The Israel/Hamas ceasefire: your thoughts
Many of you agreed with my view that Israel should not have paused its attacks in return for the release of hostages. And many of you didn't. Some of the most interesting views below.
Unsurprisingly, yesterday’s piece suggesting the Gaza ceasefire is a victory for Hamas and a defeat for Israel generated huge feedback - both in comments on the story and emails to me.
The responses came in four main buckets - I think they’re worth sharing.
(Italics are your words, with my comments are in parentheses.)
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First, many of you agreed. And one pointed out another downside I had considered but for some reason did not explicitly include in my analysis:
You forgot the main thing. It rewards Hamas for taking hostages, and incentivizes them to do so again.
(This is the original and best reason not to negotiate with terrorists or hostage-takers. But when push comes to shove, most countries blink - France and Spain almost surely paid huge ransoms to the ISIS in return for journalists it had taken hostage.)
Second, a few of you are strongly anti-Israeli (I won’t call you antisemitic, as I can’t see into your hearts), and argued Israel has no right to defend itself at all. To wit:
Stick to covid shit! You filthy Zionist
(Okay, I’m comfortable calling THAT guy an antisemite.)
(The original post, if you missed it yesterday)
Third, some of you said you disliked the deal but that my analysis was overly coldblooded and underestimated the the importance of bringing home the hostages:
I agree that Israel made a terrible mistake but the rest of Alex's analysis is missing a few points. First, the mitzvah of Pidion Shvuim (rescuing hostages) is a strong custom for observing Jews. Second, there is a massive emotional yearning of Israeli public to bring the hostages home with enormous daily demonstrations. I hope, though, Israeli leadership will have the strength to oppose American pressure and disregard international propaganda and will restart the military offensive. They have no choice.
The fourth category was the smallest, just a couple of long emails and comments, but to me the most interesting. These readers made military and tactical analysis and essentially arguing Israel should be taken at its word when it says it will resume the invasion as soon as Hamas starts releasing hostages:
Hamas's big play was to kill 1,200 and kidnap another 250. The population of Israel is 9 million. So existential concerns might be a bit overblown.
I've used the cowboys and indians comparative before. For Hamas, this was the Little Big Horn with Hamas playing the role of the Lakota-Cheyenne. Surprise, mobility and vastly superior numbers guaranteed a bloodbath once but the tribes eventually were neutered and confined to reservations. The white settler culture was technologically superior and eventually prevailed. This is an inevitable outcome. And Hamas's sponsors will eventually run out of patience, I imagine. When is harder to predict.
Since the remainder of the Arab world seems content to stand by and watch passively, Israel can likely restart armed operation in Gaza whenever Hamas runs out of hostages to trade. Hamas's rearmament - which some seem concerned about - lacks concrete lines of communication (supply). Ammunition or chemicals to make munitions must be smuggled. This is no way to resist an enemy with mobile artillery, unfettered control of the air and control of its rear area…
Egypt doesn't want in. Jordan sees conflict in the context of more territorial losses so won't want a piece of this. That leaves Syria going it alone and Syria still has a low level civil war underway. So they seem unlikely to capitalize on Israel's distraction in the south.
Once Hamas stops freeing hostages or runs out of them to trade, Israel can restart the grind. Hamas's tunnels have proven annoying but they are stationary and interconnected - a huge weakness in modern warfare. Useful for very small operations (and probably to maintain terror control over their own citizens) they are easily neutralized once found and spare the requirement to dig graves for the terror army that occupies them.
(This analysis may be correct militarily - but I think it underestimates the worldwide pressure Israel will face to end the invasion. Now that a ceasefire has begun and Hamas has demonstrated it will release captives, Israel will face an even louder outcry if it again begins killing Palestinian civilians and leveling large stretches of Gaza. That said, if the Israeli government has decided it simply does not care what the rest of the world thinks, this may be its plan.)