December 5, 2023 | The Messenger

Hamas Remains Intact, Yet Blinken Hedges on Support for Israeli War Effort

December 5, 2023 | The Messenger

Hamas Remains Intact, Yet Blinken Hedges on Support for Israeli War Effort

Fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Iran-backed terror group, resumed on Dec. 1. The pause ended after Hamas failed to provide a list of hostages it was prepared to exchange with Israel and began firing rockets at Israeli communities shortly before the deadline to extend the pause. As Israel resumes the war, new messaging from Washington indicates that Israel may have to defy its greatest ally in order to destroy the Iran-backed regime in Gaza.

Hostilities began only hours after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel, where he suggested that future American support was conditional on how Israel prosecuted the war against Hamas. Echoing U.S. President Biden’s words to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reported on Nov. 26, Blinken said it was “imperative to the United States” that Israeli operations in southern Gaza prove less destructive than the first phase of the war in Gaza’s north.

Blinken insisted that Israel could still achieve its number one priority in this war — to destroy Hamas — while still satisfying Washington’s demands. If only it were so.

As Blinken himself acknowledges, any effort to fight the war responsibly is “complicated by the fact that Hamas intentionally embeds itself with civilians, within and below hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, refugee camps.”

That is precisely why Blinken’s message is misguided. It only encourages Hamas to continue doing precisely those things, such as using human shields, that increase the destructiveness of the war while blaming all casualties on Israel.

If Washington persists with attempts to constrain Israel, the Jewish State will have to resist the United States in order to win the war.

The Israeli people demand victory against Hamas, because their lives are on the line, and Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to do so.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in Gaza has thus far largely focused on Hamas’ strongholds in the northern part of the coastal strip. The operations have been successful, but, according to a well-placed national security expert I spoke with, at least half of Hamas’s fighters remain standing — mostly in southern Gaza — and the terrorists maintain at least 50% of their rocket arsenal. Hamas used the pause in fighting to regroup in preparation for continuing the war. 

Given that Hamas remains a threat to Israelis, particularly those within close rocket range in Israel’s south, tens of thousands of Israelis from dozens of communities remain displaced. Israel’s Emergency Management Authority has come to the aid of evacuees fleeing the over 10,000 rockets fired from Gaza since October,  housing them in hotels and guesthouses all over Israel.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced earlier this month that residents of the Gaza periphery may be able to return to their homes, communities, and farms as soon as January. But Israelis will only do so if the government can ensure they will be safe in their homes. That is impossible if half of Hamas’ fighters and arsenal are intact, with no indications the terror organization plans to surrender.

To bring any sense of normalcy to the residents of Israel’s south, and to revive an economy hugely impacted by the war, the IDF must operate in southern Gaza with the same determination and resolve with which they operated in the north. Israel’s leadership also has the obligation to Israeli families to take every measure possible to prevent unnecessary IDF casualties on the battlefield.

Beyond rocket attacks, no one in Israel can tolerate a regime with genocidal intentions on their border, allowing it to rest and rearm until it is ready for the next massacre.

The White House seems to have forgotten that Israel is already fighting this war in a manner consistent with the values our two countries share. The Israeli targeting process is much like the American process, with lawyers carefully evaluating whether the civilian damage from any strike might be excessive. Even if the pause had lasted a bit longer, Israel had no choice but to return to the war. Jerusalem will likely do its best to keep Washington on its side by continuing to allow humanitarian aid and brief pauses in fighting.

President Biden would make a serious mistake by tying Israel’s hands. It would only drag out the war and weaken our greatest ally in the Middle East’s ability to deal with the Iran-backed terrorists on its borders. Waning U.S. support will also embolden Israel’s other enemies in the region and increase the chances of a regional war, which Washington has worked hard to prevent.

As Blinken explained, “Hamas has choices, too. Hamas could immediately release all of the hostages it holds. It could stop using civilians as human shields and stop using civilian infrastructure to stage and launch terrorist attacks.” The administration needs to see the contradiction between imposing conditions on Israel when Hamas is the one that has made the war so bloody.

Until that changes, the right thing to do is for the United States to stand firmly behind one of its greatest allies in a time of need.

Enia Krivine is the senior director of the Israel Program and the FDD National Security Network at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow her on X at @EKrivine.


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War