How Israel Can Win in Gaza - and Deter Iran

(Foreign Affairs) Elliott Abrams - In the wake of Iran's attack on Israel with hundreds of drones and missiles last weekend, Israel must decide how to calibrate its response. One part of Israel's response must be to stay the course in Gaza, despite tremendous pressure from the U.S. and others to retreat. That means entering the southern Gaza city of Rafah and eliminating the Hamas brigades and leaders based there. In 2006, Hizbullah attacked Israel, and the George W. Bush administration, in which I was serving at the time, gave the Israelis strong support - but only for a couple of weeks, after which Washington pressured Israel to end the war by extending assurances that have never been met and never seemed likely to be. UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 2006 included an end to arms transfers by any state to Hizbullah and total Lebanese army control of Lebanon's south. Neither stipulation has ever been enforced - a testament to the dangers of relying on a paper peace rather than conditions on the ground. That is why Israel is resisting international pressure, especially from Washington, for a ceasefire that would leave Hamas in control. Israelis across the ideological spectrum agree that Hamas must be crushed because they see the fight as an existential conflict. All of Israel's enemies are watching to see whether Israel can fully recover from the Oct. 7 attack. If they conclude that it cannot, the Jewish state will find itself in mortal peril. Israel gained Arab partners in the region through demonstrations of strength, not acts of restraint. Polls make it clear that both Israelis and Palestinians are highly unenthusiastic about and wary of the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gallup polls found that 65% of Israelis opposed the two-state solution and only 25% supported it. Among Palestinians, polls that Gallup conducted before Oct. 7 found that 72% of Palestinians opposed the two-state solution and only 24% supported it. Moreover, the PA lacks the ability to lead a Palestinian state that would be free and democratic, have a decent and effective government, and build a prosperous economy. Palestinian nationalism still seems to be more about destroying the Jewish state than about building a Palestinian one. In addition, an independent Palestine would represent yet another route through which Iran would seek to attack Israel. In last weekend's mammoth Iranian aerial assault, the Islamic Republic deployed hundreds of drones and rockets against Israel. Israelis understand that their country's long-term survival depends on reasserting deterrence by striking back: displaying resilience, determination, and military prowess. The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, served as deputy national security advisor, where he supervised U.S. policy in the Middle East for the White House.

2024-04-18 00:00:00

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