Steve Kramer

A war to the finish

“The central goal of the war for Israel should be that upon its conclusion, a profound disappointment will be instilled in the Islamic believers who started and sustained it. They must be forced to accept that once again, their time has not come, and the gates of heaven have not opened before them. It is crucial that the Israeli leadership understand the religious logic guiding Israel’s enemies. On the physical level, Israel must strive to dismantle the regional system that has been constructed with the support and intent of Iran. On the spiritual-faith level, Israeli victory must be decisive in a way that neutralizes the belief among the leadership of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran that the day of Israel’s destruction is at hand.” (

Immediately following the October 7 massacre, aerial bombardment began in Gaza. The mission of the Air Force was to degrade enemy capabilities mostly above ground, before the army advanced into the crowded Gaza Strip. After the unprecedentedly huge reserve forces training for close quarters combat for several weeks, the ground force incursion began. 

That campaign has largely been successful, killing many enemy forces as well as the so-called civilians – who are actually combatants – as well as those who have ignored the IDF instructions to flee the battleground. Undoubtedly there has been collateral damage of some Gazans who were forced to remain behind as human shields. But like many, if not most Israelis, we aren’t shedding crocodile tears over a populace that overwhelmingly supports the murderous rampage against Israeli men, women, children, and babies. Therefore, the first reply to anyone accusing Israel of indiscriminate killing of Gazans must be: BLAME HAMAS. THEY USE THEIR PEOPLE AS HUMAN SHIELDS!

As it is, the IDF has not been able to pull out all the stops against the terrorists because of the 100+ remaining hostages secreted underground. In addition, the IDF fights with a code of honor that far exceeds any other fighting force, now or historically. What other army encourages non-combatants in advance to flee the battlefield, drops leaflets, and even phones them to warn them of an imminent barrage?

Unfortunately, as expected, the US, the EU, the UN and others have invented new, unique standards for Israel – that is, the Jews. Whatever heinous carnage was inflicted on adversaries in previous wars and battles are kosher, but everything that the IDF does is too, too much. Examples: it is a mainstay of international law that any civilian installation that is utilized for military purposes loses its protected status, but not when Israel is defending itself; combatants hiding behind human shields are not immune from elimination, but not when Israel is defending itself; neighboring armies who invade the territory of another country and then lose their own territory suffer that loss of territory, but not when it’s Israel that counterattacks; and more.

After nearly three months, the war against the jihadist Hamas terrorists is entering a new phase, the third phase of this “war to the finish.” The intention is to rely on less invasive, smaller attacks to free Israeli hostages by pinpointing the Hamas leaders. This tactic is something that has been planned for. However, it was probably expected to begin later in the long campaign to totally degrade the power of Hamas. 

Our foremost ally, the US, is pressuring us for political reasons in this pre-election year. America’s original demand was that Israel would start winding down its offensive by the end of 2023. Now that demand is expected to be implemented by the end of January. Perhaps…  One hopes that Israel’s leaders are strong enough to fully enact this tactic at the correct time to promote our war aims, not any other country’s political ones.

How is the war against Hamas going? Foremost in the mind of many Israelis is the failure to free all of our captives. Their release is predominant over all other goals. But that fervent desire must be subsequent to the defeat of Hamas. Negotiations with terrorists can only go so far. By definition terrorist can’t be trusted; taquiyya, or lying for a pious goal, has been a Muslim strategy since the time of Muhammed. 

Is Hamas losing? I say yes. One significant reason is the hundreds of Hamas fighters who have surrendered to the IDF. They have given up their fight only because they have no surviving commanders, they are hungry and thirsty, they lack ammunition, and they know that the Israelis will treat them humanely. In the meantime, these terrorists, some of whom were active in the October 7 onslaught, have provided a tremendous amount of intelligence. Yahya Sinwar, the most significant Hamas leader in Gaza, has lost much of his clout and is relying on the Israeli captives to preserve his life. Significantly, his “champion” in negotiations, Qatar, has been replaced by Egypt, which has much more in common with Israel than with Qatar, far away in the Gulf.

In any event, a large number of reserve forces (not the regular, conscript forces) are returning home, if only temporarily, from Israel’s south. The brunt of the battle there will be carried out by specialized units, including combat engineers, commando units, manned and unmanned aircraft, the navy, and regular troops. Even now, some of the southern communities close to northern Gaza are being opened for their residents to return to begin the momentous job of rebuilding their shattered homes, farms, and factories.

The north of Israel and the Golan Heights adjacent to Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, will retain its large forces. While the bulk of the fighting so far has been in the south and center of Gaza, Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy army in Lebanon, has fired many salvos of rockets and anti-tank munitions shells into Israel’s northern communities. Tens of thousands of Israelis have been forced to leave their homes. While Hamas has some forces in Syria and Lebanon that are fighting Israel, the bulk of the terrorists are from Hezbollah, which is probably ten times more potent than Hamas and has upwards of 150,000 rockets aimed at Israel! Up to now, Hassan Nasrallah, the political and military leader of Hezbollah, has tempered its offense against Israel. It mainly attacks Israel’s emptied-out northern communities, inflicting few casualties. 

But with Israel’s internal refugees from the north insisting they will not return home under threat from Hezbollah, Israel must ensure, at a minimum, the withdrawal of Hezbollah troops from the border area to a sufficient distance to reassure the refugees. A withdrawal might happen because of Nasrallah’s disinclination to have Lebanon destroyed by Israeli firepower, as it was in a 2006 war. Or, he might be forced by Iran to sacrifice Lebanon for the “good” of Iran and its dreams of an Iranian caliphate throughout the Middle East. Meanwhile, there is an unrealized UN-mandated resolution (#1701) dating back to the 2006 conflict which set the southern limit for Hezbollah installations to north of the Litani River, which is relatively distant from the Israeli border.

The Biden Administration and others continue to sing the tired old song of a two-state solution, dependent on a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority. But Hamas is favored by Gazans and PA citizens alike, obviously a non-starter for Israel and the US. Some other, as yet unspecified solution will have to be found to govern the Gaza Strip once Israel destroys the power of Hamas.

The fighting spirit of the Israelis could not be higher. Nor could the necessity of stopping terror attacks be more evident. Israel has no choice but to secure its southern and northern borders, or it will effectively shrink in size. Its victory over the terrorists must be so prodigious that indeed, the dream of the destruction of Israel by the jihadists is in the far, far future and not in this generation.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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