January 17, 2020

Can war bring peace?

I’ve always been annoyed by the term, “peace camp,” the moniker commonly used by left-wing, peace-seeking organizations like Peace Now, the Israel PolicyForum and, more recently, J Street.

Because those organizations are very noisy about their desire for peace and their abhorrence for anything that smacks of a “military solution,” they have crowned themselves with the glorious “peace camp” title.

The implication, of course, is that if you don’t share their philosophy for attaining peace, you’re in another camp — if not exactly the war camp, then maybe the stiff-necked, “force is necessary” camp.

Complete Gaza CoverageIn truth, however, I’ve never met a right-wing Jew who doesn’t want peace. The divisive question is always: How do we get there? By being forceful and hard-nosed, or flexible and understanding?

One of the more powerful arguments advanced by the peace camp is that there is “no military solution” to the conflict. War is counterproductive and hardens the enemy. What we need are political solutions through smart and diplomatic engagement, like we achieved with Egypt and Jordan.

I have a lot of sympathy for the idea that wars can backfire and make things worse, as it did with the Second Lebanon War of 2006. That’s why I agonized over whether Israel should escalate the war in Gaza and invade with ground troops. Like many others, I asked myself: Can we really win this kind of war? Will it really stop the rockets? What would come next?

Then, I came across something that hit me like a lightning bolt.

It was an item in Investor’s Business Daily that reported that Hamas might already have rockets that can reach Israel’s nuclear plant in Dimona.

Even if the claim was exaggerated, it made me wonder: If a terrorist entity like Hamas — one fanatically devoted to Israel’s destruction — ever got hold of missiles that can take out Israel’s nuclear installations, would they use them?

Is there any peace-loving leftist who can honestly answer, No, they wouldn’t?

If Hamas bombs actually started falling on Dimona or Tel Aviv, would the “peace camp” still be harping against “military solutions” and calling for “immediate cease-fires”? Would J Street still find no moral distinction between the terrorist bombs of Hamas and Israel’s long-delayed response to defend its citizens?

Israel, it seems to me, has decided that if it can’t eliminate the terrorists’ desire to murder Jews, the least it can do is significantly reduce their growing capacity to do so.

There are successful precedents for this approach. In a recent editorial, David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, touched on one: “Operation Defensive Shield, carried out in the spring of 2002, was a carefully planned and effectively executed attack on the Palestinians’ suicide-bomb infrastructure in the West Bank that remade the reality in the years ever since — precisely the kind of goal enunciated for Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.”

The new reality that Horovitz refers to is that terror from the West Bank stopped because the enemy realized there was no way it could win a war against Israel. That realization was a prerequisite to restarting the peace process.

Robert J. Lieber, a professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University, took it one step further in the Washington Post:

“Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel, not because they embraced the ideas of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, but because they concluded that the effort to destroy the Jewish state had failed and that refusing to come to terms with it was harmful to their national interests. Ultimately, peace will be possible only if most Palestinians and their leaders become convinced that terrorism and violence are a dead end and that they cannot under any circumstances prevail over Israel through the use of force. If today’s conflict leaves a seriously weakened and politically damaged Hamas, that result is more likely to enhance the prospects for peace than to weaken them.”

Of course, wars are tragic, messy and unpredictable — one errant bomb can derail the best plans. Lorelei Kelly, an expert in conflict resolution, wrote a powerful anti-war piece in The Huffington Post last week, where she explained that when fighting ideologies, “if you want ultimate victory, persuasion deserves as much firepower as coercion.”

Kelly appealed to my intellect, but my viscera still couldn’t shake the potential horror of Hamas rockets igniting a nuclear meltdown in the heart of Israel. I have this vision of Hamas terrorists gleefully cracking open a fresh crate of new missiles just arrived from Iran with the capacity to kill several thousand Jews at a time, and doing high-fives in anticipation of using them. Am I paranoid? Maybe. But this should give you an idea of the unlimited faith I have in Hamas’ callous disregard for human life, whether Jewish or Palestinian.

From a PR standpoint, Israel is fortunate that the war in Gaza was started not by right-wing tough guys but by centrist leaders who have exerted enormous effort over the years to achieve peace. No one can ever accuse Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni of rushing to war, not when they tolerated thousands of bombs falling on their people before finally responding.

In the end, everybody has their breaking point — that moment when your survival instinct overcomes everything else. A lot of Jews, from the left to the right, seem to have reached that point.

But survival is one thing, and peace is another. It’s far from certain that making war with Hamas will bring peace. The only thing that’s certain is that as long as nextdoor neighbors like Hamas pose a terrorist threat to Israel, you can forget about peace — no matter what camp you’re in.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine, Meals4Israel.com and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Message to the residents of Gaza from the people of Israel