OpinionIsrael at War

Rewarding hostage-taking and terrorism only brings more of the same

As cruel as this may sound, we must stop negotiating with terrorists and simply step aside to let the Israelis do what they and we need for them to do: eviscerate Hamas.

A column of Israeli tanks near the border with Gaza, Oct. 12, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
A column of Israeli tanks near the border with Gaza, Oct. 12, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Eric Levine
Eric Levine
Eric R. Levine is a founding member of the New York City law firm Eiseman, Levine, Lehrhaupt & Kakoyiannis, P.C. He is an essayist, political commentator and fundraiser for Republican candidates with an emphasis on the U.S. Senate.

All caring and loving people are delighted that 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz and 79-year-old Nurit Cooper have been released by their Hamas captures. Their grandchildren, in particular, must be thrilled to see their grandmothers again. Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s negotiations to release American hostages, no matter how well-intentioned, only makes it more likely that Yocheved’s and Nurit’s grandchildren will be either murdered or taken hostage in the future.

Hamas, in close consultation with their paymasters Iran, is not releasing the elderly hostages for nothing. They are getting something in return. We are not yet certain what the quid pro quo is. But we do know that Israel’s ground invasion has not yet begun. We also know that the United States is not pressuring Qatar to turnover Hamas leaders like Ismail Haniyeh who are living in five-star hotels in Doha. To the contrary, Qatar is being publicly thanked by the White House for its role in facilitating the negotiations.

We can expect the slow drip of one or two American hostages being released every week or so. We should expect that most, if not all, will be the elderly or infirm. This puts Israel in a difficult position. If Jerusalem attacks while the negotiations are ongoing, it runs the risk of being blamed for the deaths of Americans if Hamas murders them, as they surely will. “If only Israel showed restraint,” her critics will say.

However, if Israel waits for Washington to complete its current negotiations, the Jewish state risks losing the momentum of its offensive and international pressure will mount to call off its ground incursion into Gaza altogether. That is Hamas’s and Iran’s goal.

To be clear, if Hamas survives to fight another day—no matter how many of these Nazi/Islamists die—they and Iran will have won the war. The world will send billions of dollars to rebuild the Gaza Strip; Hamas’s and Iran’s stature in the Arab world will be ascendant; and the cycle will begin again. Except this time, Hamas and Iran will be stronger, and Israel will be weaker. Many Israelis will leave Israel permanently. Those thinking of moving there will reconsider that decision. Its citizens will lose all confidence in their government’s ability to protect them. Foreign investment, which is the engine that drives the Israeli economy, will dry up. Saudi Arabia will not enter the Abraham Accords and instead will look to make an accommodation with Iran. It is anyone’s guess if the accords themselves will survive. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will be forced to rethink whether a strategic alliance with Israel or Iran is more in their national security interests.

Contempt for American weakness and fecklessness will reach a crescendo around the globe. Every nation on earth will become convinced that America is an unreliable ally, and our influence around the world will diminish, if not evaporate completely. They will say to themselves that this was the time for America to redeem itself after its catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan, and it failed. Every country will ask: If America will not or cannot protect its closest ally in the world, then how can we expect them to protect us when the chips are down?

The stakes for both the United States and Israel could not be higher. Therefore, as cruel as this may sound, we must stop negotiating with the terrorists and simply step aside to let the Israelis do what they and we need for them to do: eviscerate Hamas. We must continue to give full-throated support for that effort. To the extent that there are any negotiations, they must be limited to: “Give us back our citizens.” Period, full stop.

As for Qatar, it must be told that it cannot harbor terrorists and war criminals. We must demand that Haniyeh be turned over to us immediately, or we will go get him and “reassess” our relationship with Doha. Perhaps most importantly, the president needs to define what he means by “Don’t.” We have two carrier strike groups in the region. Why are they there? The president must be crystal-clear to Iran and Hezbollah about what will trigger an American response. And unlike former President Barack Obama, who is responsible for much of what is going on today, Biden must enforce his red line.

The truth is that Biden’s history of appeasing terrorists and hostage-takers has only encouraged more terrorism and more hostage-taking. It’s time to end that.

I hope Yocheved and Nurit are hugging their grandchildren as I write this. Still, I am confident that if you ask them if they would give up lives to save their children and grandchildren or their nation from a similar fate, their response would be an immediate emet. That’s Hebrew for “truth.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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