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A trap has been set for Israel America's new world order has empowered its enemies

Gaza this week (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

Gaza this week (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)


October 13, 2023   5 mins

Israel’s forces are massed at the border awaiting orders to launch a “full offensive” against Gaza. For days, airstrikes and artillery have been bombarding the Gaza statelet where Hamas has its warfighting machinery honeycombed inside city blocks. “You will have the ability to change the reality here,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the waiting Israeli soldiers on Tuesday. “Gaza will never go back to what it was.”

What Gaza was, it is now clear, had been catastrophically misjudged. With few exceptions, Israel’s leaders believed that Hamas was contained, while Washington’s smart set held that increased aid and normalisation would induce Hamas to moderate its positions and play a constructive role in “dialogue”. In 2008, Robert Malley, the lead White House negotiator with Iran for both Obama and Biden, provided what would become the dominant conceptual framework among America’s foreign policy mandarins. “None of them are crazies,” Malley told an interviewer of Hamas and Hezbollah. “They may do things that we consider to belong to a different realm of rationality, but within their own system it’s often very logical.”

Given the chance, Hamas rationally manifested the core tenets of its political vision on Saturday by massacring as many Jews as it could: soldiers and civilians, men, women, and children along with non-Jews, the collateral in its praxis of deliberate extermination. The attack was an extraordinary victory for them and an abject blow to Israel. How did a group thought to be muzzled and incapable manage to gain the strategic initiative against a far more powerful enemy?

Three factors played into Hamas’s success: complacency and unpreparedness inside Israel exacerbated by internal schism; the strengthening of Hamas’s great power-backer Iran; and the rapid unravelling of America’s global leadership, vacillating between reckless provocations and delusional attempts to integrate Iran, while pressuring Israel to embrace its enemies.

Although details of Iran’s role in Saturday’s attack are still being pieced together, there is no question that Tehran is the crucial enabler of the group’s military power. The tactics displayed — neutralising Israel’s early detection capabilities ahead of a combined armed assault — are borrowed from Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in Lebanon. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), another Gaza-based group, more directly controlled by Iran, also participated in the attack, demonstrating coordination within a broader regional Iranian military complex.

Iran’s power has been ascendant for two decades now, propped up by US policies beginning with the occupation of Iraq and culminating in the new era of US-Iranian alignment along with the release of billions of dollars to Tehran. Meanwhile, the Biden administration pushed Israel to accept new security arrangements. The thinking was that monetary aid could be used to transform belligerents into common protectorates, thereby “integrating” the region, in the term used by US officials, into a new “depressurised” regional order overseen by Washington.

Israel recently entered into such an arrangement with Lebanon and the result was that Hezbollah, which is already fully integrated into the Lebanese state, had more impunity to carry out attacks. Following a series of Hezbollah rocket strikes and manoeuvres across the border into Israel earlier this year, Middle East analyst Tony Badran explained the new dynamic: “The Israeli role is strictly to make concessions in the framework of a US-brokered agreement, at the risk of displeasing its American patron. Hezbollah, meanwhile, knows that the structure of this Kabuki performance prohibits Israel from retaliating, making its provocations more or less risk-free.”

All of which is clearly at odds with the messaging from Washington. President Biden’s rousing speech earlier this week was powerful and much appreciated by many Israelis, but it follows a long period of US policy that has made Israel appear vulnerable to its enemies.

Claims that Hamas was driven by desperation at seeing the Palestinian cause eclipsed by an approaching Saudi-Israel pact seem to ignore that the Palestinian cause, which had indeed been largely marginalised with Trump in office, was receiving more attention from the Biden administration. Rather than banishing the Palestinians, US officials explicitly wrote their claims into the language of the proposed Saudi-Israeli deal, as Tablet explained earlier this week: “The Biden administration had inserted its agenda on the 1967 lines and Jerusalem into the Saudi-Israeli process, and presented it as a Saudi ask that was necessary to provide “legitimacy” — through Palestinian buy-in — to any prospective agreement with Israel.” It was the Biden administration that restarted aid to Hamas despite warnings that the money would be used to fund terrorist attacks on Israel.

Why would the US fund both sides in a conflict? Biden, by all accounts, is sincere in his personal commitments to Israel. The reason they did it is because they actually thought it would work. Only last week, Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, boasted: “The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades.”

This is the trap Israel now faces: the country is already at war in what could rapidly spiral into an existential conflict, while its greatest ally, the US, has constructed a new regional order that has aimed to constrain Israel while empowering its enemies.

Any operation to defeat Hamas will have to include a significant ground invasion into Gaza. This will open the Israelis to protracted urban fighting against an enemy that has had ample time to plan for such a scenario and holds at ransom more than a hundred hostages including children.

Yet while Israel possesses both the will and the resources to fight even on two fronts, it must do more than just repel or temporarily silence its enemies. The massacre against its people requires an overwhelming response. Israelis demand no less and the nation’s security depends on re-establishing that the price to pay for attacking Israel is higher than its neighbours are willing to bear.

Modern warfare is ruled by states. Asymmetric war, which appears to violate that rule, ends up proving it because the warfighting capacity of substate groups relies on the protection and patronage of their sponsors. Israel must not only neutralise Hamas but do so while also re-establishing its deterrent with Iran. Moreover, it must do this within the context of a US-brokered strategic framework that has elevated Iran’s role in the region and, if possible, without reigniting hostilities with its neighbouring Arab countries.

This war will not be won by punishing the Palestinians. The only measure of victory will be the degree of peace that is secured for Israelis in their homeland. This may come as the result of prolonged and costly fighting, or from leveraging opportunities to broker terms that provide Israel with a sufficient strategic advantage to ensure its peace.

The longer the fighting goes on, the more Israel will lose the ever-fickle support of the international community; but that may be an acceptable trade-off. More difficult to calculate are the odds that as the fighting drags on, the conflict will widen beyond even the Iranian axis.

In June, the Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld warned that: “In the Middle East, the alarm bells are ringing.” With a number of different factors in the region converging, Van Creveld wrote, they might “combine with each other and give birth to the largest conflagration the region has witnessed in decades”.

There is time still for Hamas’ leadership to surrender itself and spare both Israelis and Palestinians further bloodshed — but one should not hold out hope.


Jacob Siegel is Senior Writer at Tablet Magazine

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Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
9 months ago

The problem isn’t what Israel does, it’s what Israel is. The people who hate it won’t like it any better if they build a few less settlements, or go a bit softer on Hamas. Yes, this provocation is a trap, but the Saudis are ultimately cynical enough to go back to whatever negotiations are going on if it’s in their interests once the dust settles. Israel cannot possibly tolerate a Gaza controlled by a group dedicated to its destruction, which merely bides its time until an opportunity to strike again arises. Not out of revenge or anger, but to eliminate an existential threat, they need to take this opportunity to really go after Hamas. When it’s done, the people who hate Israel will still hate Israel, and the people who believe in the right of the Israeli state to exist, and its people to live in safety, will still believe in that.

0 0
0 0
9 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

So Israel goes after Hamas but doesn’t solve the problem of its brutal occupation of Gaza. Then what? Unless Israel has committed genocide wont new resistance arise until there is a political solution?

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

What occupation? The whole problem with Gaza is that Hamas, not Israel occupied it. The only brutal administration there’s been in Gaza is Hamas itself.

0 0
0 0
9 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Gaza is viewed as an occupied territory by the UN because Israel has full control of its borders, airspace and territorial waters despite having formally withdrawn its forces from the enclave in 2005. Israel also controls the population registry, its water, electricity, telecommunications, and other utilities. Hamas controls the open air prison within that context and hasn’t allowed an election since 2006.

Last edited 9 months ago by 0 0
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

It’s essentially like the large South American prisons, where the guards control the perimeter and the gangs control what happens inside the walls

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Good analogy

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
9 months ago

I second that.

Micah Dembo
Micah Dembo
9 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

What has hamas done with the >300 billion the UN and EU and USA and Gulf States and Iranians have shoveled into Gaza in the last decade.. Gaza would be a little Singapore by now if they had spent that money on the people and infrastructure. It is enough to make every resident into a millionar. Gaza has oil and gas and great beaches farmland and excellent trade location between east and west. This is not much of a prison.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
9 months ago
Reply to  Micah Dembo

If Hamas were willing to compromise more with Israel, then Gaza wouldn’t be in the situation it is in

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So Hamas are the gangsters?

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
9 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Well, they collect the money, kill people who oppose them, and their rule is based on a willingness and ability to deploy violence to achieve their goals.
So, are they gangsters? What do you think?

PS I know the above would apply to most nation states, but the idea is that the machinery of democracy legitimises the collection of money as tax, and its subsequent use. Hamas doesn’t have a free press or elections. Presumably it figures even Palestinians wouldn’t vote for it.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Yes. Although the South American guards don’t threaten to starve the whole prison or cut the water off if one gang does something they don’t like

John Solomon
John Solomon
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

They might do if one of the gangs broke out and slaughtered some of the guards.

Mike Patterson
Mike Patterson
9 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

And raped, killed, and kidnapped their spouses, teenagers, and babies.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Only despotic regimes indulge in collective punishment I’m afraid. Most civilised countries know we’re not guilty for the actions of our kin

John Solomon
John Solomon
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, but….
Let me confuse the issue with an analogy. If you have cancer in a limb, threatening to spread to the rest of the body, and if you cannot simply excise the cancer, you have to cut off the whole limb, sound tissue along with the malignant.

sergio bramasole
sergio bramasole
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Every war is a collective punishment in one way or another. Allied bombings of German cities in WWII … were FDR and Winston Churchill war criminals? Attack civilians, expect to be repaid in the same coin.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

And the gang inside the prison is hell-bent on destroying the Israeli state, and so can’t comprimise with the ”prison guards” for better opportunities within the ”’prison”’ ; )

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Hilariously morally blind..”One thing the Israelis don’t like”? What, the one thing being civilians being butchered in the streets? And if Hamas has the opportunity and weaponry, many more would do so.

Actually, I’m pretty sure in your putative prison analogy the prisoners would either have to surrender pretty quick or be massacred if prison officers had suffered in that way.

Micah Dembo
Micah Dembo
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Why don’t they go in and out via the sea or via egypt.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Micah Dembo

Because they aren’t allowed to. The entire enclave is under a de facto siege. Egypt also won’t open its border because they know they’ll then have most of the population flood into their country. Israel would then annex Gaza and the fighting would be on Egypt’s border rather than where it is now

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Where does Egypt fit into this metaphor?

Phil Re
Phil Re
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You’re conveniently ignoring the major difference. It’s the history. Gaza was supposed to have increased commerce with and access to the outside world when Israel withdrew. That was conditional on Hamas’s not seizing the delicate moment to escalate conflict. If Hamas had held its fire, Gaza would now have a seaport and probably by now an airport, and the Palestinians could have used Gaza’s stability to strengthen their bargaining position in the West Bank.
What animates Hamas is the same jihadist sickness and savagery that drove ISIS to commit its inhuman atrocities in Syria and Iraq.
I can’t think of a greater disservice to innocent Palestinians in Gaza than to pretend that their Ayatollah-backed jihadist tormentors are resisting on their behalf.

Hunter Hustus
Hunter Hustus
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

You ignore the Gaza-Egypt border

0 0
0 0
9 months ago
Reply to  Hunter Hustus

Eqypt does not allow a flow of people even now under heavy Isreali bombardment and threats to life by Israel’s withdrawal of water, electricity, etc – the necessities for life. The question I asked remains unanswered: how even if Israel defeats Hamas will they be able to resolve the issue of Palestine – unless genocide is committed by the Israelis (as is suggested in the many dehumanising comments) there still needs to be a political solution or are we anticipating a return to the open prison for another 50 years? What is the humanitrian solution here? Rather than just calling Palestinians animals?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

You stated that Israel has full control of Gaza’s borders. That isn’t true. Why don’t you start asking some questions of Egypt?

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Why hasn’t the vast Muslim world offered the 2.5 million residents of Gaza a ‘way out’? Or perhaps the EU might like to make that offer, they pour a great deal of money into the hands of the Palestinians?

0 0
0 0
9 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

So your solution is the displacement of the Gaza population into more refugee camps?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Why should Egypt (or anywhere else) not put these people into refugee camps unless temporarily. There are some who call Gaza a refugee camp and an unacceptable one at that. What nationality do most of Gaza hail from? Jordan? That said, Israel is chock full of Arabs and always has been. They live side by side. If they take 2 million more, it spells the end for Israel realistically.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Hamas is the problem. Defeating Hamas, weeding out alternative Iran-funded militant groups, and giving Gaza moderate democratic representation might provide some route towards compromise, where the strictures on it can eventually be reduced and it can begin to take some control of its own infrastructure

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

There is no political solution. There may never have been, because fundamentally many on the Arab side have never accepted the state of Israel.

All of the territory now demanded even by “moderate” Palestinians for its state – which of course Hamas would try and take over to launch further attacks on Israel – was in the hands of the Arabs between 1948 and 1967, including East Jerusalem and the Old City. The people of the West Bank had Jordanian citizenship, and (Trans-) Jordan was part of the original mandate of Palestine. Job done! But then of course the aim was to destroy Israel altogether.

1) wage a war to destroy Israel which after bloody fighting, Israel wins.

2) Try and get the “International community” to pressure Israel to reverse the outcome of the war that its soldiers died for. Engage in various hi-jackings, assassinations and murders (including of Israeli athletes) in pursuing this aim.

3) Claim you want a two-state solution. (But why didn’t you accept that before?) And reject any specific proposal outright for achieving this.

4) A far more virulent anti-Semitic group arises and takes over some (all?) of the Palestinian Territories, aiming to use terror to kill many Jews and drive out the remainder. Supported by a would be nuclear power, Iran.

Former Israeli PM Golda Meir famously said that ‘if the Palestinians lay down their weapons, there will be peace. If the Israelis lay down their weapons, there will be a massacre.’

0 0
0 0
9 months ago
Reply to  Hunter Hustus

On Wednesday it was reported that the Rafah crossing in the Gaza Strip has been bombed at least three times by Isreal blocking the only land exit from the coastal enclave to Egypt. And that Egypt is moving to prevent a mass exodus of Palestinians from Gaza. Its an open prison and I am sick of reading the lack of empathy for the people of Palestine – particularly the children – stuck in the dark, without food or water, waiting for th bombs. I just don’t jknow what is wrong with you people.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Couldn’t agree more.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

The Germans suffered a lot in World War 2, didn’t they?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

I give no credence whatsoever to what the UN thinks about anything.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago

I’d almost immediately start looking at what the UN opposed.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

The UN is an anti-Semitic snake pit full of the worst violators of human rights in the world. Anything coming out of that body is antithetical to the world peace it purports to champion.

0 0
0 0
9 months ago

Because for you anyone is anti-semetic who has a different interpretation of how Israel was founded and the role it plays in this shameful saga.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

It’s very very easy to decide who are the good guys and who the bad with just one simple question: If either of these groups were your enemy which one would you prefer to be captured by?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Yes, let’s wait for this reply.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Amongst so many smug, specious remarks, this one stands out to me. Don’t know why.

Last edited 9 months ago by Nona Yubiz
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago

Criticising Israels actions isn’t anti semitic, and trying to claim so is no better than those pathetic groups who claim any criticism of bad Muslim behaviour as Islamophobia

John Riordan
John Riordan
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

This merely proves that the UN is miscategorising what an occupied territory actually is. I won’t speculate on why.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Gaza has a border with Egypt too

Phil Re
Phil Re
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Hamas exploited Israel’s withdrawal to step up its rocket attacks and keep Gaza locked in a conflict that served Hamas’s genocidal Islamist ambitions at the expense of people on both sides of the line who had hoped for normal lives. In other words, Hamas sabotaged Gaza’s future, and the ever-corrupt UN acted as though Israel’s complete withdrawal—and Hamas’s expanded targeting of civilian populations in response, which forced Israel and Egypt to tighten border controls—did not change Gaza’s status as occupied.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Hamas has received billions of dollars of aid and used that to further its military capability and actual bloody assaults on Israel. Israel DID carry out a very controversial and divisive withdrawal and dismantled settlements. Peace cannot be achieved while one side sees all such concessions as weaknesses to exploit. How blind do people have to be not to see that nothing Israel does will make any difference to Hamas’ fundamental anti-Semitic ideology?

sergio bramasole
sergio bramasole
8 months ago
Reply to  0 0

You’re wrong in more ways than one. For starters, the UN in the Palmer Report concluded that the Gaza blockade was lawful.

Saul Kaplan
Saul Kaplan
4 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Israel absolutely did not have full control of the Gaza borders. How are so many people uninformed about the Gaza border with Egypt? The Egyptian government was just as eager to keep that border secure against the terrorists that are Hamas.

Micah Dembo
Micah Dembo
9 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Gaza will be incorporated into greater Israel, and the Gaza’s will,be deprogrammed and converted to the new faith. Palestine, for its murders lies and false worship, has been declared an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. It is to be laid to laid to waste at his command for their sins. by the children of Israel. Just like Sodom and Gomorrah

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
9 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

The general ideology held by most is lack of support for either side. Pew surveys are clear on this. In the U.K. 50% support neither. About 20% don’t know. Of the remaining 30%, in the U.K. at least, the pro Palestinians support runs at 20% and the pro Israeli support is at 10%. Neither is a large segment of the population.

However there’s a clear risk here in exterminating Hamas (which has to mean massive civilian deaths and possibly full ethnic cleaning) – the don’t knows will veer towards Palestinian support.

It’s also a bit odd to believe that Israel has the right to attack Islamists in Palestine and Assad doesn’t have that right in Syria. There’s a clear extremist existential threat there to the Christians but we are still encouraged to despise Assad.

Theresa Guirato
Theresa Guirato
9 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

This post was, for it’s brevity, more focused and comprehensible than the article, which had too many ‘hands’.. i.e. “on this hand.. on the other hand…”.

Last edited 9 months ago by Theresa Guirato
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
9 months ago

Given that Hamas, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad and Iran are quite explicit that they will not stop until Israel is eradicated, it is difficult to understand how a peaceful resolution is possible. I’ve yet to hear anyone provide a real answer to that problem – it seems inevitable that there will be massive bloodshed on all sides.

Vern Hughes
Vern Hughes
9 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

At some point, the international community will have to admit that it made a terrible mistake in 1948 in establishing the State of Israel in an area that is historically one of multi-ethnic, multi-faith co-existence.It was never going to produce a secure homeland for the Jews, all it has done is create permanent war with the Palestinians.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago
Reply to  Vern Hughes

It was an area of subjugation by the Ottoman Turks, and before that other empires. The eradication of the Ottoman empire effects are still being felt there and in the Balkans and Caucasus. Though the Balkans & Caucasus has the added complexity of having former Soviet era borders. However, the Israeli’s have the massive disadvantage of being Jews – and it appears, nearly everyone seems to hate them.
The big irony is that Hamas can be excused because the Israelis ‘oppress them’ in Gaza, but the Jews can’t be excused despite the world repeatedly trying to murder them.
Mind you how any Jihadist thinks a French school teacher or a concert in Manchester are anything to do with Israel has yet to be explained, on this site at least.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
9 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

This conflict is now far beyond any silly considerations of identity. The Israelis, the Jewish ones and the non-Jews, will have their revenge. They will destroy Hamas, regardless of the cost. The residents off Gaza will pay the highest price.
If the international community had a real interest in minimizing the horror they would devote themselves to hunting down and hanging any and every member of Hamas. Not for any moral reason but just to put out the fire as quickly as possible.
Adult humans don’t hesitate to kill rabid dogs not because the poor things are evil, but because allowing them to live is too dangerous.
In any case, the die is cast. Nothing we say will change that.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
9 months ago
Reply to  Vern Hughes

That gets it backward. The creation of Israel did not create Jewish-Muslim conflict in Palestine, which had been endemic for decades (centuries?) before.
Quite the opposite, the creation of Israel was intended to help *resolve* Jewish-Muslim conflict in Palestine, by giving each ethno-religious group its own nation-state and sphere of influence. The goal was to create mutually distinct, stable societies, and hope that doing so would enable peaceful internal development and eventually peaceful coexistence.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
9 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Right, except the Palestinians never got the state they were promised, so the half-measure did exacerbate the existing issues and now here we are.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
9 months ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

That makes it sound like the Palestinian state was a gift that got lost in the mail. A Palestinian state has been an achievable reality on several occasions… but has usually been prevented by some combination of adjoining Arab states with their own political calculations, plus religious extremists unwilling to accept any Jewish polity, plus (maybe) Palestinians unhappy with the details of the option.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
9 months ago
Reply to  Vern Hughes

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that the State of Israel was founded by the Jews who were thereby to become Israelis, by their own blood, sweat and tears, and that the international community, such as it was at the time, was less than fully cooperative.
And many decades later, the homeland for the Jews established thereby remains, albeit no more secure than any land whose enemies lie on its borders, a place to which, when you go, they’ll let you in, a home.
If mistakes have been made, for example in believing that a misogynistic death cult like Hamas could be bargained with, then it was based upon the assumption that the life of ones own children was more important than the death of someone else’s.
I suppose that assumption is what some clever people would style as ‘euro-centric’.
In fairness to Hamas, they’ve always been honest as to their ultimate aims. The unwillingness or inability to believe them is, ironically, an assumption that western values are universal to some extent. The people with the colonial mindset here are the ones calling for ‘a negotiated solution’.
Hamas wants to eliminate Jews from the lands where they live. What, exactly, is the middle ground?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

So it’s ok for the Jews to establish Israel by force, but beyond the pale for the Muslims to want to do the same in returning the land back to how it was a century ago?

Mark Burks
Mark Burks
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I think you have struck upon the core of this conundrum. It is quite similar to the battle for Ukraine really.. ..and why shouldn’t Russia have it back. This is exactly the stuff that wars are made of.
As Golda Meir put it: If Arabs put down their swords there is peace. If Israel puts down its swords there is no Israel.

John Riordan
John Riordan
9 months ago
Reply to  Vern Hughes

What was the alternative?

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
9 months ago

“This is the trap Israel now faces: the country is already at war in what could rapidly spiral into an existential conflict
”

It has been an existential conflict since 1948.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
9 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Indeed. Israel’s enemies are only united against Israel though, quite obviously. Israel’s destruction would not lead to peace in the region.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
9 months ago

Remember, the Israeli government initially encouraged the development of Hamas as a counterweight to Arafat. The USA encouraged the Taliban as a counterweight against the Russians in Afghanistan. Brilliant manƓuvres.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

The immediate strategy seems focused on eliminating Hamas, at least militarily. The impact on Palestinian non combatants will be immense and the Author is probably right to contend Israel will trade international condemnation for decapitation of Hamas. But can it really achieve that aim? Would Hamas not simply grow another head recharged by further mythology about it’s resistance to the Zionists? I fear the latter inevitable even if short term it is crushed.
Much more the root of this seems to rest in Tehran. Without that support Hamas and Hezbollah cannot function and those Palestinians who would peacefully co-exist will never have power. The solution seems more here, but the West is stretched and whilst aligned on containment not much beyond that. At some point Israel will turn it’s attention back to the real perpetrators but whether it can go it alone we have to doubt.

Dark Horse
Dark Horse
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

There is also the problem of the Koran being saturated with virulent anti-semitism so that any and all Jews are reduced to subhumans deserving only to be wiped off the face of the Earth.
No wonder Palestinians wave the swastika.
As long as the basis of Islam is to hate the Jews there can be no peaceful co-existance.
Many Muslims believe killing Jews guarantees you a place in paradise.
Sensible Musims believe taking any innocent life guarantees you a place in Hell but they are in the minority.
This enmity is further fuelled by the fact that Jews and Arabs have far more in common than with other cultures. The Hebrew Bible and the Koran have many passages in common. Both races are descended from Abraham. Their languages are very similar having evolved from a common root language. Their sense of humour, music, cuisine are all very similar.
Near neighbours and siblings tend to have far more passionate and bloodthirsty rivalries than with less similar groups.
Added to that the tremendous Arab inferiority complex as the lesser descendants of a slave girl whereas the Jews can boast descent from the patriarch’s wife.
This innate inferiority seems borne out by the far more modern, successful and advanced State of Israel with a very sophisticated quite westernised approach to life compared to the homophobic misogynistic brutal dictatorship that prevails in Palestine which has suffered a non-stop brain drain for decades.
The most intelligent and enlightened Palestinians have voted with their feet.
All that remains for those left behind is to wage an endless low level war that occasionally erupts into full blown attacks while all the time claiming victim status when Israel understandably retaliates.
There will be no peace until Islam is reformed or withers under the weight of indifference which is not going to happen any time soon.
One glimmer of hope is that throughout the Middle East pirated copies of the works of Hitchins and Dawkins are hugely popular.
The God Delusion is an underground bestseller.

Will Longfield
Will Longfield
9 months ago
Reply to  Dark Horse

An agnostic-atheistic Westerner purporting to tell a billion Muslims what they should believe.
Muslims are not so easily bullied and cowed as Christians.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

“Three factors played into Hamas’s success…” – One not mentioned (unless it is part of ‘complacency’) is the extraordinary disregard of Hamas toward the Paelstinian people and cause. Perhaps I am missing something (I’m open to being schooled) – but how did Hamas ever think their actions of the weekend could lead to a better outcome for them or for Palestinians? It’s as if they tragically misread the David and Goliath story, and took it as a battle plan.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Disregard for their people appears to be a must for Islamic regimes. The West Bank leaders are brutal to their population. Sell land to an Israeli? Death Penalty. Only the Israeli NGO screwed up delivering one such Palestinian and was filmed undercover plotting to do it there’d be one less West Bank Palestinian.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago

“There is time still for Hamas’ leadership to surrender itself and spare both Israelis and Palestinians further bloodshed — but one should not hold out hope.”
Is that really your position here? It looks like victim blaming of civilians to me. 
I condemn Hamas and their appalling actions utterly and unequivocally and maintain Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. I condemn the Western supporters of Hamas and the eruption of anti-Semitism.
However, Israel is committing war crimes. Collective punishment. White phosphorus. Wiping out whole families. Killing medics, journalists, UN workers. Bombing hospitals and refugee camps. Half the dead are women and children.
Why is the coverage in Unherd so one-sided? Where is Thomas Fazi’s column this week?
This morning’s news has done nothing to disconfirm my concern that the endgame here is Nakba 2. 
Moving a million people in 24 hours to the south. Is this reasonable? Is it possible? The UN certainly doesn’t think so. They won’t be allowed to return until the IDF says so, but what will there be to return to?
The US is trying to get Egypt to open the border. Of course, they are. Once the Palestinians are forced into the Sinai Desert, they will never be allowed to return.

Brian Hunt
Brian Hunt
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

That’s the reality, but your comment is being down voted. The innocent ones in Gaza don’t deserve to die to satisfy a thirst for revenge. The Hamas terrorists that conducted the atrocities against innocent Israelis have a network of tunnels to escape to.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

There’s already more dead Palestinian civilians than Israeli ones in this latest flare up, and Hamas have used up everything they had while Israel has barely started. You don’t have to be a Hamas apologist (I’m not, I think they’re a bunch of terrorists) to see that the Israeli response is just as sickening. Whether you shoot a family in their bed or bomb them as they sleep it’s still the same end result

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Does the manner in which you kill someone matter?
I struggle with that one.
I think I have to say, yes. I think it does matter.
If what we see and hear is true. And it’s a big if. The beheading of babies. The rape, murder and dragging of a broken woman’s body around in a pickup truck while men chant waving AKs above their head is the same as collateral damage from an air strike against a military target I would have to disagree.
But hey. Maybe I’m a squeamish.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Israel told them to get out, Hamas told them to stay.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

So Israel dropped the bombs anyway, knowing those tower blocks were full of civilians?
Using human shields is deplorable behaviour, happily killing those civilians in order to hit your target is equally so. Those aren’t the actions of a civilised regime in my opinion

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

The Iranian people would probably welcome it if Israel removed their Government.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

As a Byzantine historian, this is a very depressing time to be alive.

James H Johnson
James H Johnson
9 months ago

What is the intellectual basis for antisemitism?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
9 months ago

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re likely to get the same results. From 1947 onward, the world has been trying to impose a two state solution. The initial planned partition of British Palestine was a two state solution, with Israel being significantly smaller in the partition than it currently is. The Jewish leaders accepted the terms of partition. The Arabs did not, and chose to fight instead, declaring that Israel should not exist at all. They have repeatedly tried and failed to destroy Israel, usually with the help of more powerful allies, but they’ve never stopped trying, long after most other Muslim countries moved on and lost interest. Even after being unilaterally being given significant autonomy, they have returned again to their determination to destroy Israel. Creating two states where one state is ideologically committed to destroying the other is nothing but a recipe for constant warfare and terrorism. The best solution to this state of affairs would be for Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to have a summit and negotiate a permanent end to the Palestinian state. The territories now constituting Palestine should be occupied by either Egypt, Jordan, or Israel, who would then be left the task of handling terrorism within their borders, and all three have proven their ability to do so. Whether the Arab powers would accept this would depend on how much of a headache they’re willing to put up with in pacifying the former territories and whether they’re willing to take domestic political heat as a trade off for undermining their principal regional rival, Iran. If they won’t do it, Israel has little choice but to annex the entirety of the territories themselves, a move which would bring universal condemnation, but probably not an actual military intervention from Egypt or anyone else. It would be a long, hard slog to integrate the territories and greatly enlarge the Arab minority in Israel, but it would, over the long term, actually contribute to peace and stability in the region.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
9 months ago

IsraĂ«l’s government will not stop its continued annexation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Islam’s holiest sites. It will also continue its blockade of Gaza. So Palestinian resistance will continue, and Israel’s situation will remain precarious. The supposed superiority of its intelligence services and the IDF produced a false sense of security which has now been shattered. Drone warfare has turned $50 toys into lethal weapons. And public opinion in the West seems to turn slowly against Israel, especially among the young, if polls can be trusted unless Israel changes its policies which seems very unlikely. Anything wrong with this analysis?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago

Precisely, and it will all “end in tears”, as we used to say.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago

It started with them, plus a lot of blood and horror. As we now say.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

If Israel’s government did stop, would the Palestinians? Therein lies the rub.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago

Israel, with US and other Western encouragement, has tried the “Land for Peace” approach since the Oslo Accords of the 90s. It should be obvious by now that it hasn’t worked. So its presence in the West Bank is essential to its continued existence. And you forget that the holy sites are holy to Jews as well as Muslims.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago

Hasn’t worked because not seriously tried. The Jewish deal was: ‘We’ll keep 80% of your land and you can retain 20% of it — for now. Recall that the hard core Zionists have always intended to reclaim the *entire* Biblical land of Israel and that includes most of Jordan and half of Lebanon. Not to mention parts of Syria and Egypt.

Will Longfield
Will Longfield
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Exactly. The Palestinians don’t want squalid walled-off enclaves and bits and pieces of disconnected territory. They want their whole country back.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago

Yes,an ignorance of reality. Once they become parents they won’t be supporting Jihadists, or the next time they end up at a festival where the local Jihadists decide to turn up and join in, they’ll have second thoughts. Though perhaps one day a concert can take place in Manchester, or elsewhere without any security looking for certain profiles wearing haversacks. Though even in times past an ignorant Islamist knows Manchester isn’t in Israel.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago

Strange, several times below I’ve upvoted something only to see the counter go down.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

That’s because other people have voted in the time since you loaded the page – once you vote it refreshes, showing the vote tally as iit stand now.

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
9 months ago

Sorry chaps just trying to send Unherd support a screenshot of the error message i get when trying to post…

Last edited 9 months ago by Don Lightband
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
9 months ago

“ Although details of Iran’s role in Saturday’s attack are still being pieced together, there is no question that Tehran is the crucial enabler of the group’s military power.”

No real evidence there. And in any case there’s no reason for the west in general to get involved here. It’s Israel’s problem.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

Israel should consider a missile attack on the Iranian leadership, and leave Gaza alone.

John Serrano-Davey
John Serrano-Davey
9 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

If only we could democratically remove the current Iranian Theocratic rulers.
To do it forcefully will probably allow an even worse regime to take its place (remember Iraq and Libya )
Iranians are in general very decent people, and with a very modern and pro-Western side, albeit a side that is silent as it is oppressed by these leaders.
I think the only hope is that educated decent Iranians somehow manage to regain control of their beautiful country, and I have no idea how possible or not that may be.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Plenty of Iranians would thank them for it.

Vern Hughes
Vern Hughes
9 months ago

UnHerd opinion pieces to date on Gaza/Israel have been disappointing, seemingly too afraid to state the bleeding obvious – the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a terrible mistake by the international community. It was never going to lead to a secure homeland for the Jews, it was only going to create permanent war with the Palestinians. Hamas’ extremism and brutalism are a response to this mistake. At some point, the world community will have rectify its mistake in 1948 – now would be a good time.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
9 months ago
Reply to  Vern Hughes

Ngorno Karabak/Caucusus, Ukraine, Balkans, all regions where borders are redrawn an populations are moved. Europe is overwhelmed with migrants as is the US. The Muslim world is surely big enough to accept approximately 2.5 Million migrants from the so called “Open Prison’ in Gaza?

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
9 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Why would they? Palestinians have a home land. If only Jewish settlers would stop claiming that they have a Biblical right to Palestinian land.

Danielle Treille
Danielle Treille
9 months ago

Biblical right… chosen people… It would all be laughable it it didn’t create so much bloodshed.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago

Funny thing the way a Jewish atheist can still claim God-given title to other people’s land.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago
Reply to  Vern Hughes

Interesting, I upvoted your comment but the counter went down. Yes, it was naive. So what to do now? Where would you like the Jews to move to? I’d take a different approach, which is to ask Israel to pay for what it has taken.

Will Longfield
Will Longfield
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

That is the other question that cannot be answered. Where do 7 millions Jews go? Israel cannot back down either.
Its a tough one.
Perhaps the Byzantine Scholar gentleman who posted earlier can recommend a solution – perhaps a Christian Emperor takes control and ensures peace between these squabbling semitic tribes.