Israel needs to destroy Hamas and then ensure that there is no possibility that a powerful terrorist entity like Hamas would be re-created again. Israeli politicians noted this as early as October 8, the day after Hamas committed its massacre, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised, “The Israel Defense Forces will act immediately to destroy Hamas’s capabilities. We will cripple them mercilessly”. US President Joe Biden understood and responded, “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop. There’s never justification for terrorist attacks and my administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering”.
The need to destroy Hamas has not abated since then. On the contrary, it has become even clearer. It has become clearer through Hamas’ threat to repeat the massacre again and again. It has also become clearer through the increased support given to Hamas by the Palestinians after the massacre and through their support for the massacre.
Two months and one week after October 7, Netanyahu vowed again “absolute victory” over Hamas. Again, there has been no contradiction on that point from the US administration, but at the same time, the US administration has been increasingly promoting a two-state solution and talking about having the Palestinian Authority run Gaza after Hamas is eliminated. The US is right that a long-term solution is needed, but it is wrong in the way that it is trying to achieve it.
President Joe Biden said recently, “You cannot say there’s no Palestinian state at all in the future [referring to a statement to that effect by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu]. You have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of a two-state solution.”
But a two-state solution is nowhere close to realistic at this time, and the PA is utterly incapable of maintaining peace and security in Gaza (which it lost to Hamas after Israel left in 2005). US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan seemed to recognize this when he said that, “the government body [the PA] would need to undergo significant changes to be fit to do so [run Gaza]”. But this is putting it much too mildly.
Revamping the PA so that it is a credible government that can be trusted is a tall order, especially since Palestinian opinion prefers violence over compromise, which will ensure that any government that represents them will have violence as its main policy, either openly like Hamas or less openly like Fatah. The Times of Israel reported on a poll of Palestinian opinion that found a “rise in support for the Hamas terror group — with backing appearing to have ticked up even in the devastated Gaza Strip […] as well as more than 70% support for Hamas’s October 7 massacre”.
This may seem counter-intuitive for two reasons: Hamas’ actions have resulted in the Palestinians of Gaza paying a heavy price, and they’re still not done paying. The October 7 massacre was horrific and completely contrary to any moral values.
The poll results make more sense, however, if we consider that the Palestinians have been told for generations, by their leaders and their allies, that the very presence of Israel is illegitimate and that no Jews have the right to be on the land of Israel. Clearly, three quarters of Palestinians see every Jewish Israeli, including children, as a mortal enemy.
Without this mindset, the popularity, and the growth of a brutal terrorist group like Hamas would not be possible. What we are seeing is the result of decades of lies and hatred promoted through a false narrative of history by Israel’s enemies in the Middle East and in the rest of the world.
Seventy-five years of seeing Israel strengthen and thrive while the Palestinians are stateless and dependent on the world’s charity should normally have convinced the Palestinians that having a peaceful state next to Israel makes sense, but it hasn’t.
If the U.S. wants a two-state solution, it needs to openly, publicly, and repeatedly state why such a solution has not happened yet, why it was rejected by the whole Arab world in 1947 and then again and again by the Palestinians after that. The reason is probably well known to the US administration because I have no doubt that Israeli politicians remind them of it often enough.
The reason is the false narrative that has taken hold over decades of misinformation within Palestinian society and among their allies. This false narrative, heavily steeped in antisemitism, claims that Jews are European invaders with no legitimate right to self-determination on the land where they have lived for three millennia.
There cannot be any two-state solution or any other form of stable peace until this false narrative is discredited. The US administration should be addressing this if it is serious about any form of long-term peace, but doing so is politically and diplomatically difficult because the false narrative is caked into the psyche of pro-Palestinian activists and therefore many likely Democratic voters, and it is equally incrusted into the minds of Arab leaders that the US needs to continuously appease.
A US official confirmed their motivation when they said, “We have our own domestic politics and our global diplomatic standing to take into account. We’re doing a lot for Israel, and they need to understand this [promoting the two-state solution] is something we need to do.”
But by speaking naively about a two-state solution without addressing the reason why it cannot be achieved at this time, the US is only kicking the can down the road. It ensures that even after Israel destroys Hamas, the problem will come back in some other form in the future.
If there is to be any hope that the problem will get better, the US must denounce the false narrative every time it speaks with the PA or with Arab governments. US officials must do so at the United Nations and when they speak with the media about the conflict. They must do so loudly and often.
The US administration, if it is serious about peace between Israel and the Palestinians, must put aside the language of electioneering, and it must speak the truth bluntly. It is only by correcting the false narrative that it can hope to achieve any lasting peace.