We've now seen five weeks of war in Gaza. Hamas, in a horrific attack, killed 1,400 innocent Israelis and captured an additional 242. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, Israel, reports that 10,790 Gazans have died, including 4,104 under age 18. In addition, 1,270 children are missing and may be buried in the rubble. On TV, Arkansans witness wounded children, grieving parents and separated spouses.
This situation is not sustainable. With every civilian death, Israel loses global support and creates new recruits for Hamas. By now, the number of future recruits surely outweighs the number of Hamas battle deaths. Israel knows this and goes out of its way to prevent harm to civilians. But like most militants, Hamas operates among the civilian population, so Israel's aim to destroy Hamas inevitably entails civilian casualties.
As this tragedy unfolds, the world watches. Every new civilian death turns more people against the war. If it goes on much longer, Israel and America will eventually stand isolated amid accusations of war crimes. The last time the world witnessed such massive war-related civilian death was during the closing months of World War II when the U.S. and Britain bombed Dresden, Berlin and other European cities into oblivion and Curtis Lemay's B-29 force in the Pacific burned down 67 large Japanese cities including Tokyo, climaxed by the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
But those civilian massacres were not filmed live for TV. Today, I'm happy to note that the information revolution spotlights such atrocities.
This war is isolating Israel and America. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated weeks ago that Hamas' attack "did not happen in a vacuum." He referred, of course, to the decades-long failed effort to achieve two separate independent peaceful states, Palestine and Israel. He was also referring to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank since 1967.
I unequivocally support the nation of Israel. Following World War II and the Holocaust, Jews needed and deserved a homeland. I dearly want Israel to prosper, but I also want Palestine to prosper. A two-state solution is attainable, but can humankind summon the intelligence and humility to attain it? Guterres and many nations have expressed the optimistic view that the answer is "yes."
Robert Pape, professor of political science, director of the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats and author of several books on air power and terrorism, has written an opinion piece titled "There's a smarter way to eliminate Hamas." He begins by noting that Israel's current strategy for defeating Hamas in fact produces more terrorists than it eliminates. As evidence, he points to three previous Israeli military campaigns against militant groups as well as the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. He suggests that history repeats itself today in Gaza. He asks, "What will prevent Hamas 2.0 from filling the power vacuum following the war?" and "Why should Palestinians abandon Hamas?"
Pape suggests an alternative to Israel's probably unsuccessful invasion: "Now, not later, start the political process toward a pathway to a Palestinian state, and create a viable political alternative for Palestinians to Hamas."
America has provided $130 billion in military aid to Israel over the years, and recently stationed two aircraft carrier groups in the Mideast to discourage escalation by Hezbollah or others. But there is a far more intelligent way to express our support: Because America wants Israel to succeed, America must save Israel from itself by pressuring its government into declaring an immediate cease-fire and quickly negotiating real freedom for the West Bank. Israeli settlers in the West Bank should be free to choose between Palestinian citizenship and moving to Israel. These settlers, and the Israeli policies that support them, have been a large part of the problem for decades.
I am guessing that the more thoughtful citizens of Israel, who have opposed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing and religiously orthodox (fundamentalist) government, will soon vote the present government out of office. Netanyahu has not only responded to the Hamas attack in the most unintelligent and simplistic manner imaginable, but his government utterly failed to predict the attack despite the famed intelligence capabilities of Israeli military forces. In other words, he has amply demonstrated both his foolishness and his incompetence.
Is this solution impossible? Pie in the sky? Perhaps. But anything short of a cease-fire and West Bank freedom could ensure that, in the future, Israel and its then-remaining military backer, America, will be isolated. If Israel wants to survive, it must quickly declare a cease-fire and free the West Bank.