Thirty days after the Hamas infiltration, Israel finds itself entrenched in a Gaza conflict with no clear end in sight, all while IDF casualties continue to rise. The country remains under constant rocket fire, still reeling from the trauma of October 7.
Here are the five primary challenges it currently confronts:
No. 1: Diplomatic support is weakening
The day following Hamas’s infiltration into Israel and the tragic loss of 1,400 civilian lives, politicians from across the Western world expressed their condemnation. They vowed unwavering support for the State of Israel.
But 30 days later, as Israel continues to strike Hamas, killing thousands of civilians, the field has grown quieter.
Most leaders who visited Israel during this period have returned to their respective countries and have yet to revisit.
US President Joe Biden, the first to condemn the tragedy, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have initiated discussions on “humanitarian pauses,” a stance that runs counter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position.
This shift in approach is influenced by mounting pressure from Muslim American voters who have expressed their intention to abstain from voting in the 2024 elections due to the president’s strong support for Israel following the tragedy.
It is also because young American voters are more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel. A recent Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll found that nearly half (48%) of young people say they side with Hamas rather than Israel in this conflict, and the same percentage say they strongly disapprove of Biden’s pro-Israel policy.
During a recent tour of the South, a German reporter asked MK Sharren Haskel if Israel was not “stuck on October 7, while in the Gaza Strip, people are dying every day.”
Israel faces frequent appeals from the United Nations for a humanitarian ceasefire as the memory of the events of October 7 recedes into the background of international consciousness and Hamas’s propaganda gains prominence.
No. 2: Antisemitism is reeling its ugly head
Since the massacre, there has been an unprecedented 1,200% increase in online calls for violence against Israel, Zionists, and Jews, according to a report released last month by the Antisemitism Cyber Monitoring System (ACMS).
A rabbi was murdered in front of her home in Detroit. A Jewish woman was stabbed in France – a swastika painted on her door. And a mob looking for Jews stormed a Russian airport. Now, Israel has warned its citizens against traveling abroad.
No. 3: The country is experiencing collective trauma
Even before Hamas infiltrated Israel, a study published in International Psychiatry found that as much as 27% of Jewish Israeli children in some areas of the country had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2021 study by Tel Aviv University and the Academic and Technology College of Tel-Hai showed that the level of personal resilience among citizens consistently decreased throughout the COVID pandemic and has continued to decrease – most significantly during Operation Guardian of the Walls, the 2021 Israel-Hamas conflict.
“This conflict will undoubtedly affect Israelis emotionally for decades and perhaps generations to come, placing a stamp of trauma, anger, and sadness, especially on those whose family and friends have been directly affected,” wrote Jerusalem Post health and science correspondent Judy Siegel-Itzkovich this week.
Col. Lucian Tatsa-Laur, an experienced psychiatrist who heads the IDF’s Department of Mental Health, told Siegel-Itzkovich that while only a minority of Israelis will develop full-blown PTSD, the majority will experience at least some symptoms of trauma from flashbacks and avoidance to hyper-arousal or engaging in risky behaviors.
No. 4: Israel faces an economic recession
Leading economists have forecasted that the Israeli economy is poised to slide into a recession as the conflict continues and more than 360,000 reservists who are currently called up for duty are diverted from their regular jobs.
Last week, a group of 300 senior economists issued a letter to Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich with an urgent plea for the immediate suspension of all nonessential expenses within the state budget and a comprehensive reassessment of spending priorities to effectively address the impending economic crisis.
“The severe blow inflicted on Israel [by Hamas and the Swords of Iron war] requires a fundamental change in the order of national priorities and a massive diversion of budgets to deal with the damage caused by the war, aid the victims, and rehabilitate the economy,” they wrote in their letter.
The Bank of Israel last month revised its growth projections for the current year and the following year, indicating that Israel’s economy is now projected to expand by 2.3% in 2023 and 2.8% in 2024 as a result of the repercussions of the war. These figures represent a downward adjustment from earlier estimates of 3% growth for both years.
No. 5: The nation is embroiled in an endless war
As Israel enters another week of its war with Hamas, there is no clear endgame.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Saturday night that “at the end of the war, there will no longer be Hamas in Gaza, there will not be a security threat from the Gaza Strip to Israel, and Israel will have complete freedom of action to carry out any security actions it needs against anyone who [threatens us].”This is a vision. It is not a strategy.
While the idea of “destroying Hamas” may sound appealing, the practicality of achieving this goal and the potential consequences remain unclear. Hamas is deeply intertwined with Gaza’s social and civilian life. Disbanding the organization would necessitate not only neutralizing its military wing but also dismantling its civilian infrastructure.
Moreover, Hamas employs tens of thousands of civilians in Gaza and enjoys support in large swaths of the West Bank.
Hamas holds more than 240 Israelis and foreign nationals as hostages in Gaza, and Israel has said it is committed to securing their release. While one cannot verify Hamas’s claims, the organization said Saturday that over 60 hostages were unaccounted for due to Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. If this assertion is accurate, an escalating ground invasion could jeopardize the lives of these hostages and complicate the achievement of this goal.
Finally, if Hamas was dismantled, what is to say there would not be another terror organization waiting in the wings, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad?
As a senior Israeli diplomatic source said Sunday, it is unlikely that even after a victory, Israel will not have supreme security responsibility in Gaza.