It seems as if years have passed since “60 Minutes” aired its episode about the government’s judicial overhaul. It included an interview with combat pilot Shira Eting, one of the leaders of Brothers and Sisters in Arms, in which she said, “If you want pilots to be able to fly, and shoot bombs and missiles into houses knowing they might be killing children, they must have the strongest confidence in the people making those decisions.”
On October 7, we learned that the threat of reservists refusing to serve was never carried out. At the moment of truth, they showed up with no hesitation. The pilots proved that they were prepared to bomb houses even knowing that they might well kill children. Does this imply that they have “the strongest confidence in the people making those decisions?”
I’m not asking this just to be contrary. There was something unfair about the attacks on Eting and her colleagues from both the left (which accused them of normalizing the killing of children) and the right (which accused them of slandering Israel overseas). Perhaps they didn’t say it very well, but to anyone who wasn’t biased against them, it was clear that they weren’t trying to normalize the killing of children. They were merely describing soldiers’ need to trust the judgment of the person who sends them out to kill in the country’s name.
The non-contrarian question is how – despite everything that led up to the enormous outburst of protests and despite the phenomenal collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s doctrine on October 7 (from communities near the Gaza Strip to U.S. college campuses) – did confidence in the judgment of our decision makers manage to survive? What enables this confidence?
One answer is that what the protesters warned against hasn’t yet come to pass (thanks to them) – the judicial overhaul wasn’t completed, the country’s character hasn’t yet changed. Another answer is U.S. President Joe Biden and National Unity Party leaders Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot. Netanyahu may still be the face in the television studios, but the people actually running the war are the Americans, via Gantz and Eisenkot, who joined the government.
Still another answer is that the protests actually never touched on the Netanyahu Doctrine. They certainly didn’t relate to his security doctrine, which was based on nurturing Iran as a modern-day Amalek for the sake of what proved to be an illusion – making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict disappear from the local, regional and global agenda – even as he played a double game, sometimes wearing his Israeli hat and sometimes his Jewish one, for the sake of gaining geopolitical influence (the Iranian nuclear deal), even at the price of undermining Israeli identity (the nation-state law) and encouraging global antisemitism. Thus, what collapsed on October 7 was everything except his doctrine.
Many things have shattered or cracked since then – our security, our feelings of security, our illusion of power. There are people who understand that Netanyahu nurtured Hamas and weakened the Palestinian Authority to prevent a Palestinian state, and there are people who stress his undermining of the army and his diversion of attention and resources to the West Bank due to coalition constraints. It’s also true that he and his government pushed a judicial “reform” at a time when our enemies, whom we thought were deterred, were laboring over their preparations to attack us. And all this blew up in our faces.
But I’m not at all sure that the sobering up so many people say they have undergone isn’t just an embrace of Netanyahu’s doctrine with redoubled force – the Arabs are wild animals; the conflict is religious, not national; and we are first and foremost Jews in an antisemitic world. The doctrine known as “Netanyahu” is much broader than we thought, and it has struck deep roots in our soul.