The unconditional surrender of Hamas is possible. Not only is it possible – in light of everything endured, anything short of that may be considered a failure. We are at a now-or-never point of decision, with the best cards being in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s hands.
From an international perspective, there has been acknowledgment and acceptance so far. The UK, Germany, Canada and almost all Americans understand and relate to Israel’s right to defend itself when facing a ruthless enemy that targets civilians and hides behind his own children. That understanding has lasted three weeks, and at times it seems that only Turkey, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Qatar are on Hamas’ side. This support, however, will not last.
Indeed, the world is watching – especially Iran and Hezbollah – to see how this operation ends. Operation Protective Edge is also a double edge; if not completed correctly, it may come back to haunt us. Iran has exerted great effort to arm Palestinian Islamists and Hezbollah – with rockets and the know-how to manufacture them. Teheran regards its proxies not only as its first line of defense, but also a vital component in its strategy to gain regional hegemony after disposing of what remains of US influence in the Middle East.
THE OUTCOME of Operation Protective Edge will have far-reaching implications beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will affect the emerging Middle East landscape and the nature of the final nuclear agreement with Iran.
How can Israel expect the world to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear, when Israel is not willing to do what it takes to dismantle Hamas? Israel must put a decisive end to Operation Protective Edge by dismantling the military capabilities of Hamas – by diplomatic or military means. This will show Iran that Israel and the world mean business, that all options are truly on the table, and will facilitate any nuclear dismantlement agreement that may be possible with Iran.
From a Palestinian perspective, Hamas has brought death and destruction upon its people and when it comes out of hiding will need to explain the rubble. There are those that say that Hamas is the least of all Gazan evils and that its alternatives are even more ruthless. That is simply wrong. There is a clash within Arab civilizations, and if Israel and the world make it clear that terrorism is not an option, peace-tolerant Palestinians will prevail.
At home, Netanyahu is as strong as ever. In fact, he is as strong as any prime minister in Israel has ever been. The young and inexperienced prime minister of 1996 has become the seasoned statesman and strategist of 2014, with no politician in the country able to challenge his leadership. He enjoys the highest approval rating to date. However, such support will surely subside if Hamas continues to terrorize Israel at will after this costly campaign is completed.
From a historical viewpoint, Netanyahu was against Israel’s unilateral and irresponsible withdrawal from Gush Katif and Gaza in August 2005, and now in August 2014 has an opportunity to make right of some of the wrong.
Most importantly, the IDF of 2014 is stronger than ever, with the hearts of almost all Israelis beating as one in their support. The soldiers are better trained, better equipped and with the highest motivation in IDF history. They can be counted on.
An unconditional surrender will be considered as such when Hamas is disarmed in such a manner that it can no longer pose a threat to Israel and terrorize citizens. Hamas leaders and operatives who do not want to fight to their death on the one hand, or to surrender in shame on the other hand, can be offered by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a one-way ticket to Turkey, on boats flying “Terrorists to Turkey” flags.
Hamas is not an organization to negotiate with – it is a terrorist organization to annihilate. So Prime Minister Netanyahu, for the future of the eternal people and to increase the prospects of a peaceful Middle East, please instruct the IDF to finish the job.
Ophir Falk is a PhD candidate at Haifa University and a research fellow at ICT in Herzliya. IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA).