Dan Illouz, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Knesset caucus, had been scheduled to speak to a Toronto crowd about Israel’s legal land claims, but recent circumstances necessitated a hard pivot.
The Tuesday speech provided a glimpse into the heart of Israeli mettle, and resolve, amidst the recent harrowing incidents of wide-ranging Hamas violence. He shed light on the complex military challenges, while emphasizing the Jewish state’s unwavering commitment to peace and security that fuels the nation’s resilience.
“Everything changed (last) Saturday morning. Massacre happened – there’s no other way to put it. The destruction is massive and hard to digest. It’s the worst disaster known in its history,” the Montreal-born politician said.
Initially advertised as a talk on “What is happening, what needs to be done… and the importance of San Remo,” the sudden change of topic was somber and reassuring.
“Almost every Israeli lost someone, or knows someone who lost someone. We’re all like family,” said the Likud party member to a full auditorium at Shaarei Shomayim synagogue.
The event was arranged and sponsored by Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights, in partnership with ZOA.
Illouz alluded that if the timing were different, he would have touched upon the fractiousness of Israeli society, once-embroiled in nine-month long fierce debates about judicial reform.
“Today the people of Israel are incredibly united – a couple of weeks ago we’d be talking about divisions. Right now Israel is more united than it ever was,” he said.
He noted that even though many Israelis vowed to refuse army service to protest the judicial reforms, all of those called into action this week reported for duty, in addition to thirty percent more people who volunteered despite not being called up. Others travelling abroad came home to serve, he said.
“Israelis don’t want war. We all know the cost of war. If we don’t go to war, Saturday will be the new normal,” said the 37-year old Illouz.
“If we don’t eliminate Hamas, we will see more of this in the future… Not that we want vengeance or violence, but we want to succeed.” The counteroffensive will be “a clear message – understood by Beirut and Teheran.”
The Iranian regime is said to have played a role in financing, material support, or training, of the Gazan terrorists.
“We have a duty to Israel, and the free world, to respond forcefully to these attacks. If Hamas doesn’t eventually regret what it did, we have failed in our mission.”
As of Wednesday, reports say the conflict escalated in the region, with missiles being fired from southern Lebanon and Syria. Illouz is confident that the Jewish states’s military strength will overtake these and other attacks.
“I have no doubt Israel will be much stronger when all of this is said and done,” he said. “We will send a clear message to all of our enemies: if they thought we are weakened, we will show them that it is not true. We have a strong army and a strong people.”
In an interview with True North, Illouz elaborated that part of the end goal should be to “take back control of Gaza,” and he signed a letter calling on the Israeli government to do just that.
“That’s the best path until proven otherwise,” he said.
There has been some speculation that the attacks were timed to scuttle recent peace talks with Saudi Arabia, but senior Hamas official Ali Baraka told Russian television that the invasion was in the planning for two years, with Russian and Iranian support. Illouz said that normalization discussions will continue with the Saudis.
Allies in the Arab world have expressed their support in diplomatic circles, including a high-level UAE official, who he kept anonymous, that sent Illouz a text that encouraged Israel to eliminate Hamas.
“It’s because Hamas is a threat to the Western world, and the Arab world – because the moderate Arab world wants to see the world a better place,” he said.
Inside Israel meanwhile, Druze, Bedouins and Israeli Arabs have also condemned the Gazan terrorists, he added.
On the other side of the globe, Toronto showed the biggest support rally of any city, attracting tens of thousands of people..
As a next step, Illouz encouraged Canadians to speak to their political representatives to express outrage about the abducted Canadians.
“This is our message to Hamas: if you use the hostages as pawns, you will fail,” he said.
Illouz remarked to True North on whether the current crisis might dampen immigration to Israel.
“That’s an interesting question,” he noted, explaining that his decision to move to Israel was made 23 years ago, Oct. 12, 2000, at the beginning of the second Intifada, on the day of the infamous lynching of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah. “On the day the (Palestinian boys’) bloody hands were proudly shown to the cameras.”
“I think times of crisis actually create solidarity,” he said. “The sense of solidarity is the biggest fuel for making Aliyah, more than economic or other considerations. The will of people to be a part of the great story that is Israel – in trying times, the sense is even stronger.
“If anything, I’d predict that this would only cause more solidarity and therefore more Aliyah, and not less.”