Part II to How and Why the Left must end the Gaza War
Given the inevitability of this Hamas-Israel war, what should liberal democrats be advocating as the desired outcome? The following is a short list of war aims I propose liberal democrats adopt to enable the best possible outcome for the people of Israel and Gaza:
- Call for Hamas’ unconditional surrender to the ICC.
- Establish a Gazan Trusteeship to establish a new class of public leaders.
- Build an international network of approved suppliers who ensure Gazans receive the supplies they need without munitions and dual use items that would build terrorist arsenals and inevitably lead to another war.
More details on these aims below.
(1) Hamas’ unconditional surrender. The quickest way to a ceasefire is for Hamas to unconditionally surrender. Calling for Hamas to surrender is also the point of most leverage for the international community, given Hamas’ publicly expressed strategy: hit Israel hard and then wait for the world to hold it back. To counter this Hamas strategy, the hotter the war gets, the louder liberal democrats need to call for Hamas’ unconditional surrender.
Practically, surrender should be to the international community and not Israel. To maintain international legitimacy, Hamas should surrender to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, building on the process carried out in the case of the former Yugoslavia and Kosovo in recent memory, as well as myriad other cases still being prosecuted.
As in the case of the former Yugoslavia, Hamas prisoners can be distributed throughout the EU and participating countries who will commit to justice being done. Let’s remember that many European countries lost dozens of their own citizens in the strike, and are no less motivated to end the threat of Hamas to their people. Israel will be given full authority by this same community of nations to seek out stragglers and bring them to justice.
Many Israelis will reject such a process, saying Hamas should be brought to justice in Israel given the magnitude of their crimes. Some will demand prisoners be held in Israel in harsh conditions. Neither would be aligned with Israel’s strategic aim to immediately distance Hamas from Gaza. Neither will maintain international commitment to being part of the solution.
While I understand the wisdom of seeking an Eichmann-like trial in Israel to feel that justice is done, it is in the best interest of Israel in the long-run to maintain an international alliance committed to the eradication of Hamas as a criminal terrorist organization. Only with global support can Israel break the grips on the hearts and minds of Gazans and internationals alike.
(2) Establishing a Gazan Trusteeship. In the aftermath of the massacres and the deep fear it has inspired, Israel’s public is not yet ready to commit to a political process. Yet as former intelligence directors of the Mossad and Shabak and Retired General and former CIA director David Petraeus note, we cannot allow for Gaza to be left in rubble, neither for moral nor practical political reasons. The only way Hamas will be destroyed as an idea is if there is an alternative that enables Gazans to empower their communal leaders to ostracize Hamas, as other Arab States have done in the region.
Israel cannot re-occupy Gaza and maintain international support. Israel cannot leave Gaza after destroying Hamas’ infrastructure and imagine the outcome will be any different than that of Cast Lead. Instead, Israel needs to work with the international community to establish a multinational force – as was in the former Yugoslavia – to establish a new civil service in Gaza to rebuild the civilian infrastructure for its citizens.
As the debacle of de-baathification of Iraq has taught us, we will not be able to completely de-Hamas Gaza. Instead, we need to learn from the de-Nazification of Germany: the opportunist bureaucrats should be kept in place, with a strong set of incentives for them to keep from supporting terror. Bountiful carrots and the rapid deployment of sticks. To enable this to happen, Israel needs to enable the Trustee to rehabilitate Gaza as a demilitarized, development oriented project. This will require security assurances from the parties in the trusteeship, and freedom of action for Israel’s intelligence agencies in Gaza for the near future.
(3) Build an international network of approved suppliers. Hamas has spent each interwar period building back its military infrastructure better. Much of this is because the international community of donors trusted Hamas to do the right thing with the aid and supplies it received. Instead, water pipes were turned into rockets, concrete into underground attack tunnels.
It is not enough for the international community to provide aid. It needs now to publicly establish and vet those entities that will receive and make available that aid on the ground. If and whenever possible, this means multinational corporations should be given the task. Gaza’s population is relatively small: a rebuilding of the Strip is a relatively manageable logistical effort. A number of global construction firms could rebuild the physical infrastructure, as they do after natural disasters. A number of international corporations – Amazon, Walmart – serve far more customers on a daily basis. Many corporations track and audit more product codes than would be necessary to ensure every Gazan’s standard of living is doubled under the new civil service as compared to where it was under Hamas.
While this last war aim may seem trite, it is the only way for us to prevent an Empire Strikes Back scenario. While we seek to better the lives of all innocents in the region, the Axis of Resistance will not rest until its own aims are met: the cleansing of a Jewish State from Dar al-Islam.
Conclusion: War is hell. No plan survives contact with the enemy because war pits two more actors against one another, each dedicated to achieving their own objectives in a dynamic environment. The only way to navigate a dynamic environment is to have a clear vision for the outcome one wants to achieve. We who care about the lives of innocents and who hold liberal democratic values sacred need a clear vision if we are to contribute to the strategic conversation around this war between Israel and Hamas.
Finally, it is important for me to state: have no doubt that this war is an existential war. Those who claim it is not – because Hamas itself cannot overrun Israel and cleanse it of Jews – are myopic. Hamas is proudly part of the ‘resistance axis’ led and financed by Iran whose ultimate strategic goal is the eradication of Israel and finalizing theocratic Islam’s conquest of the region as a whole. Hamas is saying so openly. Progressives and liberal democrats who do not understand that should be ignored at best and actively opposed at worst.
This is the reason a ceasefire that enables Hamas to recover is unconscionable. A State derives its existential justification from its ability to protect its citizens’ life and liberty. Israel can no longer live under the illusion that Hamas wants to live and let live, or that its messianic ambitions for cleansing the Land of Jews will be put off to the End Times. The war is therefore inevitable, which is why we need to take a stand, and call for the outcomes we believe are right to seek.