The Ticking Time Clock on Vanquishing Hamas

If Israel is going to rid itself of Hamas once and for all, it will have to make it quick.
February 28, 2024
Leestat /Getty Images; mikroman6/Getty Images

It was just a matter of time. Once Israel’s War Cabinet said “go” on Oct. 8, the day after the bloodiest and most grotesque attack on the Jewish homeland in its history, the timer on this latest war with Hamas started. Everyone with even minimal knowledge of Middle East history knew that the world, and even Israel’s allies, had an unspecified time limit in mind for Israel’s counteroffensive — measured in both precious minutes and Palestinian body count.

That clock is still ticking, and we are reaching a tipping point.

If Israel is going to rid itself of Hamas once and for all, it will have to make it quick. The Jewish state is about to invade Rafah — that last bastion of Hamas hideouts — while the world impatiently taps its feet for the war to end.

Yes, the very same global leaders who acknowledged Israel’s right to self-defense also believed that it was to be short-lived. Israel seems to be the only nation drawn into wars and denied the satisfaction of declaring victory. The demand is always made that they sue for peace and return land. Vanquishing its enemies, or even setting the terms for surrender, is not an option for Jews.

Negotiations are now underway with representatives from Egypt, Qatar, the United States, and Israel, for a swapping of more hostages for prisoners, and a ceasefire lasting several months for humanitarian purposes. Such a lengthy timeout, however, is tantamount to a permanent truce. Hamas and Islamic Jihad will regroup. As we have come to learn, 70% of the aid will be snatched for the benefit of terrorists. And Gazans will not depart the fighting zones. If Hamas is going to resupply, why would they allow their shields to get up and walk away? 

Demands are everywhere for Israel to stop. Brazil’s president denounced the war in Gaza as another Holocaust and compared Israelis to Nazis. The United States cautioned Israel against launching its offensive in Rafah. Yes, it vetoed a U.N. resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire, but not without proposing its own draft resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire. 

Prince William of the United Kingdom went further: He took the rare step of a royal weighing in on British foreign policy, urging “an end to the fighting” and a “permanent peace.”

Who does the guy think he is: The Queen of England? 

How precisely does the Prince imagine accomplishing this permanent peace? His Highness of low intelligence apparently has friends among the Lords. The Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron, indicated that the United Kingdom might unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state and ask the United Nations to make it official.

What? Essentially, a Palestinian state would be created as a reward for Hamas’ demonstration that it is incapable of nation-building. It has already reaffirmed its intentions to deliver repeat performances of Oct. 7 until it rids the region of Jews. Let’s now make it easier and grant statehood. Polling shows that both Gazans and West Bank Palestinians overwhelmingly support Hamas. This is Lord Cameron’s idea of a good neighbor and a cessation of hostilities? 

Of course, Israel has always had a bad history with Great Britain. It was England that refused to relinquish its custodial mandate for the region, blocked efforts for Holocaust survivors to emigrate to British-occupied Palestine, and then voted against U.N. Resolution 181, the Partition Plan that would have created both a Jewish and Arab state.

And who can forget that King Edward I, in 1290, expelled all of England’s Jews — the first time anything like that had ever happened in Europe. Prince William and Lord Cameron are in fine company.

Meanwhile, Cameron’s counterpart in America, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, responding to reports that Israel’s Finance Minister wished to build 3,000 additional homes in the West Bank, stated that all Israeli settlements are “inconsistent with international law.” 

Now that’s a switch, harkening back to the Obama administration and its failure to veto U.N. Security Resolution 2334, which deemed Israeli settlements illegal. Prior to that, the official State Department position had been that settlements were mostly an obstacle to peace. Mike Pompeo, the prior Secretary of State, changed U.S. policy and rejected any association of settlements with illegality. The Biden administration has now reversed course.

Only a week earlier, during an ill-advised press conference, President Biden mumbled the words “over the top” in describing Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Let’s see: Russia’s Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine two years ago, kills civilians and kidnaps children, and achieves a stalemate that may take an eternity to resolve. After the calamity of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States waged a War on Terror, requiring the invasion of both Afghanistan and Iraq in order to annihilate Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS. It resulted in tens of thousands of dead civilians. The United States vacated the region 20 years later. Yet, technically, the war is still ongoing. And Israel is “over the top”?

Moreover, the United States never faced international pressure to move things along—no Security Council Resolutions, legal actions before the International Court of Justice, or campus protests where faculty and students shouted: “Genocide!”

Israel’s objective in Gaza is also a War on Terror. So, what’s the difference?

 Biden is, admittedly, feeling political heat, which may be influencing his recent maneuvers. After all, he is presiding over a massive border crisis with violent Venezuelan gangs preying on sanctuary cities. While 75% of Americans support Israel in this war, those numbers evaporate among young people. That perhaps explains Biden’s executive action to cancel $1.2 billion in student debt from 150,000 borrowers. 

Taking a harder line against Israel may further ingratiate himself with that voter demographic. Besides, he has more leverage with Israel than he does with 11 million illegal migrants, some of whom might comprise their own voting bloc.

This war is not going to end soon. No one imagined a Six-Day War in Gaza, but Israel didn’t fully grasp the underbelly of Hamas’s elaborate network of tunnels, far more gleaming than anything above ground.

The civilian death toll was something Israel had surely anticipated. But saving Palestinian lives and eliminating Hamas are irreconcilable objectives. The world is blaming the wrong party for the reportedly 30,000 dead (many of whom are terrorists). The moral universe favors Israel, but that delegation is always marked absent at the U.N.

The global hypocrisy remains unchanged: Israel may have a legal right to defend itself, but not if it entails killing Arabs. Only Arabs can kill Arabs. And everyone can kill Jews.

The global hypocrisy remains unchanged: Israel may have a legal right to defend itself, but not if it entails killing Arabs. Only Arabs can kill Arabs. And everyone can kill Jews.

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro University, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.” 

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