Honey Kessler Amado

A time for war, a time for ceasefire, and a time to isolate Hamas


There is a time for war and a time for ceasefire.  (Variation on Ecclesiastes 3:8.)

In its war against Hamas, Israel’s war aims have been defined as freeing the hostages, incapacitating Hamas’s military capacity, and removing Hamas’s leadership. The goal of incapacitating Hamas meets Israel’s security needs, and the goal of removing Hamas’s leadership allows new Palestinian leaders and other regional players to rebuild and govern Gaza without fear of reprisals from a reconstituted Hamas. Israel has largely vanquished Hamas’s military capacity.  Hamas can still launch an occasional rocket into Israel, but it no longer has the capacity to attack as it did on October 7. Israel has not been able to eliminate Hamas’s murderous leadership either by targeted attacks or by self-exile. And, with the exception of the heroic rescue of seven hostages (one early in the war, two in February, and four in early June) and the courageous escape of three hostages (tragically killed by Israeli friendly-fire), other hostages have been released only by negotiations. At least 120 hostages, either alive or deceased, remain in captivity.

The goals and limitations of the war lean heavily in favor of the Netanyahu-Biden ceasefire plan. Though many call it the Biden plan, I prefer to call it the Netanyahu-Biden plan because the terms were first proposed by Netanyahu. Attaching his name to the plan may keep him committed to it, even as some of his statements have been inconsistent and ambiguous. On June 24, he told the Hebrew press (Channel 14) that he would accept this deal, provided Hamas does not rule Gaza after a permanent end of hostilities. He is right about this condition; this should be self-evident. If Hamas, a terrorist organization that terrorizes its own people, rules Gaza, there is no opportunity for other non-Hamas and non-Hamas-sympathetic Palestinians to rule Gaza. There is no opportunity for Palestinians to develop an alternative vision of freedom from Hamas and peaceful co-existence with Israel. If Hamas remains viable, regional players will not enter Gaza. Whatever one thinks of Netanyahu (and there is much to think about), the old adage applies: even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.

The Netanyahu-Biden plan allows a ceasefire and provides a path to ending the war.  The plan is divided into three phases. The key elements, as explained by the White House, are: in Phase 1, a complete ceasefire, withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas in Gaza, release of some of the 120 hostages (including the elderly, women, and the injured, and some remains of deceased hostages), return of Palestinian civilians to their homes in Gaza, and a surge in humanitarian aid. In Phase 2, a permanent end to hostilities, an exchange of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons for release of the remaining living hostages, and Israeli forces withdrawn from Gaza. In Phase 3, major reconstruction plan for Gaza, and return of the remains of all deceased hostages.

It is an imperfect plan, but it includes a number of escape valves if Hamas violates the ceasefire or fails to comply with the terms of the agreement. After all, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza can be reversed if security-needs demand it. (A ceasefire was in place on October 7, so no one should consider Hamas to be a trustworthy player and partner.) Still, with all its pitfalls, there are gains to be had which support accepting this ceasefire agreement.

A ceasefire brings some of the hostages home and creates the path for bringing the remaining hostages, alive and dead, home.

A ceasefire allows Palestinians to return to their homes in Gaza and allows the rebuilding of Gaza to begin. But this rebuilding, with new Palestinian leaders, and perhaps regional players such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, requires vesting Palestinian leadership with agency and accountability. Agency recognizes that the Palestinians have control over their own future. Palestinians can accept that Israel is a permanent presence in the region and up-build a Palestinian state based on co-existence, or they can continue to live by a narrative that casts themselves as victims and locks them in a self-destructive battle to destroy Israel.  Accountability requires that the Palestinian Authority account for all monies it receives from the Americans, the Europeans, or regional neighbors. Accountability requires that families of terrorists no longer be given subsidies or other financial rewards from the Palestinian Authority, as if terrorists are serving the well-being of the Palestinian people.

A Gaza without Hamas is a good vision; it need not be the impossible dream. When Israel left Gaza in 2005, making no territorial claims on the area, Israel left behind homes, buildings, and a multi-million-dollar flower business that had made Gaza the flower-market of Europe. Hamas destroyed everything, including the flower industry. Hamas fosters victimhood over self-determination. Even now, it prefers war and further injury to Gaza and Gazans than accepting the ceasefire with Israel.  Who can find Hamas’s position defensible? There should be no reward to Hamas, actual or postured, for prolonging this war and bringing further destruction to the Gazan people.


And now is the time for isolation of Hamas.

Hamas has rejected the ceasefire. In response, the paradigm and conversation about the war in Gaza should change. Hamas should be held responsible for the impasse, not Israel. World focus and pressure should be on Hamas, not Israel.

Rejecting the ceasefire plan should be costly to Hamas. Egypt should work with Israel or the United States, or a regional country, to stop the flow of goods through Rafah that have been used to build military infrastructure, including the infamous tunnels. Similarly, Egypt should work to stop the flow of arms to Hamas. This is in Egypt’s best interests; surely, she does not want an armed Hamas, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, on her border. With the assistance of the Americans or others securing the Rafah passage, this threatening menace could be neutralized.

Qatar should be pressured to stop the flow of money to Hamas and to stop its investments in, and with, Hamas. Admittedly, I do not know the pressure points for Qatar. The US has a sweetheart deal on a base there. Presumably that base serves Qatar’s interests as much as ours, small as she is surrounded by relative geographic and economic strongmen.

Hamas’s international holdings and assets should be seized, and its bank accounts frozen. As the Americans and some European countries have done, Hamas should be declared an international terrorist group, with whatever consequences flow from that standing to Hamas and to local groups that financially support, or take financial support from, Hamas. (This is not a freedom of speech, freedom of press, or freedom of assembly issue; it is a follow-the-money issue.)

Statements from international bodies that equate the conduct of this terrorist organization with Israel’s efforts at self-defense should be roundly and unequivocally condemned. (Such comparisons are preposterous.)

In short, Hamas should be isolated and shunned. Its conduct should not be romanticized or justified. It should become the pariah that it, together with international bodies and countries, have sought to make Israel.

These same united acts should be implemented to limit Hamas’s ability to undermine the work of regional countries seeking to rebuild and govern Gaza.

With Hamas isolated, as I mentioned, a new vision for Gazans may emerge: one that deradicalizes their view of Israel and allows for normalization of relations with Israel. Gazans have nothing to lose from a ceasefire: there is no territorial dispute with Israel. And they have much to gain: until October 7, tens of thousands of Gazans had been working inside Israel, bolstering Gaza’s economy. Before Hamas took control in 2007, even more Gazans had been working in Israel. The Gazans lived better than the Lebanese; still, their economic woes had, and have, been caused by Hamas, not Israel. Gazans lost immeasurably by Hamas beginning this war with Israel, and they have more to lose by continuing this war. Even Gazans are beginning to dare say this aloud.


When I discussed the idea of accepting the Netanyahu-Biden plan with a dear friend, he disagreed. He pointed out the obvious concern about the ability, and willingness, of the Palestinian Authority to reconstruct itself. That decision belongs to the Palestinians and their leadership. Are they truly committed to statehood or are they more invested in destroying Israel in pursuit of a phantom dream of “from the river to the sea”? And he poignantly asked, “If we leave now, why did we lose those brave soldiers in Gaza? We had nothing other than eight months of another skirmish.” No war to end all wars. But I suggested, and suggest, that we widen the lens. Rather than look at this conflict as simply being between Hamas and Israel, view Gaza as part of the whole region, which stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arabian Sea, from sea to sea. Hamas is an agent of Iran, there on the Persian Gulf. The national interests of significant Gulf countries, including the UAE, Bahrain, and, especially Saudi Arabia, are in countering and containing Iran.  Alliances with Israel serve those interests. Israel is a militarily strong and trustworthy ally. The regional, moderate countries realized this when they turned to Israel to form strategic alliances. These alliances also bring economic benefits to the normalized countries and the region.

If there is any doubt about the desire for normalization with Israel by significant countries in the region, consider the muted responses to the war in Gaza by the Abraham Accord countries, including the UAE and Bahrain, and by Saudi Arabia.  Indeed, notwithstanding the war, Saudi Arabia continues to express interest in establishing relations with Israel. And, critically, when Iran attacked Israel on April 13, 2024, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States—a  coalition that only a short time ago seemed impossible—came together to fend off Iran.

To be sure, relations with Saudi Arabia are conditioned upon steps towards a Palestinian state. Whether this is a nod to the Palestinians or a real commitment to them is debatable, but beside the point. Creating a restructured Palestinian Authority is critical to resolving governance of Gaza and to creating a viable Palestinian state. Ultimately, this serves Israel also. Though the possibility of a Palestinian state seems too difficult to discuss in the aftermath of October 7 and during this first year of mourning, a stable Palestinian neighbor with leadership who serve the Palestinian people is essential to Israel’s security and well-being.


A ceasefire in Gaza is also imperative to addressing Hezbollah. Hezbollah must not be given any excuse for attacking Israel by pretending to be Hamas’s ally. The threat of war with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border, its border with Lebanon, looms imminent. Absent a diplomatic resolution, the burden of fighting on two fronts is heavy, with credible threats to Israel’s infrastructure, civilians throughout the state, and the Iron Dome. Israel is prepared to meet the second front. Her bravery goes without question. She is in the pantheon of the Allies in World War II and the Ukrainians against Putin’s Russia. But answering the threat also underscores that, just as the Allied Powers needed one another and Ukraine needs the US and her European allies, so Israel needs friends and allies to keep her in armaments and to exercise diplomatic pressure on all relevant influencers. Israel appears to have recognized this need for friends and allies in her timing and management of the attack on Rafah, the last military stronghold of Hamas.

The ceasefire in Gaza is critical to the region. A terrorist group—Hamas—should not be allowed to hold the entire region and the world hostage by its intransigence and rejection of the ceasefire. Hamas should be isolated and unambiguously rejected by the entire world to bring about the ceasefire and then to allow the rebuilding and sustaining of Gaza.

About the Author
Honey Kessler Amado, of Beverly Hills, California, is a retired civil appellate attorney and past president of her synagogue, Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles. She is currently chair of Jewish National Fund’s Wadi Attir Task Force (Wadi Attir is a Bedouin-created environmental and economic project in the Negev), and is out-going co-chair of the Pubic Policy Committee of American Jewish Committee, Los Angeles regional office. Ms. Amado has studied at the Shalom Hartman Institute and at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Learning, both in Jerusalem, and has had the honor of auditing classes in the rabbinic program at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles.
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