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January 15, 2024

A Cease Fire in Gaza Will Not Make Hamas Go Away

It’s like ending crime by defunding the police.

I wrote to Vermont’s congressional delegation urging them to oppose Senator Bernie Sanders dangerous proposal to cut off aid to Israel ““unless there is a fundamental change in their military and political positions.”

Representative Becca Balint sent a long response (obviously a form letter but appropriate to what I asked). She writes:

“Hamas militants launched an unprecedented attack on 22 towns and army bases across Israel, killing at least 1,200 people including children and the elderly, wounding thousands more, and taking 199 hostages. This horrific terrorism is evil and I have joined my colleagues as an original cosponsor of a resolution condemning the terror attacks perpetrated by Hamas and reaffirming the U.S.-Israel alliance.”

Then she goes on to say:

“What is needed now is a true negotiated bilateral ceasefire. For the good of Palestinians and Israelis, a lasting bilateral cease-fire can only work if Hamas does not continue to rule in Gaza. Hamas is a terrorist organization, and its stated goal is to annihilate the state of Israel. It can’t remain in power in Gaza. It has violated international law by taking hostages and massacring civilians.”

She is right that a cease-fire can only work if “Hamas does not continue to rule in Gaza”. What she doesn’t say is whom Israel is supposed to negotiate the cease-fire with if not Hamas. Negotiating with Hamas perpetuates their rule. A cease-fire just prolongs the agony for both Israelis and Gazans. Israel must fight until Hamas leaders stop hiding among the civilian population, stop firing rockets at Israel, and surrender control.

Senator Peter Welch wrote in part:

“I fully support Israel’s right to pursue those who ordered and carried out the attacks of October 7th. But Israel must do so in a way that does not lead to massive civilian casualties and the large-scale destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza. This will only incite more enemies against Israel and the U.S.  Israel’s pursuit of Hamas must be conducted in accordance with international law, which includes an obligation to protect civilian lives. Every effort must be made to prevent further civilian death and suffering. 

“That is why, on November 28th, following the announcement of a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas designed to facilitate the return of hostages and aid delivery to Palestinians trapped in Gaza, I called for an indefinite extension to that ceasefire.

“A ceasefire is critical to ensure that efforts to release the rest of the hostages are successful, to support the provision of humanitarian aid infrastructure in Gaza, and pave the way for meaningful negotiations for long-term peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians. In the intervening weeks, hostilities have resumed. I am deeply concerned about the immediate and devastating impacts on the civilian population in Gaza.“

The second paragraph contains the contradiction in his position. There was a cease-fire which led to the release of some hostages. Hamas stopped returning hostages; they resumed rocket-attacks on Israel; they repeated their promise to destroy Israel. But Welch apparently thinks the cease-fire should have been extended indefinitely anyway. How then is Israel supposed to “pursue those who ordered and carried out the attacks of October 7th”? Sue them?

Senator Sanders didn’t reply.

Neither Balint nor Sanders, who are both Jewish as am I, are anti-Semitic. I’ve known Welch for decades and both like and respect him. Their positions are not Democratic-party orthodoxy; President Biden has been steadfast in rejecting a cease-fire which would leave Hamas in power. So why does our congressional delegation think Hamas can be conquered with a cease-fire or by denying military aid to Israel? Why do some people (often the same people calling for a cease-fire) think that crime can be prevented by defunding the police? History does not support the theory that tolerance is an effective way to stop evil behavior.

Hamas cannot win a war against Israel now that the US and Israel have dissuaded Hamas’ possible allies like Hezbollah and Iran from full participation in the conflict (for now). Hamas hangs on at great cost to the Gazans, among whom its leaders hide, in hopes that Israel will be forced into cease-fire. It’s a dangerous and cruel mistake to encourage Hamas in this hope.

See also:

Thank You, President Biden

Gaza Peace Depends on Hamas

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