What has happened in Israel since Saturday and what will happen in Gaza once the IDF is unleashed will change everything in the Middle East.
The Hamas massacres and Israel’s retaliation are a “hinge of history” that represents two sides of a door. On one side is the past — the “status quo” in Gaza, the Arabs and Israelis inching toward an accommodation, and Iran looming as the biggest unresolved problem for Israel and the Arab states.
Now, the other side of that door is being revealed. There will be war — just as Hamas and their sponsors in Iran hoped. It will be a war that will prevent the Arab states — especially Saudi Arabia — from realizing the goal of normalization. And Israel may very well look to settle things with Iran once and for all. How that plays out in real-time with the potential for a regional war — or even a World War — is unknowable.
But the real change will come in Israel. How do you solve a problem like Hamas? You can’t exterminate 2 million people in Gaza. And how much more can Israel guard against another attack? Gaza is already a prison, the most highly regulated and regimented strip of land on earth.
Clearly, Israel is not going to be dissuaded from cleansing Gaza of Hamas fighters. Whether Hamas is even going to be allowed to exist is an open question.
But then what? Like the United States facing the existential question after 9/11, a realization must come that, try as they might, Israel can’t kill them all. It took 20 years for America to learn that lesson. In the next days and weeks, as Israel looks to regain total control of its country, rescue hostages held in Gaza, and shred Hamas, a new strategic calculus will replace the familiar series of Hamas hitting Israel and the Israelis retaliating in an endless cycle of futile tit-for-tat attacks. The adversaries seemed stuck in a gruesome dance with no end in sight and no change possible.
The traditional rhythm of conflict between Israel and its enemies has been that Israel gets attacked and is given a small window to respond, and then world public opinion gathers against Israel, while Western leaders urge “calm” and an end to the “cycle of violence.” From Israel’s perspective, conflicts with Hamas over the past several decades have followed a similar pattern. Hamas fires rockets at Israel, Israel responds with air strikes, and after a certain amount of time there is a cease-fire.
While the terrorist organization has been committed to the destruction of Israel since its 1988 founding as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, to this point, Israel has made the strategic calculation to tolerate Hamas. The operating theory has been that dealing with a weakened Hamas that can be degraded periodically is better than pulverizing the terrorist group and depriving Gaza of any governing authority, leaving only chaos. But after what has just happened, that calculation has changed. Israeli leaders have now recognized that Hamas can no longer be tolerated — it must be destroyed.
How do you excise the cancer without killing the non-combatants? We know that Hamas will use their own people as human shields to attempt the old terrorist trick of trying to garner worldwide sympathy because the mean Israelis are killing the civilians they’re hiding behind.
That’s not going to work this time. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to level Gaza and then allow the humanitarian left to pick up the pieces. Let the oil-rich Arab states rebuild the Strip if they want to. Beyond the bare minimum of humanitarian aid sent to Gaza, Netanyahu may be through with them.
Biden will send U.S. aid to feed and clothe the Palestinians but I doubt whether Congress is of a mind to give any rebuilding money to the butchers who beheaded babies, raped women, and burned people alive — all the while laughing joyously and celebrating their barbarism.