“After the astounding collapse of the Arab armies in 1967, Israel developed a conception that Arabs couldn’t fight, without imagining they might get better,” said Gershom Gorenberg, an Israeli historian. “So Israel was surprised by the 1973 attack,” just as it was surprised on Oct. 7 by Hamas.

“There was the preconception that we could seal off Gaza, that the measures we took would sufficiently prevent weaponry getting in,” he said. “But the problem with a technical fix to a major military problem is that the other side adapts.”

When Hamas was shooting rockets, Israel learned how to shoot most of them down. When Hamas concentrated on building tunnels, Israel developed means of discovering and destroying them, and it assumed the problem was sufficiently solved. “But we didn’t think about Hamas attacking the cameras or using hang gliders,” Mr. Gorenberg said.

With Israeli military credibility suddenly questioned, concerns have emerged about what capacities Iran has provided Hezbollah in southern Lebanon that the Israelis have failed to imagine.

Mr. Netanyahu has won praise for his outreach to the Arab world that shares Israel’s deep concerns about Iran — its nuclear program, its sponsorship of terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and its ambitions to be a hegemon in the region.

With the support and mediation of the United States, Mr. Netanyahu signed the Abraham Accords in 2020 with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, normalizing relations. Morocco and Sudan later signed, too.

More ambitiously, Israel and the United States have been negotiating with Saudi Arabia, the key Arab country, for normalization with Israel in return for a mutual-defense treaty with Washington and some assistance on civilian nuclear technology.

But what the Palestinians would get in return has never been clear. There was an assumption in Israel that these Arab states now recognized Israel as an ineradicable fact in the region and a source of business, technology and trade, and that they no longer regarded the plight of the Palestinians as a major obstacle.


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