The Gazan Zero Sum Game

I served in Gaza as an IDF soldier. I remember it well. Rafah. Khan Yunus. Gaza City. I know these cities in my bones. Gaza was, then, small, ragged, dirty: someone called it the anus of the Middle East. I don’t imagine that under the present dictatorship of Hamas– who are more interested in slaughtering Israelis than attending to the welfare of their own citizens– it is much different now.

When Israel gave Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, squads of Hamas representatives paid visits to the P.A. reps, hauled them them in pajamas from their homes and publicly executed them. They then hunted down Gay Palestinians whom they threw to their deaths off of buildings before cheering crowds.

According to the United Nation’s Office of Humanitarian Affairs, 30% of Gazans live in poverty, 26% of the Gazan workforce, including 38% of youths, is unemployed, 54% of Gazans are food insecure and over 75% are aid recipients.

Such is the socially beneficial power of Hamas. Those citizens not directly involved with the government’s obsessive campaign to destroy Israel must rely on foreign aid benefits whose funds are redirected into Hamas military coffers to subsidize terrorist needs. This is not “Zionist propaganda.” It is a fact.

In returning Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005, under Ariel Sharon’s Disengagement Plan, Israel considered normalized Israeli-Gazan relations as a first step to perhaps some day relinquishing control of those parts of the West Bank deemed non-essential to security needs.

Israelis dreamed of a European-style Benelux arrangement of mutual economic and cultural exchange with autonomous Palestinians . But incessant tunnel and airborne assaults by Hamas quashed such hopes. The constant rocket fire from Gaza on places like the southern Israeli city of Sderot forced Israeli children to learn how to run for their lives to fall-out shelters.

The current Hamas war against Israel is now sixteen years old. Augmented by internal Palestinian revolt, it represents an unanticipated and escalated level of threat against the security and welfare of Israel that requires fresh thought from a new order of Israeli political and military leadership. Party shuffle board played aboard a sinking ship between Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennet are potentially lethal distractions.

If I know anything about the IDF it is that the most feasible stratagem for the retaking of Gaza are at least being studied as we speak. What are the principle concerns?

Probably, the greatest worry is that an Israeli attempt to retake the Strip may spark waves of rocket fire from Hezbollah in the North. The terrorist militia allegedly possesses an estimated 20,000 missiles aimed at Israel. But if the years have shown anything about Hezbollah, it is that despite bellicose threats from Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s chief interest lies in retaining power. It is doubtful that Hezbollah will risk a full-scale confrontation with Israel—and its own possible destruction– over Hamas control of the Gaza strip.

Likewise, Iran, which in all likelihood lies behind the current crisis. Though, they provide funding, munitions, and training to both Hamas in Gaza and to Palestinian operatives within Israel, the risk of full-scale war with Israel, whose powerful air force lies within reach of Tehran, is probably an unwelcome prospect. Iran may unleash a wave or two of rocket fire at Tel Aviv to save face, but the likelihood that the world’s largest Islamic terrorist state will risk all-out war with Israel to defend impoverished and politically ineffectual Gaza is slim to none.

Now, not later, is when Israel must strike. An America lead by a Biden administration focused on Covid recovery will not intervene. China will remain silent. Russia will rattle its Cossack sword. Germany will lead the usual European Union protests. The UN will pass yet another ineffectual resolution. The way thus now lies open, politically and militarily, for Israel to conclusively eliminate the problem of Hamas in the South.

The fighting to dislodge Hamas will be fierce. It may be costly. Holding Gaza will not be easy.

But in all probability, once they realize that the change is real, Gazans will come to view the ouster of Hamas with relief. And Israel’s rioting Palestinians, grasping the zero sum game of protracted violence, will cease to destroy their own eventual prospects for lives of normalcy and prosperity.

About the Author
Alan Kaufman is an American-Israeli novelist and memoirist. His latest novel, The Berlin Woman, has just been published by Mandel Vilar Press. His other books include the novels Matches (Little Brown) the memoirs Jew Boy (Cornell University Press) and Drunken Angel (Viva Editions).
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