How Israel Can Beat Hamas and Deter Iran

While Jerusalem struggles to find a way to go after Iran without angering its American ally, it still must reckon with Gaza. Elliott Abrams explains how the two goals are related, and where Washington ought to stand:

One part of Israel’s response [to the attack last weekend] must be to stay the course in the Gaza Strip, despite tremendous pressure from the United States and others to retreat into what would amount to a strategic surrender. In practice, that means proceeding with plans for the Israel Defense Forces to enter the southern Gaza city of Rafah, eliminate the Hamas brigades and leaders based there, and deepen planning for a “day after” in Gaza and a long-term resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians that is predicated on reality rather than on American fantasies about a “two-state solution” that represents no solution at all.

Israel gained Arab partners in the region through demonstrations of strength, not acts of restraint. It has watched Iran work with proxies to build what Israeli officials call “a ring of fire” around Israel: the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza, Hizballah in Lebanon, and militants in Iraq and Syria. At the same time, Israel has seen a substantial increase in the volume of weapons being smuggled into the West Bank.

That is why an assault on Rafah will eventually be necessary. If Hamas battalions and leaders based there survive, Israel will lose the war. And that is an outcome the United States should fear. After the chaotic 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and amid the slowing of American military aid to Ukraine, Washington cannot afford to further undermine any of its alliances—or raise doubt in the minds of U.S. adversaries in China, Iran, and Russia (and U.S. allies in Asia and Europe) about the strength of American commitments and the efficacy of U.S. support.

Abrams also has some thoughts on how to plan for the day after the war ends:

Whoever governs Gaza, deradicalization will be critical to future peace. Schools run by Hamas, the PA, and the UN aid agency UNRWA have idealized terrorism and taught hatred to a generation of Palestinians, as have religious leaders in mosques throughout Gaza.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict