Israelis are no strangers to carnage. Having grown up in Israel during the Second Intifada — a massive terrorist campaign — I heard of a new terrorist attack on the news every few weeks, and often went to bed praying my family won’t be blown up the next day while riding the bus (a favorite target of suicide bombers).
One of my friends went into a restaurant with his extended family one weekend — he had no idea a suicide bomber would claim most of his loved ones’ lives and leave him blind.
But even for a nation accustomed to the horrors of war, Hamas’s recent massacre of innocent Israelis was a terror operation on a scale the Jewish state had never seen before. Hamas butchered 1,400 Israelis — relative to the population, that would be equal to more than 4 million American lives being wiped out.
At the time of this writing, Israel is amassing 360,000 troops to invade Gaza, constituting the largest mobilization in 50 years. But even overwhelming military force can’t achieve anything concrete unless it’s harnessed toward an effective grand strategy.
What’s clear is that Israel can’t afford to continue with its strategy of “mowing the grass” in which it retaliates to Hamas’s attacks without completely destroying the terrorist organization. This isn’t an 18th-century-style European war where opposing empires can come together at the end of a war, shake hands, trade some overseas colonies, and then part more or less amicably.
Hamas doesn’t want peace, it wants dead Jews, as it proudly declares in its founding document. For decades, it has taken hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid and used these funds not to improve the lives of Gaza’s residents, but to purchase rockets and other weapons for its never-ending quest of murdering more Jews.
It’s impossible to make peace with such an enemy — how can you negotiate with someone whose main peace condition is your total destruction?
Israel, as others have pointed out, has no perfect options in this conflict. Israelis understandably don’t want to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and regain control of more than 2 million Gazans who hate their guts. They also can’t afford to ignore Hamas’s atrocity — doing so would entail leaving innocent hostages to Hamas’s mercy, ignoring the death of so many Israelis whose deaths cry out for justice, and emboldening the murderers in Hamas and in other terrorist groups like Hezbollah to carry out more attacks in the future.
The only alternative for the Jewish state is to launch a massive invasion of Gaza, and, while doing everything in its power to limit civilian casualties, destroy Hamas’s leadership and military force and dismantle the terrorist group’s ability to ever launch another serious attack on Israeli soil.
The American writer Robert Heinlein wrote, “The noblest fate that a man can endure is to place his own mortal body between his loved home and the war’s desolation.” Hamas turns the proposition on its head, using their home as a shield to guard their own bodies against the war’s desolation. They won’t fight out in the open because they know the Israeli Defense Forces would annihilate them. So, as usual, they use the bodies of their wives and children as meat shields, which explains why the terrorist group ordered Gazans to remain in the path of the coming Israeli offensive.
Some have pointed out the flaws in this option. Sure, Israel might severely weaken Hamas, maybe even destroy it completely, but we can’t know if an even worse terrorist group will arise out of Hamas’s ashes.
While this is a valid concern, Israel has no other option. As we saw, the Jewish state can’t reoccupy Gaza and it can’t allow Hamas’s crimes to go unpunished. The only viable choice is to keep chopping off the Hydra’s heads. Israel must destroy Hamas, withdraw, and if another terrorist group comes to control the area, go back in and destroy it as well. As General William Tecumseh Sherman said: “We can make war so terrible … [and] make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”
If Hamas really cared for its people, it would have laid down the sword long ago and invested in its people’s future. It could have had an excellent economic and diplomatic partner in Israel. Instead, it chose a path of murdering innocents and bringing the horrors of war to their own backyard. It’s sad, but it’s reality.
To paraphrase the ancient Roman statesman, Cato the Elder, the path is clear on what must be done: “Hamas must be destroyed.”
Elad Vaida is a writer living in Virginia. He was previously the speechwriter for Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana). His writing has appeared in American Greatness, The Federalist, The American Conservative, The Washington Examiner, and other publications.
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