Israel Destroying Hamas Amid International Fury and Skepticism

U.S. President Joe Biden reaffirmed his commitment to bring Israeli hostages home in his State of the Union address Thursday, spending 90 seconds supporting Israel and blaming Hamas for the atrocities it committed on Oct. 7 as well as for the war that followed.

“Israel has a right to go after Hamas,” Biden said.

But he devoted a significant part of the Middle East section of the speech to the Palestinians.

He spent double the time, approximately 180 seconds, focusing on Palestinians “under bombardment” or experiencing “displacement,” and the need for a two-state solution.

He glaringly failed to mention the hundreds of thousands of Israelis under bombardment and the tens of thousands who have been displaced as a result of ongoing Hamas and Hezbollah attacks.

Biden also announced that the U.S. military would establish a “temporary pier” off the coast of Gaza to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid.

“The White House is truly flailing. We can’t secure our own border, but we can build a port in Gaza,” said Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“We can’t secure our own border, but we can build a port in Gaza. Our military can’t be used to actually defend the United States, restore deterrence against our enemies, enforce sanctions, or rescue American hostages—but it can be put to work building a port in Gaza,” he continued.

Israel, he noted, has made it clear it has “zero limits” on aid coming into the Gaza Strip. “It’s sad the White House resorts to this for its base politics,” he said.

“We are witnessing a massive ramp-up in Hamas disinformation in its 11th hour, directly wired into its supporters in the United States, who then exert political pressure on the White House, which gives into that pressure,” he said.

“The Hamas-U.N. machine is churning out claims, and the media reports them as fact,” he said. “The conversation they want is about an ‘aid crisis,’ ‘starvation,’ ‘ceasefire’ and more. Senior officials like Samantha Powers who have a history of Israel-bashing are more than happy to put USAID’s name on those claims. There’s no verification of sources going on anymore.”

While Israel is under pressure to ensure humanitarian aid delivery to Palestinians, it is plowing forward in its war against Hamas, while working to release the hostages being held by the terror group. Israel has the support of several western countries whose leaders have acknowledged, like Biden said, that Israel has the right to defend itself and to destroy Hamas.

But at the same time, the loudest voices are those calling for an immediate ceasefire, and many of Israel’s friends and enemies alike question Israel’s ability to eradicate Hamas’s military capabilities.

Jacob Olidort, director of research for the Gemunder Center for Defense & Strategy at JINSA, told JNS the skepticism regarding Israel’s military operation to eliminate Hamas “ignores the visceral commitment Israel has, in light of the horrors of Oct. 7, not only to eliminate the terrorists and their infrastructure in Gaza, but also to institute long-overdue deradicalization efforts” with regard to both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Olidort noted that the skepticism “may also be tied to an association with U.S. efforts against Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, and the fact that cells of both groups persist in parts of the Middle East and around the world.”

However, Hamas could not be more different from these groups, he said.

“Hamas has none of the ideological heft of either group, has a limited ability to strike and has been able to survive principally because of support from several regional actors—notably Iran, Qatar and Turkey, each of whom has been placed on notice for this—and because it hides behind innocent civilians,” he said. 

Olidort supported Israel’s effort to dismantle Hamas and introduce instead a governing entity that does not support terrorism. 

Not only is this “integral” to restore Israel’s sense of security, “but also that of the Gazan people who now, after 18 years, finally have the opportunity to be free of this cruel entity and to have in its place a form of governance that protects them,” he said.

Former Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat explained to JNS that the skepticism regarding Israel’s ability to destroy Hamas “stems from the fact that this is a complex task, over a long period of time and under difficult constraints: the political pressure, the legal limitations and the humanitarian challenge.”

Ben-Shabbat, who now heads the Jerusalem-based Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy, explained that Israel “cannot compromise on achieving the goals it defined for this war in full, since any failure to do so could expose Israel to an existential threat from its enemies.”

“The results of the war are the only thing that can prevent this,” he said. “The deterrence that crashed on Oct. 7 will not be restored if it can be argued that Israel failed to achieve its goals.”

He noted that regional and international players follow what is happening and their position and conduct in relation to Israel will be affected by the results in Gaza.

Asked about a realistic plan that Israel can implement the day after it destroys Hamas, Ben-Shabbat said he believes “there are no good options.”

He noted that Hamas has controlled the education system and all other governmental and civil mechanisms for 17 years.

“The young people of Gaza, who make up half of the population, were born into the reality of Hamas, were educated on its ideas, absorbed it in schools, mosques, squares and through its media,” he said. “The young terrorists fighting us today are the same children who spent time in Hamas summer camps.”

Contrary to what some in the West believe, Hamas didn’t “kidnap the populations” but rather won broad political support and backing from Gaza’s Palestinian public, who elected it in the past and would probably elect it again, said Ben-Shabbat.

In fact, public opinion polls conducted in recent years indicate strong, continued Palestinian support—both in Gaza and the West Bank—for Hamas and the “armed struggle” against Israel.

For this reason, according to Ben-Shabbat, “an entity that does not cooperate with Hamas will be seen as illegitimate on the part of a large section of the Palestinian public.”

“The danger at the moment is that in the absence of a reasonable alternative, Israel will be forced to choose a solution that will be defined as ‘the lesser evil,’ one that today may not be related to Hamas, but in a short time will become a proxy of Hamas,” he said.

Against this background, he emphasized, Israel must ensure that the demilitarization of Gaza and freedom of action for the Israeli military there are a basic condition in any future reality that takes shape in the enclave.

Israel should avoid any initiative that would endanger this, beware of a “puppet government” scenario and not trust foreign arrangements or oversight mechanisms, he said.

Speaking at an IDF graduation ceremony on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the soldiers, “There is international pressure, and it is increasing…We must stand together against the attempts to stop the war. We must reject together the desperate attempt to charge the IDF with the responsibility for Hamas’s crimes.”

Netanyahu said Israel is fighting Hamas “to ensure our very existence. Even as we defend ourselves, we are defending the most sacred values of the free world and human society as a whole.”

Olidort pointed out that in addition to Gaza, Israel faces challenges and threats from six other arenas: Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iran and the international political and legal arenas. 

“Israel has no other choice but to achieve a definite and unequivocal victory,” he said. “We are fighting not only for our physical existence and our security—but also for the truth.”

Originally published in Jewish News Syndicate.