The Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy, an Israeli think tank, published a paper last week stating that thanks to the vicious Hamas attacks of October 7, “There is currently a unique and rare opportunity to evacuate the entire Gaza Strip.”
The paper continues, “There is no doubt that in order for this plan to be enacted, many conditions need to exist in parallel. At the moment, these conditions exist, and it is unclear when such an opportunity will arise again, if at all.” Approximately 1,400 Israelis were killed during the initial assault.
The think tank advocates a bizarre scheme in which Israel would ethnically cleanse the entirety of Gaza and pay Egypt to house its former inhabitants in currently empty apartments near Cairo. (The paper was first reported and translated from Hebrew by Mondoweiss.)
The Misgav Institute is headed by Meir Ben Shabbat. Ben Shabbat served four years as Israel’s chief of staff for national security after being appointed to the position in 2017 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He previously was a senior official in Shin Bet, the approximate equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. Other former top members of the Israeli government have also held prominent positions at the institute, as Mondoweiss explains.
This specific language — right-wing leaders enthusing about the “opportunity” that arises from massive suffering of their own people — is a kind of macabre universal following eruptions of ultraviolence.
On September 19, 2001, then-President George W. Bush proclaimed, “Through my tears, I see opportunity.” Several months later, Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, explained, “[T]his is a period not just of grave danger, but of enormous opportunity. Before the clay is dry again, America and our friends and our allies must move decisively to take advantage of these new opportunities.” There were 2,977 people who died at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and aboard United Airlines Flight 93.
Osama bin Laden also used language similar to that of the Misgav Institute — to describe the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and its allies. In 2004, bin Laden said in an audio message, “Targeting America in Iraq in terms of economy and losses in life is a golden and unique opportunity. Do not waste it only to regret it later.” Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed during the conflict.
For Netanyahu’s part, he spoke in 2002 of the “golden opportunity” presented by the Al Qaeda bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya. In that attack, 13 people were killed, including Israeli brothers Noy and Dvir Anter, ages 12 and 13. CNN reported at the time that “screaming children covered in blood searched desperately for their parents amid the wreckage.”
While he used different words, Netanyahu also saw a bright future on September 11, 2001, when he was working in the private sector after his first period as prime minister. Asked by the New York Times what the attacks meant for U.S.–Israeli relations, he responded, “It’s very good.” Netanyahu then walked back his first remarks, saying, “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” At that moment, it was believed that far more people, about 20,000, had been killed at the World Trade Center than later turned out to be the case.
As this all demonstrates, while the deaths of regular human beings are an unmitigated catastrophe for them and their families, our leaders often see a silver lining in our pain — a chance to do what they had always wanted to but had not been able to before.