On Monday morning, the Jerusalem Post published the results of a poll on Israel’s next steps. About 10 percent of the public said that enough was enough and it was time for a cease-fire. Another 3 percent weren’t sure.
But 86.5% of Jewish Israelis said that they want to keep fighting.
Nobody asked me, but I’m with the majority.
Twice before, in 2008 and 2012, Israel attempted to end Hamas infiltration and rocket fire with limited military actions. Both of those efforts ended in a cease-fire accompanied by Israeli government threats to Hamas of the “don’t make me come back here again” variety.
When Hamas opened fire three weeks ago, many Israelis hoped that this time would be different. Instead, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet adopted a limited set of war aims: destroying Hamas tunnels into Israel, weakening its rocket capacity and improving the conditions of the next cease fire.
Since then, Israel has blown up a lot of tunnels. It has shot down a lot of missiles and rockets. And it has agreed to four or five temporary cease fires. And still, it has yet to achieve any of these limited goals. Hamas is still firing missiles (it killed five inside Israel Monday), infiltrating commando units via the supposedly destroyed tunnels (another team struck Monday), and violating every “humanitarian ceasefire” (as it did Monday). In short, Hamas is fighting for real. It sees this as a real war, a life and death struggle.
On this, I’m with Hamas.
This is a real war. And the goal of a real war is victory.
Hamas will not be defeated by blowing up its tunnels. If Israel withdraws after the next temporary cease fire, it will dig deeper, better tunnels. Hamas will not be defeated by depleting its arsenal of rockets. If Israel lets Hamas stand, it will get more from Iran (which freely admits supplying them) or build them from smuggled parts. If it can, it will fill these new rockets with chemicals, which will make it impossibly dangerous for Israel to shoot them down over civilian areas, which is what Hamas aims at.
No, Hamas has to be defeated the old-fashioned way. That begins with a new demand — unconditional surrender — and the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve it.
Will the TV footage be bad for Israel’s image? That depends on who’s watching. The anti-Israel European left and anti-Jewish European Muslims will be incensed, but they already are. Some blushing liberal rabbis and Jewish celebrities will echo Michael Corleone (“It’s my family, Kay, it’s not me”). Op-ed columnists and editorial writers may decry the loss of Israel’s “moral high ground.” Experts who insist that it is settled political science that terror can’t be defeated militarily will refuse to believe their eyes.
How do I know this? I’ve seen this show before.
But television land is a big place. The rulers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which consider Hamas a terrorist enemy, will probably enjoy the show. So will the leaders of Russia, China, India, Nigeria and other countries currently engaged in efforts to defeat Islamic fundamentalist insurrections.
For Israel, Jihadis are a key demographic. They may not like seeing Gaza in flames and Hamas defeated, but these are scenes that will concentrate their minds. Will the Iranian Ayatollahs, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, the Kaliphate Killer Kids of ISIL and other modern-day Saladins come away hating Israel even more than they do now? Maybe so. But they will also have a more realistic view of what they can do about it.
As always, the most important audience of all is right here at home. Over the years, Israelis have become habituated to a certain level of Hamas violence. Missiles? Hey, they don’t kill that many people. Kidnapping? Give up a thousand terrorists and you get your guy back. Replace Hamas? What comes next could be worse! Can’t we just make a better deal this time, get a few more years of relative quiet before the next round?
The answer is, no. There is no deal to make with Hamas, and no successor Israel should fear more. Hamas is the devil it knows but it is also the demon it has to slay. How much slaying depends on how fast the Hamasniks surrender or — here’s a long shot — the people of Gaza decide they’ve had enough and turn on them.
Does Bibi Netanyahu have the stomach to bring this about? Does he even want to? I don’t know. But I do know who wants him to try — 86.5% of the Jewish Israeli public.