Israel’s Moral and Strategic Hostage Dilemma

 Yesterday, the IDF rescued one of the over 200 hostages currently held by Hamas. This small success suggests that invading Gaza, rather than negotiating, may be the most effective way to free the others. Yet the presence of the hostages, who might be murdered by their captors or inadvertently killed by the Israeli assault, still presents a painful conundrum for the Jewish state. Shlomo Brody considers the moral dimensions:

Even if Hamas slowly releases some captives, they will be sure to get something in return, and they are unlikely to make concessions to Israel. . . . Israel has encouraged this hostage-taking by offering [highly] beneficial deals to its adversaries in the past. This must stop, even amid the challenge of facing tearful families.

Urban warfare within Gaza will endanger the captives, in part because Israel will not know if its attacks will land on hidden captivity spots. Some suspect that Hamas will use the captives as human shields. After all, they’ve done it with Palestinians, so we have no reason to believe that they wouldn’t do the same with Israelis, including children.

Yet [the IDF] cannot allow its military response to be defeated by Hamas’s hostage-taking. The security of all Israelis—those held captive and those back home in Israel—depends on allowing the IDF to achieve a decisive victory.

Read more at City Journal

More about: Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, Laws of war, Military ethics

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy