John L. Rosove

What Would ‘Winning’ the Israel-Hamas War Look Like

A veteran Israeli journalist wrote to me – and I assume to many other leaders in the American Jewish community – earlier this week requesting my thoughts about what “winning” the Israel-Hamas War might look like. This is my response:


Thank you for asking.

First, it’s important to emphasize that I’m not an Israeli citizen. My kids don’t serve in the Israeli military. I don’t pay Israeli taxes though I contribute financially to multiple Israeli causes that promote democracy, justice, religious pluralism and peace in the Jewish state. Only Israeli citizens have the responsibility to determine the nature of Israel’s policies in war and peace and on matters of security as they are the ones who must live directly with the consequences of the decisions they take. Yet, I have thoughts that I have every right to share with Israelis and Israel’s leadership about Israeli policies that I believe compromise Israel’s own liberal and enlightened principles as articulated in its Declaration of Independence. Not only that. I also have that right because what Israel does affects directly the security, standing and identity of Diaspora Jewry as is now so very clear post-October 7. The dramatic rise in the United States and around the world of antisemitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Israel sentiment challenges our Jewish security and identity.

In answering your question I’m hard-pressed to imagine a “win” in this war. Too many Israelis are dead, injured and traumatized. Too many thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians have died and been injured, and southern Israeli communities and the Gaza Strip lay in ruins. Gazans are facing widespread famine and disease. Israeli society, despite the unity of the people in the initial few months of this war is still deeply polarized between right-wing super-nationalist settlers, extremist ultra-Orthodox Jews and their sympathizers as opposed to the majority of Israeli citizens who are politically, religiously and culturally centrist, center-left and center-right.

For the Jewish people to claim any kind of a “win” in the context of this awful war after October 7, however, I would hope that the following would materialize, sooner rather than later. I am well aware of the obstacles within Israeli public opinion based on a new survey published by the Israel Democracy Institute on Tuesday, February 20 as reported by Haaretz this week.

Here is what I believe, taken all together, would constitute a “win” for Israel in this war:

-The return of all Israeli and international hostages to their families and communities as soon as possible;

-The defanging of Hamas as a military threat to Israel and as a brutal autocratic extremist Islamic governing authority over Gaza that subjugates its own people and has brought about the destruction of Gaza and the death and injury of tens of thousands of its own citizens;

-A ceasefire agreement based on the above;

-Massive humanitarian aid flowing into Gaza to stave off famine and disease;

-The holding of new Israeli elections ASAP resulting in the formation of a moderate and centrist ruling coalition government that includes at least one Arab Party – without Benjamin Netanyahu anywhere near the Prime Minister’s office and without super-nationalist, settler, racist right-wing and ultra-Orthodox political parties as part of the ruling government coalition;

-The holding of new elections of a refashioned Palestinian Authority ASAP and the formation of a moderate, non-violent and compromising government coalition – without the inclusion of Hamas or any militant political party that rejects the right of the Jewish people to a state in the Land of Israel-Palestine;

-Israel’s public endorsement of a pathway to the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in East Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinians to the State of Palestine and not Israel;

-The restoration of Israel’s international image as a nation that values democracy, religious pluralism, justice, human rights and peace with the Palestinian people and all of Israel’s neighbors;

-The Arab League’s acceptance of the State of Israel and the establishment of full diplomatic, economic and cultural relations between all western-aligned Arab nations and the Jewish state;

-An international commitment to assist the Palestinian Authority (and not Hamas or Islamic Jihad or any violent rejectionist Palestinian terror organization) in rebuilding Gaza, and an international commitment to assist in rebuilding southern Israeli communities devastated by Hamas’ terrorist attack on October 7;

-A dramatic decrease in antisemitism abroad especially in the United States and on college and university campuses that has spiked dramatically since October 7;

-An impetus for young liberal American Jews to learn Zionist thought, Israeli history, culture and politics and spend time living in the Jewish state thereby affirming their emotional and moral ties with Israelis and Israel.

If Israelis and Palestinians, with the support of the United States, Arab League, UK, EU, and UN could embrace all the above, it would constitute a “win” for Israel, for the Palestinian people and for the Western world.

About the Author
John L. Rosove is Senior Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles. He is a national co-Chair of the Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet of J Street and a past National Chairman of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA). He serves as a member of the Advisory Council of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. John was the 2002 Recipient of the World Union for Progressive Judaism International Humanitarian Award and has received special commendation from the State of Israel Bonds. In 2013 he was honored by J Street at its Fifth Anniversary Celebration in Los Angeles. John is the author of 3 books - "From the West to the East - A Memoir of a Liberal American Rabbi" (2024), "Why Israel Matters - Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to the Next Generation with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove" (Revised edition 2023), and “Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to his Children and the Millennial Generation with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove” (2017). All are available at John translated and edited the Hebrew biography of his Great Granduncle – "Avraham Shapira – Veteran of the Haganah and Hebrew Guard" by Getzel Kressel (publ. by the Municipality of Petach Tikvah, 1955). The translation was privately published (2021). John is married to Barbara. They are the parents of two sons - Daniel (married to Marina) and David. He has two grandchildren and he lives in Los Angeles.
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