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Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

New Rules–Not The Same As The Old Rules

New Rules–Not The Same As The Old Rules

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Leaders who start and lose wars, bringing devastation and ruin upon their people, do not get a seat at the table in the aftermath of the war, when the future is being determined. Germany and Japan did not prescribe conditions after World War II; they accepted terms imposed on them after an unconditional surrender. Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee played no role in the postbellum South.

And yet, according to news reports, the Palestinians are fighting among themselves as to how to proceed after the end of the war that they started so reprehensibly and savagely. The Hamas political leadership–Messrs. Haniyeh and Meshal– have roused themselves from their luxurious abodes in Doha to discuss with Palestinian Authority President-for-Life Mahmoud Abbas the establishment of a united Palestinian leadership to govern Gaza and the West Bank. Yahya Sinwar, head of the Hamas military wing, currently presumed to be crouching in a bunker with his head between his knees, is vehemently opposed.

Like Yahya Sinwar has a bright future as a statesman to contemplate.

Compounding this optimism about their future roles, which one hopes is delusional, is the apparent support that they might glean from recent statements of President Biden. After noting that Israel faced a burden confronting few other countries, “a military enemy [with] one goal: the elimination–using terror–of the entire state of Israel,” and decrying Hamas’ lack of regard for the lives of students and civilians, he nevertheless placed the onus on Israel to minimize civilian deaths in its struggle to defeat Hamas. He also stated his expectation that the Palestinian Authority would govern in Gaza.

Since 1956, and perhaps even before, every war between Israel and its neighbors has ended prematurely because of international intervention and pressure in order to limit the extent of Israeli gains. Israel has never been permitted to emerge so victorious as to be able to properly protect itself from a recurrence of the previous wars.

Each time Israel acts to protect itself when it has been threatened or attacked, the United States or the United Nations or other elements of the international community have interceded to protect Israel’s enemies from total defeat and humiliation. The effect of this intervention is to encourage belligerence and aggression against Israel.

The Arabs know that there is an implied “stop loss” order in every act of hostile aggression. They can maintain their bona fides with the Arab street and the Imams as enemies of the Zionists and the kaffirs by attacking Israel without risking total defeat. There is a safety net. Once Israel achieves the upper hand, the CNN/BBC strategy will be deployed, the “humanitarian crisis” that they themselves created will be invoked, and Israel will stand down. Until the next time.

And who knows? Some day, God forbid, they may prevail. When you can’t lose, you keep rolling the dice.

And that is why October 7 and its aftermath are so important.

Once again, an Arab army violated a cease-fire. This time, they both achieved a horrifying level of success in penetrating Israeli defenses and demonstrated an even more horrifying level of brutality in their slaughter, rape, dismemberment, kidnapping and abuse of civilians.

The effect upon Israeli society was electrifying. Perhaps for the first time, it was presented with a visual, highly graphic, deeply disturbing understanding of what a Palestinian victory would mean and what it would look like: Genocide. Torture.  Extermination. It was not that Hamas had not been perfectly clear about its goals or that Israel had not been listening to Palestinian rhetoric. It was just that the basic humanity of Israelis had not permitted them to comprehend fully the base savagery and remorseless hate of their adversary.

Then they experienced it. In full color. Recorded by the terrorists themselves, proudly and openly. This is what a free Palestine from the river to the sea would look like: Jewish women raped and disemboweled, babies incinerated, innocents beheaded. No survivors.

The Palestinian leadership and much of the rest of the world does not appear to discern the sea change brought about by October 7. This transformation has resulted in a remarkable unity of purpose, as the nation has coalesced behind the goals of freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas, once and for all time. The entire country is volunteering goods and services. The “peace camp” is in total disarray, betrayed by the appalling and macabre reality of their erstwhile partners for peace.  The former two-state adherents now seem to recognize that the bloodthirsty mob on the other side of the contemplated border may not be expected to show restraint.

No Israeli government can survive if it permits Hamas to maintain a governance role in the future. The cost of this war in Israeli life, innocent civilians, hundreds of young soldiers, the bereaved and devastated families, dictates a solution that, at a bare minimum, makes a gesture at a new approach. If President Biden’s advisors think that the current Israeli government leans excessively to the right, let them contemplate the government that will be elected to replace the one that permits Hamas to claim even a partial victory. The present military and intelligence leadership is under a cloud as a result of failures in the initial days of this war.  Those failures must not be compounded by the way in which the war ends. Israel needs a victory.

Make no mistake. Israeli society does not comfortably or happily contemplate the nightmare that is occurring in Gaza. Our righteous anger at Hamas for the evil that they perpetrated upon us is compounded by the disgust with them for having forced us to respond in a manner that has caused so much suffering. They left us no choice and we chose the best options to minimize civilian casualties, but we never want to be in this position again. And, therefore, we can’t be forced into making the same mistakes again. The world must show restraint in recommending or mandating courses of action to a nation whose existence is at stake.

Without going into too much detail here, I have proposed the outlines of a possible, more rational way forward: a demilitarized Gaza under Egyptian supervision, with Israeli military oversight as long as it is necessary. A buffer zone and barriers designed to resist terrorist attacks. An international oversight commission in charge of education and reeducation, comprised of Palestinians motivated and incentivized to focus on progress rather than tunnels, together with Western and Arab countries at peace with Israel. The dismantling of the UN refugee scam. An economic plan starting with light industry and agriculture, building to tourism and high tech development.

Many others have proposed solutions along these, similar, and different lines. My object here is not to stipulate a program that must be implemented, or conditions that are absolutely necessary. My goal, rather, is to describe, in absolute terms, what must not be permitted to occur, what will not be palatable to an anxious, angry, and apprehensive Israeli electorate.

Cato the Elder ended every speech that he made to the Roman Senate, regardless of the subject of the speech, with the words, “Carthago delenda est” (“Carthage must be destroyed”). He believed that the simultaneous existence of Rome and Carthage were mutually exclusive, that so long as Carthage existed, Rome was in existential peril. This is probably even more true for Israel of Hamas, whose sole reason for existence is to destroy Israel and annihilate the Jew.

This war will end. This war must end. But it cannot be permitted to end as previous wars ended, without decisive victory. Current Palestinian leadership may not be permitted to dictate the terms of the peace agreement, and even their participation should be appropriately limited. Those terms must be formulated and implemented in such a way to assure that Israel’s survival will not be put at risk again.

Hamas delenda est.

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.
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