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Miriam Mendelson

Rethinking Gaza – Once Again

What it will take to end this terror is not a mystery – but are we willing to do it?

Four years ago I wrote a piece for Times of Israel titled ‘Rethinking Gaza’ (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/rethinking-gaza/). In it I argued that striking Gaza militarily (while sometimes necessary), if used as the only tactic, would in the long term only serve to strengthen the radical terrorist leaders and their narrative against Israel. Instead, we needed to strike at the narrative, by acting in ways that were completely the reverse of how we are portrayed by the Gaza leadership and by the international media.

Half of that premise is still true. By only striking militarily against Gaza, we strengthen the terrorist leaders, their grip on power and their hold over their own population. And we do not prevent future attacks on our soil.

But in light of the current horrifying turn of events events in Israel, the time to ‘rethink Gaza’ has come once again.

If all that we do is strike back against Gaza in a punitive military operation, we again will be shoring up the leadership, strengthening their narrative of righteous victimhood and solidifying their hold both on power and over the population. No strikes – no matter how harsh – will be effective in curbing their violent aspirations, since the spigot of cash and support will still flow unchecked from Iran (thank you, Biden administration!).

All we will be doing is putting a bandaid on the wound and allowing the infection to continue to fester and spread.

The solution now requires a re-consideration of what is necessary. And a willingness to do so despite the inevitable outcry from both the international media and the US administration. And what needs to be done is not a mystery.

Firstly, remove Hamas from power.

Completely.

Kill every single one of their senior leaders and oust anyone below them. Completely remove their government.

This is not about ‘bombing Gaza into rubble’ as some have called for. It is not about a ‘punitive military campaign without mercy’. It is about the end of the Hamas regime and the imposition of Israeli rule – either directly or by a proxy government that Israel ultimately wields power over.

Does this necessarily mean an annexation of Gaza? This would be the best scenario – and everyone knows that many, many Gazans would secretly welcome that. Just as we know we never should have left Gaza in the first place – with our idealistic dreams of a peaceful and prosperous neighbor on our flank long since thoroughly destroyed, along with the wealth that was left to them.

But what is more important is that the Hamas government needs to cease to exist. This necessitates a complete military occupation (yes, that word was used, and here is meant literally) of Gaza. And a forcible removal (by outright force or by assassination) of all of it’s leadership. And the installation of an Israeli approved, Israel-led or outright Israeli government.

Let the international community – and the Biden administration – cry and wail. Take some pleasure in their tears – it is a sign the right steps are being taken.

And this should not be a temporary measure, but rather the new and permanent status-quo.

Many have argued that Netanyahu is too tough, too intransigent, too hawkish. I argue that he is not tough enough. This is the time for him – and for the opposition, to unite to take the actual steps needed to solve the terror problem for the long term. Because anything short of this will not work – and everyone knows this.

There is one other step that needs to be taken to ensure that this 9/11 (actually the size of 10 9/11’s given the number of casualties relative to the size of the population) – this small holocaust – never again happens on Israel’s soil. It is a simple step, a necessary step – but one that requires leaving behind a cherished ideology that has allowed such widespread murder to occur.

Stop controlling and limiting the right of law-abiding Israeli citizens to carry guns.

What is more important – your ideology, or the lives of your fellow citizens, your families, your loved ones?

The time has come to allow Israelis to protect themselves and those around them in times of danger. This is a right that never should have been taken away or limited (again – we are speaking of law-abiding citizens) in the first place. Had there been many armed citizens, a large amount of the innocents who were killed or taken captive would have been saved.

So the two things that are necessary – that would actually prevent this horror from occurring again, are not a hidden secret, or an unknowable equation.

The first one – removing Hamas from power, will require overwhelming military force, and much strategic follow up. It will not be easy. But it needs to be done.

The second one – finally allowing citizens to arm themselves and protect those around them – will not be ideologically easy. But it also must be done.

Anything short of these two steps shows either a lack of understanding or a lack of real seriousness.

It is hoped that the current tragic times have brought the potential for real understanding and serious action.

By the way, we don’t need to debate why the attack occurred now – it’s actually not that important. Most likely, Hamas and Iran (or more likely, Iran and Hamas) fear an official rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia – the Sunni thought-leader for the entire Muslim world. Perhaps it should have been finalized before it was touted in the media (no thank you, Bibi). Because everyone knows that as Saudi Arabia goes, so goes the entire region.

But that is water under the bridge. The time for real, effective action has come.

A nation is watching.

About the Author
Dr. Miriam Mendelson has a PhD in Public Administration with combined coursework in Political Science with a research focus on counter-terrorism and counter-radicalism. Her doctoral dissertation was on extremism vs. moderation in the Arab/Islamic world. She also holds degrees in psychology and counseling, specializing in power, stress, conflict and violence. Dr. Mendelson has done field research in countries throughout the Middle-East, including in the West Bank and Arab communities in Israel. She has worked for the US Army in Iraq as a researcher on counterinsurgency and done an independent film project on the Arab Spring in Egypt. She currently resides in Tel Aviv, Israel.
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