Whether or not the latest ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad proves durable, it is clear that Israel is trapped in a Catch-22 to which no one seems to have a solution.
This Catch-22 has had many iterations. For decades, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and sought to fight terrorism there on the ground. However, this profoundly damaged Israel’s international standing and Israel eventually tired of the slow bleed of IDF casualties.
In 2005, Israel attempted to solve the issue by unilaterally disengaging from Gaza, hoping that a complete withdrawal followed by democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority would produce a more peaceful situation.
This turned out to be a misguided disaster. Hamas emerged as the victor in the 2006 elections and shortly thereafter took absolute power over the Strip in a brutal coup d’état.
Since then, Gaza has been anything but peaceful. Indeed, it is now little more than a jihadist missile base from which rockets are regularly fired at Israeli civilians. Worse, it is increasingly dominated by the genocidal Irano-Nazi regime.
Clearly, Gaza presents a major strategic dilemma for Israel. More or less everyone agrees that the current situation cannot continue, but every possible solution to the problem presents yet another Catch-22.
Israel could reconquer the Strip and reestablish military rule. But this means that Israel will once again have to expend the money and manpower required to administer everything from water supplies to garbage disposal, all while expending military assets and soldiers’ lives in order to impose security.
It has been clear for years that neither the Israeli government—however right-wing it might be—nor the security establishment has the slightest intention of doing this. The Catch-22 has been accepted and the politicians and the generals have decided to live with it, whatever the cost to Israeli normalcy.
Another possibility is for Israel to attempt to reach some kind of negotiated truce with Hamas and a cessation of hostilities for what one hopes would be an indefinite period of time.
Putting aside the unlikelihood that the genocidal Hamas would agree to such a thing, it would do nothing more than buy Israel some years of quiet while Hamas does what Hezbollah has done in Lebanon: build up its military capabilities until it starts yet another and more devastating war.
Moreover, given the Irano-Nazi influence and the desire to seize the vanguard status of the “Palestinian cause,” more radical groups in the Strip such as Islamic Jihad would almost certainly react to a negotiated truce by accusing Hamas of treason and collaboration. They would also continue to attack Israel, with Hamas unwilling to stop them for political reasons, meaning Israel would have legitimized a terror organization without gaining the quiet for which it did so.
In the darker realms of the Israeli far right, there is the usually unspoken belief that, in the end, Israel will not only have to reoccupy Gaza but effectively dismantle it and presumably expel its population.
Putting aside the moral implications of this, which are monstrous, the strategic, political, military and economic repercussions would be disastrous. The U.S. would withdraw its diplomatic support and probably its military support as well. Israel would be placed under Russia-style sanctions, effectively demolishing its economy. The Abraham Accords would certainly collapse, and Egypt and Jordan would void their peace treaties. It is entirely possible that a coalition of Arab and Muslim countries would take military action in response, in which case Israel’s only hope of survival would be to unleash its unacknowledged nuclear arsenal.
This option, in other words, is not an option.
Finally, there is the policy everybody hates: continue to accept the Gaza-22 and attempt to keep hostilities to a minimum while building up defense systems and undertaking periodic military operations to “mow the grass” of terrorism.
This is at least the devil we know, but it places horrible burdens on the population of the South and hands a distinct advantage to the Irano-Nazi regime, allowing it to continue to aid its proxies on Israel’s borders, building up the threat of a multi-front war.
It is possible that Israel will be able to hold Hamas and other Gaza terror groups in abeyance through effective deterrence. But deterrence is a delicate and uncertain thing, especially when one is dealing with religious and ideological maniacs who do not care about sacrificing multitudes of their own people to achieve their aims, all while backed by a catamite media and influential political forces on the Western left—including in the United States.
This series of Catch-22s is depressing to contemplate, but the current Israeli political and security establishment has made its choice, pursuing the “mow the grass”/deterrence policy, believing it to be the least bad of all the bad options.
It is possible that new ideas will be forthcoming, if the establishment chooses to think outside the box. An international peacekeeping force, along the lines of that deployed to the former Yugoslavia—in contrast to the ineffective force in Lebanon—might be capable of demilitarizing the Strip while allowing Hamas to remain nominally in power. A Palestinian leader might be found who is willing to negotiate a genuine peace, though that seems impossible at the moment. A concerted campaign to undermine and eventually destroy the Irano-Nazi regime could prove successful, rendering its proxies impotent. Turning to Russia or China for help might change the equation.
All of this seems unlikely. Nonetheless, at the moment things are not working. New ideas are required. If anyone has them, it is time to come forward. We have accepted the Catch-22 for long enough.
Benjamin Kerstein is a writer and editor living in Tel Aviv. Read more of his writing on Substack and his website. Follow him on Twitter @benj_kerstein. His books can be purchased here.
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