Israel Needs to Figure Out the Gaza Endgame

Israel’s continuing attempt to defend itself is running into problems, geopolitical and political. Unfortunately, the current Israeli government is not helping itself by remaining silent Gaza’s future.

Hamas’ allies are already causing trouble – as expected (Telegraph).

Israel is reportedly delaying its ground invasion of Gaza because of an increasingly complicated situation along its northern border with Lebanon, where clashes with Hezbollah continue to intensify.

Israel’s Channel 14, which is believed to be close to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, on Sunday cited unnamed officials as saying that the escalation of violence along the Lebanese frontier meant “we shouldn’t enter Gaza now”.

It’s difficult to know if Hezbollah is genuinely getting in the way. This could be Israel’s excuse to kick the Gaza invasion can down the road. After all, they’re also hearing from Washington on this.

Separately, the United States has reportedly been pushing Israel to delay the ground invasion, citing hopes for a broad deal to release the estimated 200 hostages held in Gaza.

Washington still supports Israel’s plan to launch the incursion but it is keen to avoid civilian deaths in Gaza and ensure that a humanitarian corridor is established for aid to enter the enclave and foreign nationals to leave, unnamed US officials quoted by The New York Times said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Israel’s military is wondering what the hold-up is. This is another clear sign the Israeli government has less resolve than it appears. Contrary to its enemies assertions, Israel knows it has to “avoid civilian deaths in Gaza.” It’s just prioritizing Hamas’ elimination first, as it should.

Yet as former British minister David Gauke notes, that can’t be the end of the story (Conservative Home).

Removing Hamas will be immensely difficult and will involve fighting in densely populated urban areas, creating enormous risks for both the Israel Defence Forces forces and Gazan civilians. Israel has been trying to weaken the hold of Hamas and reduce resistance before sending in ground forces. This is in furtherance of a military objective that is, I would argue, legitimate. But civilians have been killed and living conditions for millions are appalling. Determining whether this action is excessive will be difficult and contentious.

For Israelis, removing Hamas is worth this. For the rest of the world, not so much. This is why Israel needs to swallow hard and commit to a democratic and independent Gaza (with Hamas removed). Gazans did not ask for Hamas to rule them into ruin (59% of Gazans voted against Hamas in 2006; there hasn’t been an election of any kind in Gaza since). Gaza would be infinitely better if it can get out from under Hamas’ thumb. Moreover, if Israel leaves Gaza under Hamas control, this retaliation will be a failure. All of the Gazans killed will have been killed for nothing. All of the Isreali victims will have died in vain – and many, many more will die later from future Hamas attacks.

While everyone outside of blatant anti-Semites agrees that Gaza would be better off without Hamas in charge, only Israel has the ability to do something about it right now. Israel will have to re-occupy Gaza. We know it’s something they don’t want to do (or they’d have done it long before October 7, 2023). Even now, one can sense skittishness in Israeli government statements. They know it will cost all sorts of political capital with their recent Arab allies as well as their older Western ones. Israel doesn’t and shouldn’t want to occupy Gaza permanently.

That is why a democratic Gaza is the only way out. It makes clear to the Arab world that Gaza’s future is in the hands of Gazans. It will assuage Israel’s democratic allies. It will mean someone in the Arab world is finally listening to their actual electorate instead of the mythical “Arab street” – which usually is just a cover for whichever tyrant is leaking to the WaPo or the NYT that day.

Israel must deliver retribution to Hamas. They will find that may be impossible without also offering Gazans hope.

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