All of Israel matters.
The time has come for the utmost goal of this Israel-Hamas war to be unapologetically stated.
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During negotiations, there are always two sides who come to the proverbial table to fulfill their wishes, hoping that the side in front of them is ready to give them what they need, and ready to accept what they have to offer.
In the situation between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas, the parties have wishes that the other party cannot satisfy, because the demand includes the realization of the intention to destroy each other.
Hamas is asking Israel for an end to the war, Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the release of all Palestinians from prisons in Israel, and an international guarantee for the continuation of its rule in Gaza. In exchange, Hamas is willing to talk about the release of the 136 abductees.
On the other hand, Israel is ready for a long lull in the war and the release of Palestinian prisoners, even all of them, and the subsequent destruction of Hamas.
It is clear to Israel that the price for accepting Hamas’ demands is long-term, and it expresses a victory for Hamas, which in the future will lead to its considerable strengthening. Since the goal of Hamas is the destruction of Israel, the strengthening of Hamas will have devastating future consequences for Israel, which will claim the lives of many civilians and fundamentally change the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel’s political echelon, even if it accepts the claim that abductees must be released at any cost, will not approve this type of deal, which means we find ourselves at a dead end.
The families of the abductees, led by the headquarters they established in Tel Aviv, want to bring all the abductees home “and now.” It is understandable that they are trying to do everything possible to save their loved ones — like anyone would do in their awful positions — whether or not it is in Israel’s best interests.
The families of the abductees emphasize the dangers lurking in captivity and demands, sometimes while issuing an ultimatum, that we agree to Hamas’ stipulations, regardless of the price they will charge us, like there is some magic wand if only the Israeli government desired to wave it.
Beyond the demands of the headquarters, there are quite a few former senior officials and current politicians who support the demand for a deal now and explain that there is still time for future damage to Hamas. And it appears U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is upping pressure on Israel to either pause or end the war.
They are being boosted by the political enemies of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Many of the Israelis who spent the months before October 7th demonstrating for Netanyahu’s ouster and against judicial reform have respectably put politics aside in the name of a unified effort to defeat Hamas.
But the hardcore anti-Netanyahu resistance has shown in recent weeks that, if given the opportunity, it will try to return to the streets with the aim of forcing the prime minister out of office by stupidly conflating politics with the abductees’ release.
At the same time, Netanyahu is under fire from Israelis who fault him for not prosecuting the war against Hamas more vigorously. They blame the prime minister for accommodating American and international pressure to allow aid to flow into parts of Gaza still under Hamas control.
Even though this is superficially a humanitarian gesture, it is almost certainly sustaining Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorists in Gaza. It boggles my mind that international actors keep talking about the importance of humanitarian aid entering Gaza, even though they know that Hamas is seizing it upon arrival and preventing it from reaching everyday Gazans.
Why is the international community not putting more pressure on Hamas, through the people of Gaza, to surrender and go into exile, or face an international coalition of armies hellbent on ending the terror group’s political reign, like they did with ISIS.
Unfortunately, we know why: Because there is a small but noisy and, frankly, annoying group of people in the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. who have been coddled into thinking they can do and say whatever they want, without repercussions. Instead of telling these people that they are vouching for things which are not in the best interests of the countries they call home, politicians appease them for cheap votes.
To add insult to injury, many of these countries, led by the United States, are bizarrely pushing for a Palestinian state, even though we all know that such a proposal is dead-on-arrival for the same reasons that similar efforts have failed before: Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians support a two-state solution right now.
The majority of Israelis were ready to accept a Palestinian state if it meant peace during the post-Oslo Accords 1990s. That reality died during the Second Intifada, which followed the rejection of two Palestinian statehood offers in early 2000s by the Palestinians’ most all-encompassing leader to date, Yasser Arafat.
What’s more, Israelis now know with absolute certainty that Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 led to the creation of an independent Palestinian state called Hamastan. This allowed Palestinian terrorists to build an Islamic jihad fortress from which they have attacked Israel for years, eventually culminating in the unthinkable terror attacks on October 7th. Good luck getting Israelis to believe that giving the Palestinians a bigger state would be any different.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians have passed up multiple deals since the 1990s that would have given them an independent state because they would have required them to live in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel. And neither the supposed “moderate” Palestinians who run the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, nor Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, will accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, irrespective of where borders are drawn.
To make matters even more ridiculous, the quartet of Qatar, Hamas, Egypt, and the U.S. are for some strange reason encouraging the kidnapped to be released in a multi-stage deal. In a proposal shown to Israeli ministers last week, the kidnapped would be released over 142-day period (nearly five months), during which the IDF campaign against Hamas in Gaza would be halted.1
This means that the truce will effectively never end and, eventually, a permanent ceasefire will be the only option on the table for Israel, both domestically and internationally. In other words, the hostage deals being floated in the media during the last couple of weeks are a trap for Israel — eerily reminiscent of the traps that the Oslo Accords, the Camp David Summit in 2000, and withdrawal from Gaza proved to be.
For now, the release of the kidnapped and the destruction of Hamas in Gaza is, together, a pessimistic dream without regard for reality. Hamas is not ready for any move without guarantees about its future and Israel’s inability to continue its pursuit. There is not and was not any deal that Israel could offer, which would have been considered by the other side.
The more Hamas sees that the pressure to release the abductees increases, the more it hardens its position and refuses any possibility that does not perpetuate its existence in Gaza. From Hamas’ perspective, the longer it endures and takes advantage of the suffering of the people in Gaza on the one hand, and the pain of the Israeli public on the other hand, the closer it gets to ending hostilities under international and intra-Israeli pressure.
The dangers lurking for the abductees are no greater than the dangers lurking for Israel’s soldiers fighting in Gaza, and even those on the border with Lebanon deploying counter-attacks to Hezbollah’s ongoing escapades. The families of the thousands of soldiers are also awake at night like the families of the kidnapped.
There are also hundreds of thousands of refugees in Israel whose lives have been completely upended, not to mention the thousands upon thousands of reservists, many of whom have young families and burgeoning careers, yet have taken extensive time off from their already challenging everyday lives to defend Israel and its people.
Ultimately, there is a country that needs to rise from the ashes of October 7th and establish a new, safe life again, where there is no terrorism beyond the fence and no threats, big or small, every few months.
In this uncomfortable reality, and with all the sympathy we have for the abductees and their families, the national security of Israel and its future are above and beyond any other consideration, including the release of the abductees.
If, God forbid, Israel is seduced and surrenders to Hamas, the abductees will essentially have nowhere to return, and we (both Israel and the West) will face impossible challenges in the future fight against terrorism.
The time has come for the utmost goal of this Israel-Hamas war to be unapologetically stated: eradicating Hamas from Gaza, either by force or surrender, to ensure peace and security for all Israelis.
The kidnapped and their families are very important to all of us, and so too are the families of our soldiers and refugees, as well as the future of Israel, the millions of Israelis and Jews across the world.
“Israeli Security Cabinet Mulls Proposed 142-day Hostage Deal, Cease-fire With Hamas.” Haaretz.