OpinionIsrael at War

The obstacle to peace is HHIJI+

If Hamas is allowed to survive, it will destroy any possibility of peace.

“New York Times” columnist Thomas L. Friedman after receiving his honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, June 3, 2007. Photo by Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90.
“New York Times” columnist Thomas L. Friedman after receiving his honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, June 3, 2007. Photo by Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90.
Charles A. Stone
Charles A. Stone is a professor in the Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the Koppelman School of Business at Brooklyn College.

Mutually assured catastrophe (MAC) was the status quo and deterrent that preserved relative non-belligerency between Hamas and Israel up to Oct. 6, 2023. On Oct. 7, Hamas decided that catastrophe was in its best interest. It ordered its terrorists to invade Israel and rape, pillage, burn and kidnap. The Hamas invasion assured mutual catastrophe.

Israel survives because its enemies are deterred, not because its enemies have moderated and are willing to accept a Jewish state. An Israel without effective deterrence would be at the mercy of Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iran—what I call HHIJI+.

Deterrence only works if it is credible. Clearly, Hamas and Iran have not been deterred.  To restore deterrence Israel must neutralize Iran and its proxies. One out of some 300 Iranian missiles and drones recently fired at Israel hit. This means that 10 out of 3,000 are likely to hit; so will 100 out of 30,000. The math is not in Israel’s favor. It should be clear that, unless Iran’s nuclear weapons program is paralyzed, mutually assured catastrophe will morph into mutually assured destruction.

Many people still do not understand the MAC equation. On March 6, 1996, three years after the Oslo Declaration of Principles, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published the column “Who Are You?” At the time, Hamas was on a murderous rampage of terror attacks. Friedman wrote, “Hamas is a minority among Palestinians. But if this minority can manipulate the Palestinian Majority, then they are the majority.” This was prescient. Clearly, Hamas did become the majority. 

Yet 28 years later, Friedman has now published a column titled, “Israel: Cease-Fire, Get Hostages, Leave Gaza, Rethink Everything.” In it, he suggests that it would be better for Israel to appease Hamas than to destroy Hamas in Rafah. Friedman views a weakened Hamas governing Gaza as the next best solution to Palestinian Authority rule. No doubt, allowing even a weakened Hamas to rule Gaza will eliminate any chance that Gaza will ever be governed by a moderate Palestinian Authority.

Bizarrely, Friedman insists that the Palestinian people are the ones who must and will condemn and overthrow Hamas and its leaders. This is par for the course. In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, Friedman wrote, “On the morning after the morning after, Lebanese war refugees, who had real jobs and homes, will start streaming back by the hundreds of thousands, many of them Shiites. Tragically, they will find their homes or businesses badly damaged or obliterated. Yes, they will curse Israel. But they and other Arabs will also start asking Nasrallah publicly what many are already asking privately: ‘What was this war all about? What did we get from this and at what price?’”

Friedman predicted that the destruction Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wrought on the Lebanese people would lead to his demise. This is the same Hassan Nasrallah who, 17 years later, still leads Hezbollah, the most well-armed non-state military in the world. Hezbollah’s arsenal of 150,000 missiles is being used to bombard Israel daily. Since Oct. 7, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been evacuated from the north of Israel to escape Hezbollah aggression.

Friedman was undaunted by his prophetic shortcomings. On Dec. 1, 2023, he again unleashed his “the morning after the morning after” shtick, substituting Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar for Nasrallah.

“I have no illusions that the morning after a ceasefire commences and Sinwar comes out, some will wildly cheer him for the hurt he inflicted on Israel,” he wrote. “But the morning after the morning after, Sinwar will face brutal questioning from Gazans: Where’s my house, where’s my job, who gave you the right to expose my children to death and devastation?”

Why Friedman thinks that this prediction will prove any more accurate than his thoroughly inaccurate prediction regarding Nasrallah is a mystery.

The truth is that Hamas must be destroyed before Palestinians and Israelis can engage with one another over the geographic and political boundaries of a “Palestinian state” that does not threaten Israel’s security. Peace will take creativity and flexibility. Allowing Hamas to have any influence on the future of Gaza is not creativity or flexibility—it is insanity.

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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