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Israel, even with superior intelligence abilities, fails to anticipate Hamas attack

: [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Earlier digital and audio versions characterized the guest as a top adviser to a former Israeli prime minister. Daniel Levy was an adviser in the government of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.]


You've been hearing this morning that Israeli surveillance of Gaza is extensive and intrusive, and yet Hamas fighters were able to invade Israeli territory, seize hostages, including children and entire families. And now more than 1,100 Israelis and Palestinians are dead. We've been hearing an array of perspectives this morning about this dangerous situation and possibly a way forward.

So now we're going to turn to a former adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Daniel Levy is now president of the U.S./Middle East Project. It's a group of former top officials who have been working for two decades to, as their mission statement says, advance a dignified Israeli-Palestinian peace. And Mr. Levy is with us now from London. Good morning.

DANIEL LEVY: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So a lot has been said about this being an intelligence and military failure by Israel. But how much of this attack is a reflection of political failure, the failure to make a lasting peace?

LEVY: Well, thank you for asking that question because it's a question too infrequently asked. Yes, people are going to be looking at how come, with all this high-tech prowess, Israel did not know what had gone on. And I think the reports of meetings in Beirut and Iranian involvement would only increase that question, which is why I think those are probably inaccurate. But the bigger failure, I think, and the fear that I have amongst many other fears today is that they will look for easy answers.

And I already hear folks in Israel saying, well, this is the Netanyahu government. They were focused on this judicial overhaul, and they were focused too much on West Bank settler protection. But the malaise goes much deeper. And the real failure and the need for a paradigm shift is for people to look around and say, Israel has managed to have a period of relative quiet, but what has it done politically to address the root causes? And until there's a realization that Palestinians living in those circumstances are always going to ask themselves - how do we improve our lot? - and if all diplomatic, political, international legal paths are closed, then you have one route left open, which is armed resistance. And Israelis will not have normality and security until Palestinians do. That's the sad, painful truth that cannot be ignored in these days.

MARTIN: I'm so sorry we don't have more time. But I'd like to ask, how do you think the international community should be responding? What is the tone that they should be striking, and of course, because I'm in the United States, I'm going to ask you, particularly the U.S. administration, the Biden administration?

LEVY: I'm afraid that the Biden administration is continuing to encourage Israel to do its worst. American hubris, when you're surrounded by Canada and Mexico and you go overseas if you need to test and find out the limits of that hubris, is one thing. But encouraging Israel down a hubristic path of military solutions and we stand with you and it's going to be OK is the biggest disservice America can do.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, as we reported earlier, the defense ministry says it's shutting down food, fuel and electricity to Gaza. You can understand that as an immediate response but does that advance the cause of bringing this situation to some sort of conclusion?

LEVY: Well, of course it doesn't. It's a war crime. One's heart breaks for what one's seen in Israel, but one's hands tremble for what is going to happen to Gazans. And this will only make things worse. There is no military solution, and you need to bring in Hamas. We need to be talking. We should have been talking to them for decades. This is the outcome of failed politics. Don't double down on that failed politics.

MARTIN: That's Daniel Levy. He's president of the U.S./Middle East Project. Mr. Levy, I do hope we'll talk again, and I do hope it'll be a better day when we do. Thank you for speaking with us.

LEVY: I hope so, Michel. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAN AMERICAN'S "LIGHTS ON WATER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Corrected: October 8, 2023 at 11:00 PM CDT
Earlier digital and audio versions characterized the guest as a top adviser to a former Israeli prime minister. Daniel Levy was an adviser in the government of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.