Extending the Ceasefire Helps Hamas, but Hurts Israelis and Palestinians

Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend the ceasefire until Thursday, with ten hostages to be released today and another ten tomorrow. But the longer the ceasefire lasts, the more international pressure there will be on Jerusalem not to resume the fighting, and the more Hamas will have done to resupply its forces and to position them to defend more effectively against the IDF’s attacks. Seth Cropsey and Austen Maggin explain the dangers of a longer-term pause in hostilities:

The stated objective of stalling ongoing operations is to allow for time to convince Hamas to release [more] hostages and to deliver emergency resources to Gazan civilians. The implication is that these objectives are worth prolonging the conflict and allowing Hamas to regroup, which in reality will only increase both Israeli and Gazan casualties.

Whether these objectives are worth the implied costs is immaterial: the objectives themselves are chimerical. At best, Hamas will release only a portion of its hostages, its best source of leverage. . . . There is [likewise] no reason to believe that what proved impossible in peace can now be done in war—a guarantee that emergency aid reaches Gazan civilians. That Hamas sits on a massive store of resources stolen from the billions of dollars of international aid seems to be of little consequence, as does the fact that prolonging the conflict only increases the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s population and delays reconstruction of local society and infrastructure.

But the longer the war in Gaza continues, the more likely that war will spread due to miscalculations and increased pressure on Iran or its proxies to back up their ideological commitments with force. Thus, the only beneficiary from a pause is Hamas.

Thus, Cropsey and Maggin go on to argue, a longer-lasting ceasefire, like so many measures endorsed by the so-called pro-Palestinian camp, will only aggravate the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Read more at Messenger

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Iran, Israeli Security

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security