Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Knesset speaker Amir Ohana and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi attend a ceremony at Yad Vashem as Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 6, 2024.

Both Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke movingly and powerfully at the Yom Hashoah ceremony at Yad Vashem. Addressing the larger world in English, Netanyahu threw down the gauntlet, promising that if Israel has to act alone in Gaza, it will. Notably, he also said, “Never again is now.”

These were the words millions of Israelis have been waiting to hear and hope will be fulfilled. They are the antidote to the current situation in which we have either forgotten or been pressured to ignore what brought us to the first hostage release: unrelenting military pressure and success.


Let’s face the embarrassing truth: We have severely compromised our autonomy and mobility due to our longtime dependence on others, particularly the U.S., for vital munitions, particularly offensive munitions (that our so-called “allies” are increasingly reluctant to provide). As a result, we have had to acquiesce to lengthy and futile negotiations for a hostage deal that, per its reported terms, is, to say the least, humiliating.

Hopefully, our Arab adversaries have once again come through and subverted any prospective deal. I believe this was what Netanyahu was alluding to in his statement of intent.

If so, it is a blessing, not a disappointment. This is because we have committed ourselves, our soldiers and the spirit of our people to a just mission, which if not completed successfully (as we would define “successfully”) will be tantamount to an epic defeat.

Our defeat would not only be of the spirit. It would not only mean that the sacrifice of our magnificent soldiers has been in vain. It will also leave us open to perpetual existential peril. It will be all but impossible to return our citizens to the communities on the Gaza and Lebanon borders. The fundamental obligation of any sovereign country—to protect its own citizens—will go unfulfilled.

None of our so-called allies can relate to our existential quandary. They have their own interests and agendas, just as they did during World War II when they did not consider bombing Auschwitz and other death camps a priority.

Once again, as we have experienced countless times throughout Jewish history, we are the people who dwells apart. Our destiny is unique and we alone can fulfill it.

This means entering Rafah as soon as possible and not allowing Hamas to play whack-a-mole, moving their terrorists to other locations. We need a broad and extensive presence in Gaza to drive home the reality that Hamas is finished.

Such an outcome will be the proverbial gift that keeps on giving. It will restore security to our borders, confidence to our citizens and much-needed fear and respect among our neighbors.

Nothing will bring Saudi Arabia into a normalization pact with Israel faster than such a victory. Hezbollah will understand the new state of affairs quite well and is likely to adjust its aggression accordingly.

Finally, the message will not go unnoticed in Iran, where there must be growing concern following their recent attempted drone and missile attack—and our response—that Israel can and does mean business.

We can be both clever and generous, thanking the Americans for their support and the world community for their forbearance and understanding. This might be unwarranted but it is all part of the “great game” of diplomacy.

Most critically, victory would enable us to achieve the release of our hostages. A successful hostage deal means, at a minimum, getting back all the remaining living hostages without concessions that would ensure a future Oct. 7.

It is only by returning to the battlefield and finishing what we set out to do—dismantling Hamas—that we can honor the two great goals of our mission.

All those who yearn for the return of the hostages and the sanctification of our soldiers’ sacrifices; who feel the unbelievable burden placed upon the hundreds of thousands of displaced families, families suffering from loss, those who have lived their lives with the bedrock conviction that only in Israel can a Jew be truly free and safe; for all of these people, we must fight to finish the job.

Our leaders’ speeches at the Yom HaShoah ceremony were powerful and necessary, but the most inspiring and ultimately heartening words were spoken by Holocaust survivors. These incredible men and women—wracked with the physical vicissitudes of age—were nevertheless incredibly strong in their understanding of the lessons of life.

Again and again, they have seen the ability of Jews to defend themselves as the greatest redemptive gift. They exhorted us to maintain unity and understand that with both unity and resolve we will prevail.

Their perspective is vital, reaching back through time and circumstance, recognizing that with the strength that is within us, we can truly say: “Never again.”

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Douglas Altabef made aliyah in 2009 with his wife and youngest child from Bedford, New York to Rosh Pina in the Upper Galil. He serves on the Board of several Israel-oriented not for profit organizations, including The Israel Independence Fund and Im Tirtzu.