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Israel’s Long War

We’ve known since the afternoon of Oct. 7 that this Gaza war was going to be much longer, darker and uglier than its predecessors.
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February 21, 2024
Yuliia Bukovska / Getty Images

We’ve known since the afternoon of Oct. 7 that this Gaza war was going to be much longer, darker and uglier than its predecessors. But over the last few weeks, the end of the conflict has seemed especially far away.

By the time you read this, Israel’s assault on the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah may already have begun. It’s clear that the majority of Hamas leadership and ground fighters have relocated there for what they see as a cataclysmic battle against the Israeli military. It’s equally clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees the opportunity to strike a decisive blow against the terrorists, renewing his vow for “total victory.”

Meanwhile, Hamas’ negotiators have been setting such outlandish conditions for the release of additional Israeli hostages that Netanyahu has removed his representatives from those discussions. And Netanyahu went to great lengths last week to throw cold water on calls for a two-state solution, as his Cabinet issued a formal declaration stating that any such agreement would “grant a major prize to terror.” Neither the end of the fighting or the hostages’ freedom seems likely anytime soon.

Israel’s efforts to defeat the terrorists now runs the risk of slipping into the “oh yeah” category for those without a direct stake in the crisis.

As the war drags on, the international community’s patience — and Americans’ interest — is waning. The urgency of the Ukrainian war effort, along with renewed evidence of Vladmir Putin’s menacing goals, has moved that conflict back to the top of the news after being eclipsed by the violence in the Middle East for several months. Israel’s efforts to defeat the terrorists now runs the risk of slipping into the “oh yeah” category for those without a direct stake in the crisis.

New revelations about the United Nations’ support for Hamas have been met not with outrage but with shrugs. Most appalling was the assertion in a British television interview from a senior U.N. official saying that Hamas was “not a terrorist organization” and indicating that it should instead be categorized as a “political movement.” Attempting to clarify his statement the next day, Martin Griffiths, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, wrote on the social media site X that while Hamas had committed “acts of terror” on Oct. 7, it is somehow not on the Security Council’s list of groups designated as terrorist organizations.

(Israel’s official account posted this response: “Just to clarify, you’re a Hamas apologist and your statements are an insult to every single victim of Oct. 7. Pathetic.” The exchange received scant media coverage in the U.S.)

A day later, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant released a video of a U.N. relief worker removing the body of an Israeli man who had been shot on Oct. 7, providing the first visual evidence to support Israeli allegations that UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) employees assisted in the Hamas attacks. Meanwhile, the Israeli army announced the existence of an underground Hamas tunnel complex directly beneath UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters.

But much of this information has been overshadowed by a series of alarming news reports from Russia, including the death of dissident Alexei Navalny, the emergence of Russian efforts to develop nuclear capability in outer space, and the increasingly precarious status of Ukrainian military efforts after the fall of the key strategic city of Avdiivka. Just as the Ukraine/Russia “stalemate” robbed that conflict of a compelling storyline to attract Western media and public attention for much of last year, the protracted fighting between Israel and Hamas appears to be having a similar effect.

Putin famously wagered at the outset of his war that the West’s level of interest in the fight with Ukraine would diminish as time passed and that international backing would diminish as well. It appears that his gamble may have proven to be correct: Even as Europe continues to increase its military and financial aid, domestic political divisions in the U.S. make our country’s continued role much less certain.

The same international impatience for quick victory could also impact Israel’s challenge. But simply because a war is long and slow doesn’t make it any less important. American resolve and patience are more important than ever – especially among American Jews. 


Dan Schnur is the U.S. Politics Editor for the Jewish Journal. He teaches courses in politics, communications, and leadership at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine. He hosts the monthly webinar “The Dan Schnur Political Report” for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall. Follow Dan’s work at www.danschnurpolitics.com.

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