It is impossible to overstate the effect on Israeli society of the weekend’s Hamas assault, which has been described as the country’s September 11. As the scale of the horror becomes clearer, the shock and grief continue to mount. Anger, however, has been directed not just at the militants who carried out the attack but also at the government that allowed it to happen on its watch.
The intelligence failure was astonishing, given Israel’s huge surveillance resources. And despite the vaunted powers of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), consistently voted as among the country’s most trusted institutions, it took hours for it to adequately respond to desperate calls for help. Presiding over this cataclysm was Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and one of its most divisive.
A consummate tactician, Netanyahu’s imperative has long been simply to remain in power. His latest coalition includes extreme far-right elements and has focused on undemocratic reforms that have resulted in months of widespread protests. The prime minister’s policy towards the Palestinians has been one of “managing the conflict” – whether through devastating but limited military operations and economic incentives intended to subdue aspirations for sovereignty or by bypassing the issue to negotiate peace deals with Gulf states.
The jewel in this diplomatic crown, a deal with Saudi Arabia, was expected to be next, with many analysts suggesting that this prospect might have fuelled Iran’s vocal support for the Hamas operation. Now, Netanyahu has been forced to declare a war that is likely to be on a scale unprecedented for generations. There have been calls for a unity government of centrist parties to be urgently convened or for Benny Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff turned politician, to be a more plausible replacement.
Israel currently has overwhelming support at home for a mass military operation in the Gaza Strip, though the effect on the civilian population will be catastrophic. World leaders and ordinary Israelis will be watching to see what happens next – and they will be looking for policy, not the self-serving tactics of political survival.
Daniella Peled is the managing editor of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting. For all the latest updates on the ongoing conflict, tune in to Monocle Radio. And for more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.
Today is the deadline that India set for Canada to reduce its complement of diplomats in the country by about 40 people, following a row over the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, a city to the southeast of Vancouver, in June. Relations between the two countries have been deteriorating since September, when Justin Trudeau announced that his government was looking into “credible allegations” linking India to the murder. Almost immediately after that announcement, New Delhi suspended visa services for Canadian citizens.
Trudeau has yet to share the evidence, claiming that making it public could hamper the investigation. India, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing and has branded the accusations as “absurd”. The dispute has been a headache for US officials, who are concerned that a failure to swiftly repair relations could hamper the West’s strategy of using India to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.
Italy’s former prime minister Mario Draghi tried to reform the way in which taxi licences are issued but he didn’t last long enough in the top job to see it through. Now the difficult task has fallen on his successor, Giorgia Meloni. Cabbies are up in arms about the government’s so-called “Asset Decree”, which paves the way for significant changes to a sclerotic system that is largely controlled by vocal unions.
Following yesterday’s 24-hour public-transport strike, taxi drivers across the country will be following suit today. To address the scarcity of cabs in major cities, the Italian government has given municipalities the possibility of increasing the number of licences by as much as 20 per cent. With cities arguing that the figure is too low and taxi drivers retorting that it’s too high, the gridlock seems set to continue.
The Taiwan Design Expo kicked off last Friday in New Taipei City and runs until 22 October. Established in 2003, the annual festival collaborates with a different municipal government every year. The theme for the 2023 edition is a circle – a reference to the shape of the sprawling host city, which surrounds the capital, Taipei. Concepts such as connections and surroundings will be explored, as will topics including folklore, the natural landscape and urban design.
Architect and professor Shu-Chang Kung is the event’s chief curator and the local Yingge railway station has been offering special themed bento boxes. This year’s expo received an unexpected publicity boost after a personality quiz designed by the organisers went viral online. Hopefully the flurry of virtual attention will translate to even more in-person attendees.
Nasa is hoping to build 3D-printed human habitats on the moon by 2040 and is partnering with universities and private companies to make this happen. Patrick Suermann, whose civil-engineering experience includes projects in remote places such as Afghanistan’s Helmand Province and the Arctic Circle, joins Monocle to discuss what lunar construction involves.
You have worked in some very challenging environments – but surely the moon is beyond even your expertise?
It’s actually not too dissimilar. I have been in the US Air Force and worked on projects in Guam, around the Pacific and in Afghanistan to establish military outposts. My research looks into establishing the infrastructure that would allow the first commercial lunar payload systems to put up the autonomous robots and heavy equipment that will get the habitats up there.
What goes into creating lunar concrete? Are the processes and techniques modifications of those that you already use?
Imagine that you’re going on a roadtrip with no stops, so you have to bring every single thing with you. The cost of sending items to the moon is about $1m (€950,000) a kilogramme, so you would want to use as many resources that are there as possible. One of the things that has facilitated all of this is the fact that there is water on the moon. We will go to the south pole and the Shackleton crater, and use solar power to melt some of the lunar ice. While the physics of construction, such as the difference in gravity, might be different up there, the chemistry is still the same.
Other Nasa-instigated innovations have resulted in many useful spin-offs. Could what you’re doing lead to developments in house-building in challenging environments on Earth where people are subjected to extreme temperatures?
My hope is that science fiction will become mundanity and that every dollar that we spend on these types of efforts will lead to science that will help us to take care of our original spaceship, which is Earth. And that, eventually, we will learn how to make the most of what we have here.
For the full interview with Patrick Suermann, tune in to Monday’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.
To celebrate the release of our new book Swim & Sun: A Monocle Guide, we spend the day at swim club Flussbad Oberer Letten in Zürich. Bathers of every age come here to strip off and feel the freedom of the water in the river Limmat. Our latest book is available at The Monocle Shop.