L'Informale: As someone who for many years criticized the Israeli management – rather than seeking victory – of its conflict with the Palestinians, did the attack on Oct. 7 take you by surprise?
Daniel Pipes: Yes, completely. The audacity, size, and success of the operation appear to have taken everyone by surprise, including even Hamas and its Iranian sponsors. Who knew that the Israel Defense Forces were so badly informed, poorly prepared, and unable to respond for hours? Management is one thing, incompetence is another.
L'Informale: What were Israel's main failures?
Daniel Pipes: I see two main ones. First, the illusion that Hamas could be diverted from its genocidal goals through economic benefits, such as the employment of Gazans in Israel. This repeats an error that Zionists and Israelis have made throughout their history. Theodor Herzl made it in his 1902 book, David Ben-Gurion made it in the 1920s, Moshe Dayan did so after 1967, and Shimon Peres in the 1993 Oslo Accords. Second, the Israeli military essentially gave up on offensive operations other than from the air, settling in to defensive positions. From the Maginot Line to the Bar Lev Line, that approach also has a long history of failure.
L'Informale: In a recent article of yours you wrote that Israel now has the opportunity to destroy Hamas. This presumably implies Israeli control of Gaza. What next?
Daniel Pipes: The population of Gaza has undergone a unique experience since 2008: used as cannon fodder not to win a war but to be victims that Hamas can exploit for international sympathy. This miserable experience, which has included repeated bombings from the air, finds a significant portion of Gazans wanting to live normal lives, i.e., not make war on Israel. I hope the Israelis will turn Gaza over to such people and let them administer the territory. Think of this as a miniature version of what the Allies did in Italy after 1945. Israel needs to find Gaza's Alcide De Gasperi.*
L'Informale: The Iranian regime backs Hamas and many other enemies of Israel, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and the Assad government. Will Israel take action against Tehran, its principal foe?
Daniel Pipes: It already has: computer viruses, stealing an archive, executing scientists, bombing installations in Syria, and more. But all these are skirmishes in comparison to a possible attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure. I certainly hope that takes place sooner rather than later.
L'Informale: Do you think that Russia has given its backing to Hamas?
Daniel Pipes: I do not know of such support. I suspect Putin does not seek additional enemies at present, so will do little more than say nasty things about Western democracies.
L'Informale: Does Hezbollah represent a serious threat for Israel in this moment?
Daniel Pipes: Hezbollah's huge arsenal of rockets and missiles makes it a much more powerful threat to Israel than Hamas.
L'Informale: Is the slaughter of Jews perpetrated by Hamas in Israel – beheadings, rapes, hostages and women captured as sex slaves – an expression of Islamic brutality in its most unadulterated form?
Daniel Pipes: Yes, and it is similar to the brutality of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in its 2014-15 heyday. ISIS made a point of providing meticulous Islamic justifications for its barbarism. Their example points, once again, to the urgent need for Islam to be modernized.
L'Informale: If Israel acts alone against Hamas, will the world not turn against Israel?
Daniel Pipes: Yes, I expect that will happen. "Standing with Israel" is much easier when Jews are slaughtered than when Israeli forces go on the attack. Israel must be very careful here, for it cannot afford to alienate the Western democracies.
* DP note: A non-Italian reader will likely find the example of Germany's Konrad Adenauer more familiar.