They Say, We Say: "Eventually, Israel can and will defeat Hamas and force them out of Gaza."
We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.
You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.
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What about Hamas and Gaza?
The answer to Hamas terrorism is Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which is the only thing preventing Hamas from getting even more – and more powerful – weapons. And when Hamas attacks, Israel has no choice but to respond with force. Eventually, Israel can and will defeat Hamas and force them out of Gaza. In the meantime, it is Hamas, not Israel, that bears full responsibility for the plight of civilians in Gaza. And don’t forget that many of these same civilians voted for Hamas and actively aid them in their terrorist activities.
The successive rounds of Hamas-Israel fighting that have followed Israel’s unilateral “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip and Hamas’ subsequent takeover of the area, have made a number of things very clear, including the fact that neither blockades nor overwhelming military force have defeated Hamas, nor can they prevent Hamas from arming itself and attacking Israel, if it is motivated to do so. To deny these facts is to deny reality. These rounds of fighting also put into the spotlight some other important truths, not only about Gaza/Hamas, but about this conflict in general:
- There is no stable status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Absent a clear political horizon and credible effort to reach it, the situation on the ground will always get worse. Periods of apparent "quiet" mask growing extremism and desperation on both sides, and have only paved the way for escalating paroxysms of violence. The repeated cycle – the "mowing the lawn" approach to the Gaza Strip embraced by many in Israel, and the apparent "we will force them to deal with us" approach of Hamas – is a disastrous, self-defeating strategy for both sides.
- With each round of fighting, Palestinians are seeing, over and over, that violence and terrorism will not defeat Israel and cannot improve their lives or deliver an end to occupation and their longed-for statehood. What it can do is sow fear and anger, including among Israelis who support a two-state solution, and provoke Israel into using its superior military might, to devastating effect.
- With each round of fighting, Israelis have seen, over and over, that military power cannot bring about the capitulation of Hamas or force Palestinians residents of the Gaza Strip to abandon their demand for freedom and dignity. It is true that sophisticated missile defense systems can insulate Israel from some immediate dangers, but Israelis running to bomb shelters know that the suggestion that Israel can live in a state of perpetual conflict, secure under an "iron dome," is a fantasy.
- The repeated rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas, are not the cause of Israeli-Palestinian tensions; they are a symptom of an underlying conflict. While some may seek to depict them as evidence that the conflict is a zero-sum game, the truth is that this is a political conflict that is still amenable to a political solution.
- The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can and must be solved in a peace agreement that addresses the core needs of both sides, including with respect to security, sovereignty, and national narratives. It is imperative to pave a road back to a diplomatic process that can, once and for all, address the causes that are at the root not only of Hamas-Israel wars, but of the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- Failing serious re-engagement to achieve such a solution, the repeated Hamas-Israel wars offer a preview of what the future looks like for Israelis and Palestinians alike. It is a future that will be defined by constant and escalating conflict. This conflict will increasingly be across not only Israeli-Palestine divides –in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem – but also within Israeli society, where growing tribalism, intolerance, and racism are degrading Israeli democracy, civility, and security.
- Failing a return to a political process and a good faith commitment to a two-state solution, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue to play out in ever-more ugly ways in the international arena. While much of the world is sympathetic to Israel's right to self-defense, Israel's refusal to deal with the core issues of the conflict – and the continued expansion and deepening of the occupation – will mean increasing vilification and isolation of Israel for its policies and actions. And while much of the world is sympathetic to the Palestinians' plight under occupation and their political aspirations for statehood, their cause will increasingly be tainted and discredited as it is exploited by those with extremist, anti-Semitic agendas. Along the way, innocents on both sides – Israeli and Palestinian alike – will bear the costs.
- Each round of Israeli-Palestinian violence can lead easily to a further hardening of views on all sides, and to the adopting of zero-sum positions. Such a hardening will be welcomed by extremists on both sides who have long opposed a political solution and a peace agreement to end the conflict.
- Both peoples, and their leaders, must resist this urge to give in to hopelessness, anger and hate. Every round of Israel-Gaza violence underscores the futility and disastrousness of zero-sum agendas. Every round of fighting also highlights what has always been the only realistic, viable, solution to the core issues in this conflict: a negotiated two-state outcome. A realistic agreement can meet the fundamental requirements of each side in order to live as neighbors with peace, security, and sovereign borders – and is the only option that can prevent a perpetual and escalating cycle of mutually-imposed fear, misery, and bloodletting.