It's worth remembering that, at least in my estimation, Hamas and its Gaza enclave are one manifestation of a much broader manifestation that we've witnessed throughout the region over the last 10, 15, 20 years, which is the emergence of political forces [that] are also military forces [that] are both guerrilla and semi-regular. Hezbollah in Lebanon, of course, is a well-known example. The Islamic State was an additional one. Jabhat al-Nusra and other forces in Northern Syria are another example. So, this experience of Islamist forces that then become de facto governing forces, and that then build a military model combining irregular and regular capacities, is a known phenomenon, which I think, to my estimation at least, compounds the massive strategic intelligence analysis failure which brought October 7th to us.
The security establishment and the political leadership of Netanyahu subscribed to ... the notion that we had both deterred this particular manifestation of the phenomenon, Hamas and Gaza, and that we had also – and this is really I think the cardinal failure of imagination ultimately – that we had incentivized them. In other words, there was a belief both that we had deterred Hamas and also that Hamas had become softened by the experience of power. Hamas enjoyed being the ruling elite in the Gaza Strip. They enjoyed the Qatari dollars arriving every month. And therefore, we brought them to a situation where they were now biddable, if I can put it that way.
This was an enormous failure ultimately of imagination, an enormous failure of conceptual thinking, and we paid the price for it. And all the mistakes that took place further down the food chain, so to speak, that made October 7th a possibility – I mean the operational failures, and then the tactical failures – all of these derive ultimately from that failure in thinking which then led to wrong decisions being taken further down the line.
So yes, it was a terrible, terrible failure. It was not across the board. Many people who studied Islamist and jihadi movements were saying at the time, "You're making a mistake if you think these people have been turned into something soft and malleable. That's because you're failing to understand who they are and how they think." But those who were saying that were not listened to by the establishment, and we saw what has followed.
Yes, absolutely, it is my estimation that now, in the time of response and retaliation for that, we have to look broadly not only at Hamas in the south, but also at Hezbollah in the north. We have to draw the lessons of October 7th, not only vis-à-vis Gaza but elsewhere too. And to me the cardinal, central lesson is that the notion of accepting the emergence of areas of de facto governance by Islamist and jihadi organizations on Israel's borders – and then taking a calculated risk in which we just try and have technological means of defense on the border to keep them out – this is not an acceptable risk. It is not an acceptable risk to our citizens, and it's not an acceptable risk to Israel's future. So that means destroying Hamas in Gaza, but it also means destroying the quasi-state in southern Lebanon or, if not destroying it, at least pushing it back far enough to the north in Lebanon such that it can no longer constitute a danger.
You mentioned the population. I was up in the northern border just a couple of weeks ago. 86,000 people, Israelis, have left their homes. You mentioned food security, by the way. Interesting little fact I picked up there – that's where most of Israel's egg production comes from, up there in the north. So, the fact that we've cleared out 5km south of the border means a significant food issue for Israel looking down the line.
So, sure, we need to get those people back into their productive capacity close to the border, and to do that we have to address the problem of the quasi-state to the north of the border in a way that is to their satisfaction. They're just not going to come back to their homes in the north if they don't feel they can be safe.