Dan Ehrlich

Victory Over Hamas Doesn’t Mean Its Disappearance

Hamas is seeking to re-set its position as the power in Gaza. You can bet any future peace deal this terrorist group approves will be one which includes its presence in the strip.

From both the Israeli and Hamas perspectives, this is the one issue that keeps this war alive.

Now after eight months of devastating conflict which has claimed the lives of more than 600 Israel Defense Force troops and several thousand civilians, three facts remain: The war’s roots were cultivated when Israel abandoned the Gaza Strip to the Arabs in 2005, when Israel allowed Hamas to take-over the strip in 2006 and the Benjamin Netanyahu Government’s arrogant and naive dealings with Hamas that led to the October 7th massacre and the ongoing war where more than 100 hostages taken by Hamas may still be alive.

The only certainty in light of these events is the propping up of Netanyahu’s government by a coalition of Arab hating Jewish extremists.

This was exhibited by Netanyahu dissolving the six-member war cabinet, after the departure from government of the centrist Benny Gantz. This allows Bibi to act alone, possibly conferring with close ultra right wing politicians.

I’m not writing this because I have a deep feeling for the poor Palestinians. Polls show a majority of Gazans approved of the October 7th massacre. But I do have a deep feeling at the way this war is being waged which may ruin for generations Israel’s reputation as a miracle of innovation, humanity and democracy in the Middle East.

Even though Israel’s frequent deadly bombing runs and artillery shelling in Gaza don’t compare to the massive carpet bombing air war waged against Germany in WW2 or the horrific napalm runs conducted by the US in Vietnam, it’s what’s happening now at a time when everyone can see the results immediately after they occur.

So who benefits from destroying much of Gaza without totally destroying Hamas, whose leadership shelters safely out of the war zone? Not the Gazans and not the Israelis. The main beneficiaries of keeping the war going are Hamas, whose members see martyrdom as a blessed event and great publicity and PM Netanyahu, who needs a big win to cement his hold on power.

The reality seems to be that the IDF has marched from the north to south of the Gaza Strip and back again, killing Hamas members and many more civilians. By Netanyahu’s own calculation, more civilians than terrorists.

And the Prime Minister says the war will be over when Hamas is smashed and it can no longer rule the strip. I may be overly optimistic but I would say those conditions have now been met.

In WW2 when the Allies faced regular armed forces of the Axis powers, a victory came when the Axis (Germany) forces were defeated on its home turf and they surrendered. This didn’t mean all Axis forces were defeated. The Germans were still fighting the Allies in Italy when the Nazi’s in Berlin surrendered.

Netanyahu has been claiming Rafah is the Hamas last stand. This was soon proven wrong by Hamas attacks in the north again. But unlike WW2 combat, the IDF isn’t facing a regular army in mass formations, but terrorist guerrillas who hide in tunnels and among civilians.

Trying to find all of them is even more difficult than trying to find the remaining hostages.

How about this for a coda to the Hamas War: Israel declares victory, offers a cash reward for residents giving hostage locations and a bounty to anyone who turns-in a Hamas member. Also, cash incentives for Hamas members to surrender.

After a victory proclamation, the hunt for remaining hostages and Hamas members would continue, but at a lower level as a police action.

Contrary to the main Hamas demand that the IDF leave the strip, Israel must occupy Gaza until it can recruit non Hamas and moderate leadership for the enclave. Israel leaving, as it did in 2005, would be an invitation for Hamas to again take over the enclave.

Together, Israel and the new leadership must rebuild from the ruins. Israel and the new Palestinian leadership must develop a spirit of detente towards each other. Hamas will only will be eradicated when its philosophy and belief are drowned out of the Palestinian mindset.

The future of the Gaza Strip should be partly in the hands of the Gazans. Do they want to remain an indy mini state or join with the West Bank? What began as a quest for a two state solution could wind up as a three state arrangement.

About the Author
A London based American journalist with a long wide ranging career spanning print, radio TV and online news.
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