Originally published at Rubin Reports.
Update: A few sirens went off in Tel Aviv around 6:30 PM, November 15—not the whole system or the one outside my window but those a few blocks away—and didn’t stay on very long. Then there were two loud but short booms, the sound of anti-rocket missiles being fired. Rumors followed. This being the age of social media people insisted that something must have happened because somebody in California said so. Some people said with certainty that a rocket hit in this or that place, one claimed he saw the smoke from a building that had been struck. In the end, it was announced that a rocket from the Gaza Strip had been shot down far to the south. The atmosphere was reminiscent of 1991 when three dozen Iraqi rockets did hit Israel, one of them a few blocks from my home, and anti-missile batteries could be heard nightly firing at incoming missiles from Iraq.
Of course, there’s nothing funny about a war. Less than an hour’s drive to the south people are under fire. There are casualties on both sides, including civilians. This is a serious matter, made no less so by its relative familiarity. Yet there is a difference between the horrors of war and imagining away a conflict, an inescapable situation, because one wants to do so. Only by confronting the reality can there be the best possible response to a crisis. Wishful thinking or ignoring real conflicts makes things worse.
The new war between Hamas and Israel has a lot of important lessons for international diplomacy and U.S. policy today. It once again shows that a country, especially one faced by a hostile adversary who cannot be turned away by words or compromises, has limited choices. And in that case a government must do what it must do.
A key to the problem of Western comprehension of international realities is admirably summarized by a New York Times editorial on the subject:
“No country should have to endure the rocket attacks that Israel has endured from militants in Gaza, most recently over the past four days. The question is how to stop them permanently.”
Now the answer to that question is simple to understand if not easy to implement. The attacks can only be stopped if Hamas is removed from power and replaced, given contemporary circumstances, by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA is certainly no prize but that’s a reasonable goal for what is often referred to as the international community.
Yes, Hamas won an election in 2007 but then it staged a violent coup, threw out the opposition, and has thus governed as an unelected dictatorship. It has no legal basis since Hamas never accepted the Oslo accords agreements. Hamas is also a terrorist group. And it daily voices not only its opposition to Israel’s existence but also advocates—and teaches the children of Gaza to carry out some day—the commission of genocide against all Jews.
So the answer to the Times’ question is a no-brainer, right? In fact, of course this response is not what the Times has in mind. Instead, the newspaper and like-minded people present the following list:
–Israel should negotiate with Hamas. Great idea but an impossible one because of a factor Western leaders, academics, and journalists often do not take seriously nowadays: ideology. Hamas means what it says, intends to continue the violence for years in the belief it can win total victory, and is indifferent to the sacrifice of its own people. So in this case negotiations are not an option.
–If there is a comprehensive Israel-Palestinian peace there would be no more war. Actually even if such an agreement were to be reached—which is impossible because the PA won’t make one—Hamas would step up attacks in an attempt to destroy the agreement.
The PA could not make a deal that would include the 40 percent of the Palestinians who live in Gaza. And Hamas would try to overthrow the PA in the West Bank and might even succeed. Then Hamas, perhaps with the Fatah people who allied with it, would have a fully sovereign state to use as a platform for an intended war of genocide against Israel.