Discover more from The Freemen News-Letter
War in Israel: The Need for Bold Statesmanship
Heinous attack against Israel requires regional and global statesmanship.
This weekend, the world was witness to an ongoing atrocity against Israel. Terrorist group Hamas, which has “governed” (brutally oppressed) the Gaza Strip since 2006, has launched a genocidal attack against Israel. Reports of targeting killings and kidnappings against civilians are horrific to read. At the time of writing, over 1,200 hundred Israelis have died, dozens of civilians and soldiers have been kidnapped or otherwise held hostage. This should be seen as ethnic cleansing against Jewish people and Israelis. To say otherwise would be to whitewash the heinous crimes perpetrated by Hamas.
Now, the Middle East is on the brink of what could be a major war. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet have declared war against Hamas. They’re calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists. While most of the Western democracies have rightly condemned this brutal assault, Iran, Qatar, and, most worryingly, Saudi Arabia have decided to blame Israel for the attacks.
So far, the immediate domestic U.S. response has been positive and appropriate. Republican presidential hopefuls Nikki Haley and Mike Pence have issued serious statements condemning this attack, while even neo-isolationist Vivek Ramaswamy has changed his stance supporting Israel (meanwhile, the septuagenarian former President decided to rant about his mounting legal troubles). Despite last week’s Congressional chaos, bipartisan support is rapidly coalescing to ensure the necessary support for legislation providing critical assistance and arms to Israel.
The challenging part now comes about how to properly respond in the short- and long-term in a way that avoids a destructive regional war. Bret Stephens at the New York Times writes that we can no longer tolerate Hamas’ brutal control of the Gaza Strip. He’s unreservedly right. The Gaza Strip has become a stronghold of terrorism that threatens regional security and stability. Iran’s significant support of Hamas means its control of Gaza creates a huge strategic and security vulnerability. Global suspicions are mounting that Iran was a driving force behind this attack, which significantly threatens recent efforts for a Saudi-Israeli peace agreement.
A sustained ground intervention into the Gaza Strip that dislodges and ends Hamas’ rule seems highly probable. Yet, the international community needs to mitigate serious risks if this is to work. Leaving this as an Israeli operation against Gaza plays right into the easily manipulated narrative Hamas and others use to frame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States should rally its partners and allies to provide support and, if necessary, military forces to assist directly in any coming operation. Our diplomatic influence should be used to try and gain United Nations approval for an intervention, despite the threat of a veto from Russia and China. Even absent formal U.N. approval, an international coalition would help defang the Israel vs. Palestine narrative.
Once Hamas is defeated in the Gaza Strip, the hard part begins. Another Israeli occupation of the area is out of the question. That would only inflame tensions more and stoke fears among Palestinians of annexation of their lands. Here, we cannot ignore the glaring weakness and incompetence of the Palestinian Authority. In no way is the PA ready to reassume governance of Gaza. The PA can barely function in parts of the West Bank they already govern. Elections haven’t been held in close to 20 years, octogenarian dictator Mahmoud Abbas is slowly dying, and his potential successors have no legitimacy.
Statesmanship of a caliber we haven’t seen in close to a generation will be required. Some form of international custodianship for Gaza and the West Bank is inevitable. The U.S. should work to re-enable the United Nations Trusteeship Council to provide international supervision and security in Palestine. Taking a modified approach laid out in the 1993 Oslo Accords, an international civil authority would assume direct governance and security responsibility for the entire Gaza Strip and Zones A and B, while Zone C would be administered internationally with Israel temporarily maintaining its security posture. Involvement of the Arab League regional grouping would be crucial to ensuring buy-in from most regional actors. International control would also defray Israel from bearing the large and sustained cost of occupation and reconstruction.
We should be under no illusions this would be a quick and easy process. Rebuilding degraded Palestinian governing institutions will take years, along with any physical reconstruction. Rooting out entrenched terrorist groups in both Gaza and the West Bank would similarly take years. While international control would provide short- to medium-term stability, nothing but a functioning Palestinian state would provide lasting peace, liberty, and security.
Despite this attack, Israel’s main enemies remain either severely weakened or far away. Syria is in ruins. Hezbollah must continue balancing provocations against Israel with its delicate position in Lebanon and Syria. Iran is a major threat via its Hamas and Hezbollah proxies but lacks the means for direct intervention. Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia lack the means (and probably desire) to attack Israel.
Global and regional leaders need to act now, with long-term vision and strategy, if we are to avoid a highly destructive regional war in the Middle East. In the short term, this will require humanitarian and security assistance to Israel, while over the longer term, bold statesmanship will be required to break the deadlocks on multiple, overlapping regional issues that are driving this conflict.