The year is coming to an end, but the fighting in Gaza will not. With nearly 20,000 Gazans (a great number of whom are Hamas terrorists) and nearly 500 (154 since the ground invasion) Israeli soldiers, coupled with 1,200 Israeli civilians killed in this deadly game of drones, winter is coming.
Those numbers are ugly, but they are not the only numbers.
It promises to be a longer winter than expected. Gaining operational control in the south has been more challenging than it was in the north. On-the-ground combat has intensified. The lives of Israel Defense Forces are at greater risk. The Israeli military should have reduced the number of civilian casualties had Hamas not continued to use its people as couriers, decoys and human shields.
More tunnels are being discovered and destroyed. The search for the remaining 113 living hostages goes on. The top commanders of Hamas are still alive, and Israel’s War Cabinet does not wish to leave them, intact tunnels and stockpiled weapons behind.
This has inevitably led to more global criticism of the humanitarian crisis evolving in Gaza. Western powers that unreservedly support Israel’s right to defend itself are nonetheless sending contradictory messages about ceasefires. Even the pope, normally ambivalent about Israel, has urged an end to the conflict.
Meanwhile, Hamas has vowed to wage another Oct. 7 “again and again.” That public statement, combined with, “We are called a nation of martyrs and are proud to sacrifice martyrs,” pretty much gives Israel a green light to raze Gaza above and below ground.
You will continue to hear how 20,000 Palestinian deaths violate the law of proportionality. I am a longtime law professor and Middle East analyst writing a book about what proportionality means and how it works. Don’t believe what you are being told.
Given the gruesomeness of what occurred on Oct. 7, and Hamas’s pride and promise of a repeat performance, Israel is under no legal or humanitarian obligation to restrain itself as long as their targets have credible and important military significance, regardless of the presence of civilians who chose to support Hamas rather than heed Israel’s warning.
It is Hamas that is legally responsible for the death of their civilian population by inhumanely keeping them in harm’s way. You won’t hear many “international lawyers” render such an opinion. Ignore them. Their law degrees are licenses to hate Jews.
Still, Israel is going to have to address mounting diplomatic pressure. Egypt has offered a ceasefire proposal that includes an Israeli hostage and Palestinian prisoner swap. The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved an immediate ceasefire resolution on Dec. 12; the Security Council would have done the same had not the United States exercised its veto power. A new resolution is apparently on the table.
Meanwhile, there are voices in the Biden administration’s State Department, influenced by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, calling for a reduction in military aid to Israel and an end to this lopsided war. The fact that Hamas is still launching rockets doesn’t seem to alter their foreign-policy recommendation.
The good news is that their boss, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, unexpectedly given his outsized role in the Iran nuclear deal, has steadfastly understood the existential, military and moral equities in Israel’s favor.
But polling in America (especially among young people) and Gaza are very disturbing. According to The Economist, 65% of Americans support a ceasefire. A Quinnipiac poll revealed that 45% of registered voters supported sending military aid to Israel, but it was at 54% the month before. Although Republicans are much more likely to side with Israel, support among both has diminished.
A Harris/Harvard University poll revealed that among respondents ages 18 to 24, 51% believed that Israel’s existence should simply be brought to an end. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, those who chant, “From the River to the Sea,” know exactly what it means for Israelis. Indeed, 76% of them believe that Hamas actually committed mass raping and beheadings on Oct. 7. That knowledge didn’t change their opinion about the elimination of the Jewish state.
Most Americans saw Oct. 7 as an unjustified genocidal terrorist attack. Among young people, 60% believe such genocidal terrorism was justified. Here’s a paradox: Slightly less than 80% of young Americans believe that Israel has the right to defend itself through airstrikes into densely populated areas, provided that civilian warnings are issued.
Huh? These kids today. Go figure.
The good news is that these numbers change dramatically with older respondents. The vast majority of Americans (80%) believe that Hamas deploys human shields, and 75% hold Hamas and not Israel responsible for endangering civilian lives. Go tell that to “The Squad.” Among young people, however, a slight majority blame Israel.
And as for Gazans, themselves, despite their land now reduced to rubble, humanitarian aid hijacked by terrorists, and lives sacrificed and displaced, support for Hamas is rising—in Gaza and especially in the West Bank. Nearly 75% believe that Hamas was correct in launching the attack and massacre on Oct. 7.
So much for captive civilians forced into serving as accomplices in war crimes. Only 10% believe that Hamas even committed war crimes.
As for all those young Americans and their knowledge gap about the Israel- Palestinian conflict, unless there is some massive infusion of basic civics and moral clarity, support for Israel will wither away. No one will realize that there is only one democracy in the Middle East, and America has nothing in common with Sharia-obsessed Muslims who behead infants, torch homosexuals, and lash women and wives.
We knew the day would come when Israel would be forced to ignore world condemnation and proceed with “Operation Swords of Iron” deliberatively and purposefully. Honest people understand that the plight of the Palestinians is merely a false flag in making antisemitism fashionable.
Armies throughout history did not fight wars on a clock. And Palestinians cannot be the only people somehow exempt from collateral damage. A nation either has a right to respond to a never-ending existential threat—or they don’t.
Legal and moral responsibility lies with terrorists who started the war and are still holding hostages. But Israel is cursed with a rare adversary. Palestinians deploy a secret weapon that can’t be defended without moral compromise and noise cancellation: “We don’t care about life—yours or ours.” Such monstrous bloodthirstiness leaves Israel with very few diplomatic options.