Joel R. Schwartzman

The Case against a Ceasefire

  1.  A Cease Fire Would Involve a Return of the Hostages

Believing that Hamas would be willing to return all of the hostages as well as the bodies of dead Israelis they hold is to put credence in this terrorist entity that past experience has proven unreliable at best.  Hamas twists the consciences and plays on the heart strings of Israelis by dangling the lives of the hostages as bait.  Their intent, however, is proven by their demands that hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, some of whom have murdered and maimed Israelis be exchanges for the Israeli hostages they hold.  Such disproportionate prisoner exchanges have resulted in more Israeli casualties as some of the convicted, formerly released Palestinians have returned to commit more terrorist acts. That Israel demands a veto over which Palestinian prisoners they would release is practical because the most egregious perpetrators could only be expected to return to their murderous ways.

2.  There Is a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

The humanitarian crisis, as reported in the media and various NGOs involved in bringing aid to the Palestinians huddled in Rafah is, in part, caused by Hamas itself as well as armed gangs who together abscond with the food aid and other supplies that do get through.  Egyptian truck drivers who are attempting to deliver the aid have reportedly been severely beaten and even murdered by Hamas.  This makes it difficult if not impossible to find  drivers who are willing to risk their lives to deliver their loads.  Then, too, no one knows to what extent the myriad displaced Palestinians cooperated and supported Hamas as it built the miles and miles of tunnels, siphoning off millions that might have created schools, hospitals, housing and infrastructure that could well have turned Gaza into a Mediterranean destination rather than a camp armed to the teeth the intent of which was to destroy Israel.  Complicity in that effort affords no sympathy or obligation on Israel’s part now that the war has come to Gaza and ensnared both Hamas supporters and Hamas victims in its grasp.

3.  The Mission Is to Provide Israelis with Secure Borders

Israel will never achieve a level of security for its citizenry if Hamas remains to rule Gaza and Hezbollah threatens devastation in proportions greater than occurred on 7 October.   Demonizing  PM Netanyahu, who certainly deserves a huge amount of criticism, does not reestablish Israel’s deterrent posture either on the home front or throughout the Middle East.  Israel simply cannot abide the threats that materialized on October 7th, constantly having to maintain a high alert status which weigh heavily on manpower and other resources. Israelis need to be able to conduct their daily affairs without having to worry about where the nearest bomb shelter might be or when Iranian proxies may attack from any of seven different directions: Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the West Bank or Iran itself.

4.  The Need to Allow Israelis to Return to Their Homes in the North

To emphasize the sense of exhaustion felt by displaced Israelis from the North of the country with the legitimate desire to return to their homes that are currently under threat of an all-out war with Hezbollah does little to assure that war would not break out anyway, thereby endangering thousands upon thousand of Israeli lives. It is not non-nonsensical to refer to the horrific events of October 7th as repeatable in a vastly magnified way by Israel’s enemy to the North.  Hezbollah has got to be dealt with and, at the very least, have its forces moved north of the Litany River in accordance with U. N. resolution, 1701.

5.  Necessary Defensive Changes in the IDF

Clearly the lessons of October 7th have not been lost on the IDF, and steps have been taken to insure that there will be sufficient human-power and weaponry stationed within the Gaza Envelope, and that other defensive measures involving command-and-control must be taken. That Israel has already taken action to create a spacial barrier that separates Gaza from Israeli soil is one practical solution, but certainly not enough to keep any potential threat at bay. The IDF will certainly institute more measures to counteract any future incursions from Gaza.

6.  Peace through Strength

A peace which is based solely on good will has never been effective or long term in the Middle East.  Israel has always maintained it relationships with its Arab neighbor by virtue of its military might and its willingness to use it.  One of the deciding factors form the Sunni Arab nations which joined the Abraham Accords is that these countries saw Israel as the reliable power best suited to contain and offset threats from Iran.  Countries like the UAE, Bahrain and even Morocco witnessed the constancy and efficacy of Israel’s efforts to stave off Iranian arms shipments in support of their proxies that nearly surround Israel. Israel’s successes in this asymmetrical engagement convinced these Arab states to put trust in the power that Israel has projected. “Peace through strength” is the mantra of the region.  Were Israel to rely simply upon promises, it likely would not survive long into the future.

7.  Israel Needs a Palestinian Partner for Peace

In light of what happened on October 7th, the claim that Israel must accede to the establishment of a Palestinian state on its borders seems paradoxical at best.  Until or unless there is a significant change in the attitude of the Palestinian people and their officials toward the right of the people of Israel to have their own country, secure within its borders, until there is a unified Palestinian system of governance able and willing to negotiate directly with Israeli officials, and until that Palestinian entity can demonstrate a viability capable of withstanding a takeover by violent Islamist elements like ISIS, Al Qaeda or the Iranians themselves, a hope for a peace partner in anything like the near term from among the Palestinians is but a chimera.  If anything, both sides seem more entrenched than ever due to each side’s perceived injustices taking place at this time. In addition, calling for a Palestinian state ironically might place yet another existential threat to the Israeli state.

About the Author
After twenty-three years of military service, Rabbi Schwartzman retired at the rank of Colonel in September 1998. From July 1999 to July 2000, Rabbi Schwartzman was Associate Rabbi of Temple Sinai in Denver, Colorado. For a decade thereafter he served as the Rabbi of both Congregation B’nai Chaim in Morrison, Colorado, and the Synagogue of the Summit in Summit County, Colorado.
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