The strategic consequence of any pause, truce or cease-fire is to increase Hamas’s odds of survival.
There is a tension between Israel’s two objectives of eliminating Hamas as a political and military force and recovering the innocent civilians kidnapped on Oct. 7. Weighing these competing priorities, Israel decided to pause its anti-Hamas military campaign in exchange for the return of some hostages. This policy’s wisdom is debatable.
A greater hazard, however, imperils Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense. I call it the “terrorist veto,” and with every passing day, Israel’s chances of escaping it diminish, notwithstanding Friday’s resumption of hostilities. For many people, the not-so-hidden goal of the hostage negotiations is to focus international attention—and emotions—on pausing hostilities indefinitely and tying Israel’s hands militarily. Whether labeled a pause, truce or cease-fire, the strategic consequences are objectively pro-Hamas. Using human bargaining chips and fellow Gazans as shields, Hamas seeks to prevent Israel from eliminating its terrorist threat.
Success for Hamas means merely surviving with a limited presence in Gaza, particularly a Gaza rebuilt as it was before Oct. 7. This result is a terrorist veto, even if military-pause supporters resist this painful but accurate term.
If the Hamas veto succeeds, other barbarians such as Hezbollah and Tehran’s mullahs (the ultimate enemy here) can insulate themselves from the consequences of their terrorism. Even worse, the terrorist veto can be copied by barbaric nation-states, with victims of aggression rendered unable to vindicate their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukraine and Taiwan come to mind as potential victims of this new paradigm.
President Biden and others deny trying to block further military action, but that is precisely the effect of their policies. On Wednesday CNN said Mr. Biden’s policy rests on three pillars: releasing the hostages, stepping up aid into Gaza, and figuring out what happens after the war. No mention of eliminating Hamas. Meantime, some Democratic senators are pressing for conditions on aid to Israel to restrict its military operations, to which Mr. Biden has alluded positively.
However the arguments for prolonging the initial or subsequent pauses are made, Israel will face three potentially debilitating consequences if it ceases or limits its military campaign. First, despite strong statements by many Israelis, in government and out, the country’s resolve is weakening. Right after Oct. 7, Jerusalem perhaps was prepared to hear U.S. military advisers caution that subduing resistance in Mosul and Fallujah took between nine months and a year. Then, Israelis might have been committed to a long struggle, but it seems unlikely they still are after this initial pause. Declining Israeli resolve guarantees that Hamas won’t be eliminated.
Cease-fire advocates argue that because Israel persuaded a million Gazans to move south before its initial campaign, Gazan “civilian” casualties in further operations in the south will dwarf previous casualties. Although Hamas and Iran initially placed Gazans in harm’s way, international recrimination will unfairly fall on Israelis, further sapping their resolve.
Second, because Hamas, Iran and their allies likely gain more militarily from the pause than Israel, the human costs to Israeli’s military will rise, as will domestic opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s objectives. It may be impossible to count incremental Israel Defense Forces casualties due to the pause, but the tally could exceed the number of hostages released.
Third, the greater the pauses or limitations, the more time Hamas’s surrogates worldwide have to increase anti-Israel pressure on their governments. In turn, many governments will lean on Israel to accept less, probably far less, than Mr. Netanyahu’s stated objectives.
The White House is urging, post-hostilities, turning over responsibility for Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. That utterly ignores its dismal performance in the West Bank, where the authority has been ineffective, corrupt and covertly supportive of terrorism. By some accounts Hamas is now more popular in the West Bank than Gaza. Extending Palestinian Authority control would put Israel back under the threat that surged on Oct. 7. The only long-term solution is to deny Hamas access to concentrated, hereditary refugee populations by resettling Gazans in places where they can enjoy normal lives.
Winston Churchill’s observation that “without victory, there is no survival” directly applies to Israel’s crisis. Victory for Israel means achieving its self-defense goal of eliminating Hamas. Anything less means continuing life under threat, with Tehran and its terrorist surrogates confident that when Westerners say “never again” they don’t really mean it.
This article was first published in the Wall Street Journal on December 1, 2023. Click Here to read the original article.