. Israel is a democracy dependent on people’s votes. Given that, I cannot imagine any Israeli government advocating for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to be put in charge of Gaza after this. That is not going to happen.

Lauri: I am going to turn to the questions. Somebody asked who will replace Hamas once we get rid of them.

Michael: I have no great insights in this regard. There might be a role for the Saudis to play in rebuilding Gaza if they want it. If you listen to what the Israelis are saying, it appears they are planning to retain indefinite security control over the entire Gaza Strip. That does not mean Israel will rule Gaza, rather it means they will be able to go in and out of Gaza with heavy force as needed. So, if rockets and missiles start coming into Israel from Gaza, the Israelis will enter Gaza like gangbusters. Their attitude is going to be that the Gazans can establish a communist regime, a liberal democracy, or even an Islamic caliphate. However, if they fire rockets and missiles toward Israel or start organizing terror attacks against Israelis, the army will enter Gaza and clean it out. That is what I am hearing and I think it is a sensible solution.

Lauri: Yeah, so several people are wondering why the current US administration does not see Israel as a strategic asset. They noted this differs from how previous administrations viewed Israel, with the obvious exception being the Obama administration. People are asking if it is because the current administration views Iran not as an adversary, but as a strategic partner in running the Middle East.

Michael: Their policy evolved from the debate over the Iraq war. They believe the investment of time and energy into the Middle East at that time was a huge blunder. They think the Bush administration’s ideas of reshaping the Middle East were a mistake. They believe the United States needs to pull back and focus more on East Asia.

There are two scenarios under which the US pulls back from the Middle East. The first is to recognize Israel as an asset and to establish a coalition to try and contain the worst actors that want to damage the United States. These actors include Russia, China, and especially Iran. Under this scenario, the US offers its allies a defensive shield and then builds up offensive capabilities to keep the Iranians in check.

The current administration does not want to implement this alternative. According to their national security doctrine, Israel and Saudi Arabia are acting as a catapult that is throwing the United States into conflict with Iran. As such, if the United States distances itself from Saudi Arabia and Israel and negotiates directly with Iran, it will find all kinds of arenas in which Iranian and American interests intersect and overlap. This doctrine ignores the fact that Iran preaches hatred of America all the time. The idea is that Iran is a natural ally of the United States. Direct negotiation with Iran, combined with a foreign policy tied less to Israel and Saudi Arabia, will deliver great benefits for the United States.

There are supporters of that doctrine on both the left and right of the political spectrum, but they are especially prominent on the left. This has been obvious to me for years and I have been pointing it out for a long time. I used to work at a university, and so I know how the beautiful people think. I know what a big role the beautiful people play in the Democratic party and the higher ranks of the Democratic party. To a pro-Israel audience, it sounds ridiculous that anyone would find these ideas attractive, but they do. They do not like Israel. This national security doctrine says that pulling away from Israel and working with Iran will stabilize the region. This doctrine also achieves the domestic objective of vilifying the people whom the progressives hate and making those people responsible for all the conflict in the Middle East.

Bibi Netanyahu, Mohammed bin Salman, evangelical Christians, Zionists like yourselves, and national security-minded Republicans like me are labeled the parties of war. Iran is not the party of peace, but it is the object of peaceful diplomacy and that is automatically beneficial. On top of all this, there is a kind of intellectual hubris. These guys think this is a clever policy. All you have to do is look at the latest edition of Foreign Affairs. Jake Sullivan wrote an article there bragging about all the peace and stability that this policy has brought to the Middle East. It went to print just before October 7th. If you go to the Foreign Affairs version online now, they have edited it to account for the fact that the shelf life of that confidence in the policy was very short.

Lauri: Many people are asking how we define a win. If we do not get the hostages out, is that a win? If we destroy all the infrastructure, but we have only killed 10 to 20% of the Hamas spiders, is that a win? What is a win?

Michael: An acceptable win, a B+ win or an A- minus with grade inflation, is Hamas destroyed in the Gaza strip, north and south. Hamas is destroyed as a military organization and destroyed as a viable political organization. An acceptable win also includes the rules of engagement in the North between Hezbollah and Israel returned to a point where Hezbollah is deterred. This does not mean there has to be a full-blown war. However, I think there is going to have to be some bloodletting, to let Hezbollah know it has to sit down and shut up or else pay a very heavy price. The Israelis have to show that they are willing to go much more on the offensive. If Israel does take over the whole Gaza Strip, I assume it will get almost all of the hostages back. I am not sure they will all be alive, but they will get all of them back.

A C- outcome is that somewhere in this process I just described, the Americans shut it down. In this scenario, Hezbollah is not deterred, Hamas is not finished as a fighting force, and the United States wraps Israel in interminable hostage release negotiations. This would be a drip, drip, drip situation where we get back the hostages in small batches and are made to pay heavily for each release. As an example, today we might get the Thai hostages back, tomorrow the Americans, and then the Belgians, and so on. This is the kind of thing the Iranians love to do and they would exact a heavy price on Israel each time.

An A+ answer to this, which I do not think is going to happen, is we have Hamas destroyed, Hezbollah deterred and Iran deterred. I think that we will probably have to wait for another administration for all the reasons that we have discussed.

Lauri: We will also have to wait for another webinar because I am sure we could continue discussing this topic for at least another hour. Michael, I cannot thank you enough for joining us. You can find Mike’s essay on, where all of his amazing work is posted. The essay was also published in Mosaic Magazine. I also want to remind everybody that EMET’s annual gala is December 5th at the Grand Hyatt in Washington DC. I hope to see you all there. You can register at I thank you all for joining us today. Mike, again, I cannot thank you enough. I am sure everybody watching learned so much, and I hope you all share the recording far and wide. So again, thanks to everybody for joining.

Michael: Thank you. Take care.



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