The Israeli army’s ground offensive in Gaza is brutal and risky, but necessary. Or as James F. Jeffrey, chairman of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, says: “Of all the bad options, it is the best.”
There are three reasons why we should respond to Hamas’ war with war and not with a peace initiative or a ceasefire.
1. The terrorist groups of this world do not understand any other language.
In the brutalized world of terrorism, every retreat is misunderstood as an encouragement to strike again. In a situation in which deterrence – including that of a nuclear power like Israel – has clearly failed, diplomacy has no chance for the time being.
Now the plan is to respond to violence with violence. The response to this attack is not about revenge, but about destroying the destroyer. Dismantling Hamas’ leadership structure and eliminating its first-strike capacity are legitimate goals that cannot currently be achieved through political means. Or to put it with Dick Cheney, once vice president in the George W. Bush administration:
“The battle must be taken to the enemy.”
The instrument of “diplomacy with bombs” – that is, a symbolic military action that blows open the door to negotiations – is not realistic in the case of Hamas. Even a ceasefire or even a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will not bring Israel any closer to its war goal of disarming Hamas.
Both demands – raised primarily by Arab states – represent a veiled call for Israel to surrender. Or to put it another way: Israel’s right to exist would remain a diplomatic cliché if it were not secured militarily and defended when necessary. That need is now. Again James F. Jeffrey in Foreign Affairs:
“In a world of war, the goal is not to manage the threat, but to eliminate it.”
Jeffrey has worked in the U.S. Department of State for seven U.S. administrations, was ambassador to Turkey and Iraq, and most recently served as “Special Representative for the Global Coalition to Dismantle ISIS.”
2. The state sponsors of violence also see every retreat as encouragement.
Israel is surrounded by enemy states that are just waiting to turn Israel’s weakness into a victory. The Islamic Republic of Iran and other state sponsors of terror are watching closely the Israeli response and the behavior of the United States. Iran’s head of state Ali Khamenei emphasized on October 10 in his first statement on the Hamas attack:
“We kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime.”
The aim now is to prevent Israel’s enemies from opening a second sector of the front on the Lebanese border and a possible third section of the front in the West Bank. Therefore, both military action in the Gaza Strip and the presence of the US Army off the coast of Israel are an important signal.
“I just have a message to those who think they want to capitalize on this situation,” said Joe Biden, addressing Iran: “Don’t. Don’t.”
The Economist was impressed by this clarity and commitment to Israel:
“No other nation can do this. The two aircraft carriers are a 200,000 ton ‘Declaration of American Power’ at a time when the world believes American power is in decline.”
3. The history of terrorism shows that victories are possible.
An Israeli military victory in Gaza is not guaranteed, but it is likely. This is supported not only by the superiority of the Israeli army, but also by the history of comparable punitive expeditions.
The liberation of Kuwait, which then Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein occupied for 167 days in 1990, was one of the most successful military operations of the 20th century, carried out within 100 hours under the command of US General Norman Schwarzkopf.
The structures of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria as well as Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan were also successfully decimated by US military operations in such a way that they were at least deprived of the ability to attack the US. In the case of Al Qaeda, its strategic leader, Osama bin Laden, was shot in the head on May 2, 2011, on the orders of President Obama.
The result: 9/11 remained the only major terrorist attack that this group was capable of. Obama also owed his re-election to this cold-bloodedness.
The risk of Israel’s offensive
However, the risk of the Israeli ground offensive cannot be ignored. The poor Palestinian people – who had to give way to the United Nations decision to establish the State of Israel in 1947 – move the hearts of millions. The suffering of the Palestinians is older than the terrorist group Hamas, which was only founded in the late 1980s.
The Israeli ground offensive is not accompanied by the goodwill, but by the mistrust of the world public. During his visit to Tel Aviv, Joe Biden warned against repeating the mistakes of the US government after 9/11, when they were hurt and angry and first invaded Afghanistan and then mistakenly invaded Iraq. Biden:
“You feel the anger now. But don’t let him guide you.”
This is the risky part of the ground offensive. That Israel is overreaching. That anger rules the roost. That hurt turns into self-indulgence and justice turns into injustice.
The possibility that a much more powerful Hamas 2.0 could rise from the graves of today’s Hamas cannot be completely ruled out. Peace in the Middle East would go from longing to becoming impossible. The Middle East would be on fire.
The moral dilemma is obvious
Conclusion: The moral dilemma of these best of all bad options is obvious. Anyone who rejects the ground offensive has no sense. Anyone who denies compassion to the people of Palestine has no heart.