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The Attack On Israel.

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In the early hours of 7 October 2023 (yesterday), Hamas launched a multi-pronged attack from the Gaza strip into Israel. For what’s being called Israel’s “Pearl Harbor,” the moniker is fitting: the attacks are of a scale that really hasn’t been seen since Israel’s War of Independence (1948), and mind you, there’s been no shortage of terrorist violence in Israel in the intervening years. (E.g., 1996 bus bombings2015-onwards surge, etc.) But that should frame this for you, i.e., this isn’t the sort of terrorist attack we might have (regrettably) become accustomed to hearing about happening in Israel; this one’s way worse.

There’s still active combat going on, as of time of publication. Key figures on casualties and hostages continue to change. CNN is doing a great job with their near-real-time coverage, and it’s worth a read if you can bear it.

This also isn’t going to be over anytime soon. From Hamas’s standpoint, was this the whole of the plan, or just the opening salvo? From Israel’s, Netanyahu’s already promised vengeance, and the question is really how far this will go. Amnesty International’s already called on both sides to protect the lives of civilians, but in an area as densely populated as Gaza, and with hostages being held in scattered locations throughout, the situation is likely to deteriorate before it improves.

How Did This Happen?

One thing that’s already being askedhow—in a country that lives under a near-constant state of threat, and with so much investment in defense and intelligencedid something like this happen? The Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service) will certainly be called to answer. Given Israel’s layered and sophisticated system of national defense, I’d expect to hear that this was “the perfect storm” of widespread failures—both correlated and uncorrelated—at multiple levels. I’d also expect inquiries to find that some of these failures were forced, and others unforced.

The Hamas attacks are undoubtedly terrorism, and it’s almost certain that Iran, specifically the Quds Force of the IRGC, provided material support. It’s already been reported as “confirmed” on the basis that Hamas has confirmed it1 (and apparently Hezbollah has also confirmed it?), and I don’t expect we’ll get an outright admission from Iran. They’ve already heaped praise on Hamas via the platform formerly known as Twitter, though that’s sort of to be expected. I think it’s important here to be precise; that is to say, I think Iran’s happy to help Hamas attack Israel, and Hamas is happy to receive help. But that is not the same thing as Hamas acting as Iran’s stand-in; I don’t think Hamas is taking orders from Iran.2

Israel’s Mobilization.

Twitter is an interesting source of information. It’s not easily done—you have to ignore all of the hate speech, and think carefully about whether what you’re reading is actually the truth. But, if you want to get a sense of Israel’s military mobilization: here’s an account of a 61-year-old man being called up, and a journalist in New York traveling home to serve. Israel’s military is reported as being approximately 170,000 strong (active duty), and that’s not counting the Shin Bet and Mossad, though I assume it does count Aman. The Hamas force strength is estimated at 1,000. Granted, we’d expect Israel to mobilize greater numbers—particularly because of the impending hostage rescue missions—but the extent of the mobilization as it currently stands indicates something more (i.e., that Israel is preparing for large-scale operations, and maybe not just in Gaza).

Other Fronts.

So, if not just in Gaza, where? To the north, Lebanon, with the south of the country (bordering Israel) being fundamentally a free operating zone for Hezbollah. There’s already been an exchange of fire on that front, but nothing so far of similar magnitude to what we’ve just seen in Gaza. Meanwhile, there’s been an escalation of violence in the West Bank over recent months, though it remains to be seen whether Hamas—with the help of Hezbollah and Iran—will try to open a second front of its attack.

Israel will respond in Gaza; that much is for certain. There’s two lines of analysis from here:

  1. In what ways, and to what extent, will Israel respond?

  2. Will Israel’s response trigger further escalation, and if so, by Hamas only, or will this draw in others? And if the latter, whom?

America Considers Its Options.

In figuring out a response, as America, to the Hamas attack on Israel, there’s a threshold aspect of whether Americans are among the victims. Two questions:

  1. Were any Americans killed? Yes, confirmed.

  2. Were any Americans taken hostage? Likely yes, but not fully confirmed.

So, what now? Did Hamas just step into more than it signed up for? Maybe. Though I don’t see how they couldn’t have foreseen this as a possibility, or even likelihood. And Iran’s complicity in the planning doesn’t make things any simpler or easier.

The Biden administration has announced the US’s unwavering support for Israel, but how that gets put into practice is something we’ll see unfold over the coming weeks. Posture? Already happening. Materiel support? Yes. Stepped-up intelligence collaboration? Almost certainly, though we won’t get the details anytime soon. Deployment of Tier One units (e.g., Delta, SEAL Team 6)? Maybe, likely depending on Israel. But I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see any other kind of involvement (e.g., participation in aerial bombardment, naval gunfire support, deployment of regular military, etc.), at least not unless things escalate dramatically. But that’s just intelligence and military power; what about diplomatic and economic?

On the diplomatic front, it’s not possible to target Hamas directly, and so measures there will likely take aim at its enablers (e.g., Iran (one step forward, two steps back)). Economically, Hamas is already a labeled terrorist organization to the US, and has been for some time now, so it’s not as though the Counter Terror Finance (“CTF”) folks at the Departments of State and Treasury, as well as others ranging from the CIA to the OCC, haven’t already been hard at work to disrupt Hamas finances. Whether this moment is a watershed, unlocking new authorizations to pursue the CTF mandate even more aggressively and in different ways, that sort of remains to be seen.

Iran’s Making Things Awkward For President Biden.

The United States has been busy in the Middle East as of late, and the attack on Israel threatens to jeopardize not only goals abroad, but also politics at home. Just last month, the United States inked a deal which would see Iran being allowed to use $6 billion of its assets frozen by the United States for humanitarian purposes, in exchange for the release by Iran of 5 Americans imprisoned in the country. As you’d expect, the Biden administration caught criticism from Republicans for the deal then, and now even more so. Given that Iran’s almost certainly complicit in the attack on Israel, this doesn’t look great for Biden, and Republicans haven’t been shy about letting everyone know.

Saudi Treaty Scuttled?

Likewise, the United States has recently been in talks with Saudi Arabia around a mutual defense treaty, similar to those which the United States has with Japan and South Korea. Saudi Arabia has represented that the treaty would be an important step towards the Biden administration’s objective of securing diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. But now, with Israel on a war footing and with the United States pledging support, Saudi Arabia’s rhetoric in response to the attack has been less in lockstep and, instead, sounding more like Iran’s. For the ambitions of Saudi Arabia to secure a defense treaty with the United States, this is…less than helpful. And, that Saudi Arabia and Iran—traditionally not allies—reestablished diplomatic ties earlier this year (in a deal brokered by China, no less), well, that might be telling.

Netanyahu On The Home Front.

The Israeli PM was in the news earlier this year when his judicial reforms: a) passed; and b) drew the criticism of many, both within and outside of Israel, for undermining the interests of democracy. Does Israel’s response to the Hamas attack offer Netanyahu an avenue to redemption? Maybe. But I also don’t think that’s a conversation for right now, or even this week.






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Rex Chatterjee

Rex is a lawyer and risk analyst living and working in Brooklyn, New York.

For the past 20 years, Rex has been a keen observer of and commentator on a wide range of news items and current events. Rex’s interests span the breadth of business and finance, technology and innovation, and conflict and global affairs, among others.

In addition to writing and producing the Noisecutter newsletter and podcast, Rex interviews creators, founders and business leaders for his other podcast, Roadmap Zero.

Rex maintains a private law practice, Chatterjee Legal, which focuses on the needs of startups and other innovation-driven businesses. He also serves as the managing principal of Titan Grey, a risk management consulting firm.

Rex is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Law School.

Rex Chatterjee




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