". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Immediate or Permanent? Conflicting Visions of Peace in Israel

April 1, 2024

Everyone wants peace in the Middle East. The question is, what kind of peace? Those farther away want the conflict to end immediately, whereas those closest to the conflict prefer a peace that lasts. The question for American policymakers is whether to prefer the immediate peace of convenience or the more permanent peace of victory.

Immediate Peace

Last week, the Biden administration chose to side with the world’s spectators rather than our allied combatant Israel when it declined to veto a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. America’s abstention from that vote demonstrated an unmistakable “change in policy,” security analyst and former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) paratrooper Daniel Flesch said on Thursday’s “Washington Watch.” The U.S. has vetoed nearly every UNSC resolution condemning Israel since the nation’s modern founding.

The resolution, put forward by Mozambique, “did not even mention Hamas, much less condemn Hamas,” Flesch pointed out. “It called for a ceasefire as an aside to respect the holy month of Ramadan, even though [Hamas] did not respect the holiday of Simchat Torah [October 7, 2023, the conclusion of the Festival of Booths] or Shabbat back in October.”

While the Biden administration’s UNSC abstention does represent a departure from historic U.S. policy toward Israel, it also reflects a corresponding change in the Biden administration’s policy toward a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. On Friday, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller defended the administration’s diplomatic forfeit by declaring that the resolution “called for two things that we support: a ceasefire and the release of hostages together. … We do believe that it carries weight and should be implemented.”

This statement stands in stark contrast to the Biden administration’s position from five months earlier, when Miller insisted on October 23, 2023:

“Any ceasefire would give Hamas the ability to rest, to refit, and to get ready to continue launching terrorist attacks against Israel. You can understand perfectly clearly why that’s an intolerable situation for Israel, as it would be an intolerable situation for any country that has suffered such a brutal terrorist attack and continues to see the terrorist threat right on its border.”

So little has changed in those five months that Miller’s earlier utterance largely remains true today. Despite Israel’s significant military progress in dismantling Hamas, the Iran-backed terror group is still operating functional militant units in the Gaza Strip. It still constitutes a terrorist threat on Israel’s border, it would still benefit from a ceasefire, and its continuing existence still remains intolerable to Israel.

The only thing that has changed is that Hamas’s continuing existence in Gaza is no longer intolerable to the Biden administration (if it ever was). The Biden administration has changed its position not due to changing facts on the ground, but based on domestic political pressure exerted by a miniscule but thunderous anti-Semitic faction in his political base.

The Biden administration’s strategy of hindering Israel by foot-dragging and criticizing the Israeli prime minister are finally having an effect on Israeli public opinion too. Over the weekend, demonstrators gathered outside the Israeli Knesset calling for early elections and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s immediate removal. However, their dissatisfaction mostly stems from his government’s failure to prevent the October 7 terror attack and their failure to secure the return of all the hostages. As long as Israelis stand behind the war itself, any replacement government that replaced Netanyahu’s would be unlikely to reach a truce with Hamas.

Permanent Peace

A major reason why Israeli governments are unlikely to reach a truce is that Hamas is not interested in reaching one. Egypt is currently hosting ceasefire talks featuring the U.S. (ostensibly Israel’s backer) and Qatar (Hamas’s backer). Israeli negotiators are present to seek the release of remaining hostages, but Hamas did not even bother to send a delegation.

This dynamic is resulting in Israeli negotiators showing flexibility, while Hamas (through their Qatari proxies, presumably) are hardening their positions, such as insisting on Israel allowing any Gazans who wish, including terrorists, to return to the northern part of the Strip. “If we give in to another demand every two days, will this bring about a deal? This is the opposite of the truth,” said Netanyahu.

“Hamas is seeing the growing daylight between the Biden administration and Israel,” Flesch advised. He suggested terrorist leaders have “rejected numerous hostage exchange offers” based on a strategy of delay with hopes of enduring “into the presidential campaign season this summer.” The longer Hamas can wait, the more “the Biden administration increases pressure on Israel,” he said, in the eventual hope that they might “actually survive this war.”

Hamas and Israel are the two parties who are seeking a realistic, permanent solution to the conflict. Hamas has openly professed it aims to achieve peace by annihilating Israel, which naturally precludes the possibility of peacefully coexisting side-by-side with them in the same land. Until Israel is destroyed, Hamas wants no peace that lasts longer than it takes them to reload.

Israelis understand Hamas’s bloodlust and determined, after the late atrocities on October 7, that they too would fight to the death in a just war of self-preservation. Israel wants a permanent peace, but they know they must first destroy the terror group devoted to not allowing them to live peaceably.

There is a theoretical, third option for permanent peace, which involves the destruction of neither Hamas nor Israel. In this theoretical solution, there would be two states — one for Jews and one for Arabs — to live peaceably side by side.

Unfortunately, a real-world experiment exploded this theory on October 7. The Gaza Strip had effectively functioned as an independent Palestinian state since Israeli forces withdrew in 2006. The Arabs who lived there promptly elected a government of anti-Israel terrorists, placing Hamas in power in the very first election. Hamas then seized total control in a bloody coup, abolishing elections, commandeering foreign aid for military ends, turning the entire territory into a giant weapons factory, and turning the entire civilian population into human shields. There is no “viable governing authority” for Palestinians, Flesch argued, and the weak organizations that exist are fundamentally anti-Israel.

In contrast to the Gazan terror state created by Hamas, Israel is a pluralistic democracy with free elections and civil rights for religious minorities. Arabs comprise fully 20% of Israel’s population and are able to vote, establish political parties, and even capture seats in the Israeli Parliament. Those who wish to see Arabs and Jews living peaceably side by side need look no further than inside the state of Israel.

However, Israel’s internal order is repeatedly disrupted by terror strikes of the malicious actors that surround her. This is why Netanyahu has insisted on “complete victory” over Hamas.

“Reports are that … the IDF’s very close to eliminating Hamas,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins observed. “There’s still about four battalions totally intact. The others have been kind of dispersed. It’s chaotic. They’ve taken out command and control.” But, he added, if the IDF is “forced to pull back now, Hamas could regroup, and this threat does not go away.”

To defeat Hamas, Israel doesn’t have to “wipe out or destroy all 30,000, give or take, fighters they have,” Flesch confirmed, “but really to no longer allow them to constitute themselves as a political or military force in Gaza.” In particular, that would require Israel to take out Hamas’s leadership, including Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, the top two Hamas commanders.

Sinwar and Deif “are believed to be in Rafah,” Flesch continued, “so victory, in many ways for Israel, in part looks like either killing them, capturing them, or having them publicly in exile.” He added, “Israel must, and it will, go into Rafah to essentially achieve not only its military but also its political aims.”

In other words, there is a path to peace for Israel, one which leads through victory. To achieve both, it must pierce the diplomatic force field the Biden administration has foolishly constructed around Rafah, for no obvious purpose but to protect the terrorists sheltering there. Israel’s path to victory might be uncomfortable for international observers who still entertain dreams of a two-state solution, or who simply want to resolve the conflict immediately. But the truth is that fighting now is essential to preventing fighting later. An immediate peace would undermine a permanent one.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.