By Terence Smith
I shouldn’t have been surprised by Hamas’s air, sea and land assault against Israel, coming 50 years and a day after the start of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. But I was. As the great philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said, it was déjà vu all over again.
On October 6, 1973, I was in Jerusalem as the Israel correspondent for The New York Times. I’d heard rumblings about Egyptian forces massing on the west side of the Suez Canal. But, like the then-Prime Minister Golda Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and most of Israel’s leaders, I thought the prospects of an actual full-scale attack were remote at best. I was wrong then, and wrong now.
Given the rising tide of violence in the occupied West Bank and Gaza this year, the casualties on both sides, the weak Palestinian leadership, the deep-seated divisions within Israel and the prospect of an Israeli-Saudi normalization agreement that threatens to push Palestinian interests further into the background, the Hamas assault should not come as a total surprise. It’s timing, scope, and violence, perhaps; but not the assault itself. The whole area has been a powder keg moving closer to a flame.
Now the world watches to see how Israel will fight back, whether Hezbollah will join the battle from Lebanon, whether Syria will react, whether Egypt will once again negotiate a cease-fire. All open questions at this point. But I and other observers should have seen this fight coming. It was inevitable.