by Giovanni Giacalone
US President, Joe Biden, recently told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone conversation last week that he would not support a year-long war in Gaza, since presidential elections are near, and asked Netanyahu to speed up the transition to low-intensity fighting against Hamas that would reduce harm to civilians.
Israel is four months into a war with Hamas in Gaza, following the massacre perpetrated by the terrorist organization on October 7th. However, last month Netanyahu anticipated that the war would last for many more months, and would continue into 2025.
In the meantime, in Europe, there are ongoing talks between US, Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian delegations to reach a deal with Hamas for the release of the remaining hostages in exchange for a two-months-long ceasefire.
While the deal would not end the war, the US government is hopeful that such an agreement could lay the groundwork for a durable resolution to the conflict. However, Israeli officials, cited by Channel 12, have played down expectations, saying that Hamas is stubbornly asking that Israel completely end the war while leaving the terrorist organization in power over Gaza.
This whole situation presents problems that need to be taken into serious consideration.
The Biden administration needs to understand that it is not possible to defeat Hamas while at the same time forcing the IDF to fight with the “breaks on”. If the army is slowed down, then the operations to eradicate Hamas from Gaza will take longer.
Would you have ever imagined the US Army being forced to slow down in the offensive against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11 or the imposition of a certain time margin to eliminate Bin Laden and his lieutenants? Why are the rules different for Israel?
Indeed, Biden is worried about running the presidential campaign with the war going on, but this cannot happen at the expense of Israel’s security and existence because, if Hamas is not eradicated, it will perpetrate another “October 7th”, as the terrorist organization already stated. After all, Hamas’ objective is to wipe Israel off the map.
We are four months into the war, is it a long time? Not really, considering that Hamas has been ruling over Gaza since 2007, which means that the terrorist organization had 17 years to build and organize its underground structure, gather weapons, conceal bases and warehouses under schools, mosques, and hospitals. Plus, the recent developments regarding UN employees actively siding with Hamas only make things more complex.
It is simply unthinkable that the IDF can eradicate 17 years of Hamas work in a couple of months, especially while being careful not to harm Palestinian civilians (used as human shields by Hamas). It is a process that requires time, and proper operational activity, timing, according to context and situation. The last thing that the IDF needs is constant limitations and pressure to end.
It must also be recalled that what we are dealing with is not a simple war between Hamas and Israel, but a broader regional conflict that involves the West against Iran and its proxies (Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Shia militias); the death of three US servicemen in Jordan, which is only the latest of hundreds of attacks against US military personnel in the Middle East since October, and the constant Houthi attacks against Western maritime traffic in the Red Sea make such a scenario more than obvious. Pretending that it’s not happening will not help change reality.
Regarding the hostage negotiations, there is a question that we should all ponder: is it possible to eradicate a terrorist organization while negotiating with it? Very unlikely.
Is Hamas reliable? Obviously not, as facts have shown since Hamas violated previous ceasefires. It must also be understood that the hostages are so far Hamas’ only insurance against its own eradication from Gaza. It is therefore naïve to believe that the hostages will all be released. Let’s bare in mind that Hamas is a ruthless genocidal organization that burnt people alive, raped women and children, slaughtered families, elderly people. Their ideology is no different from Nazism which they glorify.
Is it possible to negotiate with such an entity? Not in my point of view. The only option is full eradication.
In addition, a pause of two months in the conflict is a long time and it will only relieve the military pressure on Hamas and help it reorganize. This will indeed prolong the war, which isn’t exactly what the Biden administration is hoping for. The US already stated that this longer pause will possibly lead to the end of the conflict. However, this option would very unlikely include Hamas’ eradication, which is the primary objective of the Israeli government (as well as bringing back home the hostages, indeed).
The eradication of Hamas and the elimination of its leaders are not negotiable objectives, because Hamas is a clear and present danger to Israel’s existence and to Israeli citizens. Politically, if the Israeli government went back on its declarations and left Hamas in power, it would risk losing face and credibility. And what about the hundreds of Israeli soldiers who died in Gaza fighting Hamas? Did they die for nothing? Accepting a pause of two months would head in that direction, unfortunately.
The situation is indeed very complex, but the objective must be very clear and that is the eradication of Hamas. Anything that is not in line with this goal should not even be considered if the conflict wants to be concluded as soon as possible. If that is not the final objective, then the situation changes and other discussions are possible.