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Hamas Makes War on Israelis and Palestinians
The 10/7 war shatters our clichés.
THROUGHOUT ISRAEL’S 76-YEAR CONFLICT with the Palestinians, certain clichés—like condemnations of the “cycle of violence”—have calcified. Saturday’s attacks on Israeli civilians betray their total bankruptcy. Israel did nothing to provoke this attack. There was no raid, no strike on terrorist headquarters, nothing. This isn’t revenge or retaliation—just straight-up barbarity. Perhaps this barbarism will provide some clarity.
It’s past time to retire another cliché: the “peace process.” On CNN, for example, representatives of the Palestinian Authority (which controls the West Bank) explained that the 10/7 attack was the understandable response by Palestinians to the lack of progress in the peace process. Precisely the opposite is the case. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since its first and only election in 2006, does not and never has sought peace. Its charter specifically calls for the complete destruction of Israel, warning that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” It condemns Egypt for the Camp David accords, which it labels “high treason.” Efforts to find peaceful solutions are described as a sham:
[Peace] initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. . . . Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam . . . There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.
Again: That is from the Hamas covenant, which has been in place since 1988.
ANOTHER CLICHÉ: The 10/7 war is not an act of resistance against “occupation.” There is no IDF presence in Gaza—or rather, there wasn’t until Saturday. Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza strip in 2005. Granted internal autonomy, Hamas has used the control to build tunnels and purchase rockets and missiles (along with hundreds of kites fitted with incendiary devices to start fires across the border). The Gaza economy is in shambles—not due to the blockade imposed by Israel (and Egypt, it should not be forgotten) that permits food, medicine, and other nonmilitary goods to pass, but because Hamas is corrupt and crazed and focused entirely on jihad against Israel instead of providing the basics of good governance for the unfortunate people who live under its control.
NOT ONLY DOES HAMAS disbelieve in the “peace process”—it appears that the 10/7 attacks were motivated in large part because Hamas was alarmed that Israel is in the process of finding wider peace in the region. It is the prospect of a Saudi-Israeli rapprochement that Hamas (and its Iranian patrons) found threatening. Because if Saudi Arabia were to be seen as an honest broker who got a better deal for Palestinians, Hamas and Iran would be sidelined.
Hamas’s frustration is not about the lack of progress toward peace, but rather the possibility of peace.
IT IS NOT BLAMING THE VICTIM to note that Israel became more vulnerable to this attack because of its recent internal divisions. Enemies notice these things. Israel’s minister of defense, Yoav Gallant, was fired in March after warning that “The rift within our society is widening and penetrating the Israel Defense Forces. This is a clear and immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state. I shall not be a party to this.” (Gallant was un-fired two weeks later and remains the defense chief today.)
At some point there will be a reckoning within the Israeli government to determine why its intelligence apparatus failed and its defenses were inadequate. But not now. Today, and tomorrow, and for the near future, Israel must fight its enemies. And the rest of us should resist the temptation to use America’s domestic politics as a lens through which to view Israel’s.
OTHER LESSONS are already apparent.
Hamas had been written off as a spent force in the region following the Abraham Accords and the Saudi overture. These terrorists have demonstrated prodigious cunning, logistical sophistication, and unanticipated military capabilities in executing coordinated attacks by land, sea, and air.
Yet for all the sophistication, these attacks were fundamentally barbaric—and there is a lesson in that, too. Hamas fired some 2,200 rockets into civilian neighborhoods, stripped Israeli women naked and paraded their bodies in a pickup truck. They indiscriminately shot hundreds of civilians at bus stops, in cars, and in their homes. They lit houses on fire to force people out of safe rooms. They kidnapped dozens (possibly hundreds) of Israelis, including both the elderly and infants. And judging by their homemade videos these terrorists view their depravities not as regrettable necessities, but as joyous and righteous sport.
It gets worse. Surely the Hamas terrorists understand that Israel will retaliate with ferocity to what is being called Israel’s 9/11. And surely they know that when this happens, Palestinians will do most of the suffering and dying in the end. That is, after all, their M.O.
In the past, Hamas has purposely incurred civilian casualties as part of a sustained effort to delegitimize Israel. They have launched rockets from school yards and mosques and maintained terror headquarters in hospitals. They realized that they could not defeat Israel militarily, but that they could launch attacks from civilian areas and cause Israel to inadvertently kill their children, thereby forfeiting the world’s sympathy.
The 10/7 war seems designed to bring this to a new level, with the horrors designed to invite truly terrible retribution from Israel. Surely Hamas knows that, from the Israeli public’s perspective, a few targeted strikes on terrorist infrastructure in Gaza City will not suffice to answer for what just happened. No, a much longer and more painful ground incursion will almost certainly be demanded, particularly when there are dozens or perhaps hundreds of hostages Israel will be desperate to rescue.
Hamas calculates that it will also be able to use the imagery (and reality) of Palestinian grief and suffering to hurt Israel again. And perhaps even to draw Hezbollah (another Iranian proxy) to join the conflict. Hezbollah sits on some 130,000 missiles in Lebanon and commands 20,000 active fighters, along with 20,000 reserves. On Sunday, there were short exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah, suggesting that they are on a hair-trigger already.
A bloody Israeli ground war in Gaza could also destabilize Hamas’s rival, the Palestinian Authority, currently under the command of Mahmoud Abbas, who is serving his 18th year of a 4-year term. If the PA were to join the fight, the civilian casualties could reach unfathomable levels, making it nearly impossible for Saudi Arabia to continue its peace feelers. Such a massive war might even disturb Israel’s still fragile peace with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and others.
Hamas may even believe that Israel is so internally riven that it could lose this war.
If there is any good news to be found in the aftermath of 10/7, it’s that generations of Arab leaders have made this gamble since 1947 and that bet has never come home.
But that is the end of the good news. Many Israeli civilians have died and more surely will. Many Palestinian civilians will die, too. Innocent people have been kidnapped from their homes and taken hostage. This nightmare will get worse.
Which was exactly the terrorists’ goal.