Peter John Beyfus

Israel’s Vietnam?

The war of attrition in Gaza has undoubtedly led to the degrading of Hamas but is unlikely, as many military commentators have observed, to completely destroy this terrorist organisation either in frustrating its capacity to launch attacks and/or reduce its political potency; so should Israel, or rather Netanyahu, review his strategy in the light of failure to secure the release of hostages and in persuading the Hamas leadership to enter into meaningful negotiations to bring about a ceasefire? 

The short answer is an emphatic yes! There are many options to be considered and none is ideal but the only way this devastating war can be brought to an end is by some radical thinking. I believe it is a forlorn hope that as long as the IDF remain in Gaza, trying to eliminate Hamas’ operation centres, then this increases the chances of getting the hostages home; all that has happened to date is Hamas and its allied terrorist groups have “played Israel” when at its most vulnerable. The negotiations in Qatar have dragged on without substantive progress on agreeing a timeframe for the return of the abductees and terms for a ceasefire. With international support slipping away from Israel and allies beginning to distance themselves from Israel’s war aims, then time is not on her side, something that has been known soon after 7 October. The latest UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire gave Hamas a fillip thus making it increasingly difficult to bring the war to an end; Iran and all the terrorist factions that are hostile to  Israel know the longer the war goes on the more isolated Israel will become and weaker when it comes to dialogue with her enemies. Given the testimony of the few hostages released to date it is reasonable to assume many of those still held captive have been either brutalised or killed, and so, although it goes against everything Israel stands for, the inestimable value of every Jewish life, making the successful release of hostages a major objective  may not be a realistic option, except for the political survival of Netanyahu. 

Withdrawal from Gaza without any agreement would be seen as a sign of Israel’s failing military power. There has to be a plausible exit strategy that can counter accusations of Israeli weakness. Netanyahu did announce his government’s intention to cut off Gaza from Israel, and that may well be the best way forward. It will require iron determination to see it through but it should be considered as a perfectly viable option. A security fence, and I am not talking chicken wire here, needs to be erected with strategically placed watch towers and formidable armoury to repel any aggressive moves from the Palestinians. There would be no relationship vis-á-vis supplies of power and water from Israel and there would be no employment in Israel for workers living in Gaza. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 it became effectively a politically independent region, except it relied heavily on Israel for resources and employment. With “liberation” came a golden chance to make Gaza a successful Palestinian enclave, but opportunities were squandered and the people voted in support of violence rather than peace. Some responsibility has to be taken by the people of Gaza for the actions of their elected representatives; it is a bit like Germans who voted for the Nazis saying they were free of any culpability for the manner in which their government behaved. Cutting off Gaza would give the Palestinian what they have been bleating on about for 75 years: their own state, totally independent of Israel,  and requiring a fair degree of self-reliance and possible economic support from their Arab brethren. 

The rhetoric coming out of the mouths of representatives of the UN is shameful. Accusations that Israel is using starvation to defeat Hamas is without foundation. Aid convoys are being allowed into Gaza but the IDF is wary of allowing free flow of aid without inspection, and there is a good reason for this. Some staff of UNRWA have been accused of assisting Hamas’ atrocities of 7 October, and therefore UN agencies should be regarded with suspicion, and, indeed, I would go so far as to suggest the UN as a collective body has fallen far short of objectivity when dealing with the present conflict. It is not just UN bias that is worrying but the media has a great deal for which to answer. Today, 28 March, the BBC, that bastion of impartiality, posted a photograph of a Palestinian under the title ‘Gaza Starvation could amount to war crime, UN human rights chief tells BBC’. The image is misleading, deliberately giving the impression of a person suffering from lack of food, and that is what many people viewing the picture would conclude. However, the fact the girl, Noora Mohammed, has lung and liver fibrosis, a terrible condition where the body would not look robust, very thin and jaundiced, is not flagged until later in the article. 

The Israeli government has to come up with new initiatives to get the IDF out of Gaza: pronto! Negotiations with the likes of Hamas will not produce the desired results, and the longer Israel allows itself to be manipulated by wily but totally immoral Palestinian terrorists, the less chance there is of extricating the IDF from the quagmire that is Gaza. Getting into a war is easy, getting out requires strategy; G-d forfend Gaza becomes Israel’s Vietnam! 

About the Author
Peter John Beyfus is an historian, published author, poet, and a person who prides himself on “thinking outside the box”. I have written many essays on Jewish themes, published in various journals, including ‘Wessex Jewish News’ and ‘Westminster Quarterly’, the magazine of Westminster Synagogue, London.