Israel Must, and Can, Destroy Hamas

Politics - March 1, 2024

From the beginning, the strategy of the Hamas terrorists on 7 October 2023 was clear. With their brutal attack on Israel, they would wreak enough havoc that the Israeli Defence Forces would have to retaliate forcefully (although an immense and unexplained intelligence failure in Israel made the Hamas attack more successful and dramatic). The Hamas terrorists would take hostages and use Gaza residents as human shields against the Israeli forces. This is turn would lead to countless civil casualties which the Hamas propaganda machine would relentlessly publicise around the world, with the result that public opinion would turn against Israel which eventually would have to accept a ceasefire. This would be a clear victory for the terrorists despite the enormous cost inflicted on them in the meantime. They would just use the money afterwards flowing in as humanitarian aid to build new underground networks from which they could then continue to shoot rockets into Israel and make occasional raids like the one on 7 October. Most importantly perhaps, they would stop the process of reconciliation and even cooperation between Israel and the states on the Arabian Peninsula, the Abraham Accords.

Ceasefire Only Benefits Hamas

Probably many of those who call for a ceasefire in the Gaza War are just paying lip service to peace. Nobody wants to be seen advocating war and not peace. But those who do not support Hamas and are nevertheless sincerely calling for a ceasefire are showing great, but not that uncommon, naivety. They are playing the game according to the Hamas script. A ceasefire now simply means a victory for Hamas, its continuing existence, and a continuing existential threat to Israeli Jews. Hamas not only has it in its manifesto to obliterate Israel, but its terrorists have shown time and again their willingness to try and implement it. Their slogan, ‘From the river to the sea,’ referring to the territory between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea is a demand that the state of Israel ceases to exists and that all Jews are driven out.

The Israelis are Winning the Gaza War

The Israelis have learned from the long and tragic history of the Jews not to accept being only victims. They refuse to be led like sheep to the slaughter. They have a clear goal, to win the Gaza War. It looks indeed like they are achieving this goal. One criterion is that Hamas is not launching rockets any more into Israel. The Israeli Defence Forces seem to have penetrated and cleared out the hundreds of kilometres of subterranean tunnels which Hamas had constructed for the enormous sums of money it had received in humanitarian aid over the last few years. Many of those tunnels accommodated rocket workshops.

Another criterion is the killing of Hamas fighters. It is reported that now, in late February, about 12,000 of them have been killed, while many others have been wounded. By contrast, the IDF have lost about 300 soldiers. However, the IDF have not yet captured Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader who planned and organised the October 7 attack. Most of the other Hamas leaders live a life of luxury in Doha five-star hotels. Israeli surveillance teams have however monitored Sinwar fleeing with his family through an escape tunnel. He is probably hiding in Rafah which will be the final front in the Gaza War. The Israeli advance will be slow and measured because the IDF know the tactics of the Hamas terrorists which is to shoot at Israeli soldiers while hiding behind civilians. But the IDF will certainly succeed.

As military expert Edward Luttwak points out, the IDF are now not as dependent on American military aid as they used to be. They employ a lot of effective and relatively cheap Israeli-made weaponry, such as swarms of minidrones, 160 mm heavy mortars that deliver 30 kilos of high explosives in a parabolic fire, Merkava tanks equipped not only to fight but also to intercept incoming missiles and rockets and turretless Namer infantry carriers which are not as vulnerable as ordinary carriers to attacks by artillery and snipers. But the IDF have been cautious in using much of their weaponry, for example the heavy mortars, in order to reduce civilian casualties. Unlike Hamas, they try to play by the rules of international law. For the same reason, the IDF have made very limited use of their superior air force. But as Luttwak observes, the main strength of the IDF is that their soldiers undergo intensive and prolonged individual instruction. The IDF have a special combat unit specialising in tunnel warfare, and they lead the way whenever a new tunnel is found. The Israeli soldiers are also very motivated, not least because of the sheer brutality of the 7 October attack.

Two-State Solution Unrealistic

Of course it is not enough to win the Gaza War and destroy Hamas. What will then happen? I think the two-state solution is unrealistic at this moment although it sounds good in speeches and solemn resolutions. You cannot live alongside an enemy who does whatever he can to destroy you. It was a shock for the peaceniks in the collectives close to the Gaza border to see Arabs from Gaza they thought of as friends and neighbours actively help the Hamas terrorists. You transfer control of territories to them, and in return you get rockets. For an indefinite period of time, Israel must oversee security in the two territories inhabited mainly by Palestinian Arabs, the West Bank and Gaza, while the member states of the Arab League must allow Palestinian Arabs to settle in their countries. But what is really important is to create economic opportunities both for the Palestinian  Arabs and in the whole Arab World. There are for example enormous possibilities for free trade between Israel and the Arab countries with the great Israeli achievements in developing effective software, in turning deserts into green fields, and in desalination, turning seawater into usable water, combining for mutual benefit with the vast economic resources of the Arab countries that must in the future not be dependent on oil revenue alone. This is a process which is already beginning with the Abraham Accords.