I am not a politician, diplomat, pundit, or authority on the Middle East — I’m just a Jew who loves Israel, who has lived and studied there, who has family there, and whose son currently studies in a Jerusalem seminary.

Like everyone else, I heard “war and rumors of war,” to quote our Christian neighbors’ Book of Matthew, throughout Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah prayer services this weekend. A surprise attack. Hundreds dead, including children and the aged. Hundreds kidnapped. Thousands of rockets raining down on the Holy Land.

And like everyone else, I’m terrified — how will this end? When will this end?

We are reeling from the shocking news, Israel’s 9/11, but proportional to its population an event so much worse than 9/11. We are stunned by the barbarism, a Holocaust playbook that scarcely seems possible in modern times. And yet, here we are, united as a community in shock and grief, yet again.

For the moment, the world, or at least the civilized parts of it, has declaimed the horrific, Iran-sponsored violence (Hey, thanks for the six billion dollars, Joe!), and made the right noises — Israel has the right to defend itself, and so on. But it won’t be long (it never is) before the even the civilized world starts cautioning Israel, demanding “proportionality” and a measured response.


Which means that our enemies, who have gorged themselves on our blood, will conclude, accurately, that they can do this, or worse, whenever they want, with only minimal consequences — some deaths, some destruction of infrastructure. No big deal.

They will be the Talmudic version of the ox that has gored, one that has tasted blood, and therefore needs to be stoned to death… but the stoning won’t happen. Unless.

Unless Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu rises to the occasion and does whatever is necessary to secure Israel’s safety.


We’re not talking about vengeance here, although the impetus for vengeance is real. That would just make us no better than our enemies. We’re talking about safety and doing whatever it takes, for however long it takes, wherever it must be done, to prevent a recurrence of this or any other sort of violence.

As during Neilah, the last moments for prayer and forgiveness on Yom Kippur, the “window” for action will close shockingly quickly. All of our allies, currently sending Israel warm wishes, condolences, and arms, will soon give into their own political calculations. They’ll turn to making soothing statements about not letting the war expand regionally, condemning violence on both sides, and all that other, to use a Joe Biden term, malarkey.

So the question is, what will Bibi do?

I’m not here to talk about judicial reform, or corruption cases, or campaign tactics. None of that matters now. One day soon, we will all be happy to revert to such topics, when this situation is, to whatever extent possible, in the rear view mirror.

Here’s a man who has done everything humanly possible to remain in the Prime Minister’s chair, Israel’s longest serving prime minister — 16 years in office since 1996. An entire Israeli generation knows practically no other person as Prime Minister.

According to his memoirs, Netanyahu entered politics as a way to avenge the loss of his brother Yonathan, the sole Israeli soldier killed in the 1976 Entebbe hijacking rescue mission.

Netanyahu has told us, down the decades, that no one is better suited, or more driven, to secure Israel’s border and Israel’s future, than he. Now’s the moment he has striven for his whole career.

Will he utterly destroy the terror infrastructure in Gaza? Will he go after Iran? Or will he kick the can, satisfying himself, and hoping to satisfy others, with a limited response to unlimited horror?

Again, it’s not about punishment, as much as we’d all love to see justice done and the rougher the justice, the better. It’s about security. It’s about dismantling an enemy that has been permitted to thrive and rebuild, while at the same time creating impossible humanitarian conditions for its own citizens.

One day, we can look back on the decision to leave Gaza in 2005 and ask whether Israel did itself a favor back then or instead sowed the seeds of its possible destruction. Now is not the time for such political debates. Now is the time for action.

For a man who has surrounded himself with the mantle of provider of security, he will certainly have a lot of explaining to do once this is all over. How could Israel’s vaunted intelligence agencies not have seen this coming? How could Israel not have been on guard, on the 50th anniversary of what had been, up until now, its greatest disgrace?

Again, a debate for another day. Right now, the question before is simple. Will Netanyahu rise to the occasion? Will he do what’s necessary, regardless of world opinion, which has seldom been our friend? Or will he do what one Senator urged America to do during the Vietnam War — declare victory and leave?

Peace has a cost, but fear and half measures have a higher cost. Let’s hope that Netanyahu is willing to pay what he must pay.