Opinion | Israel: Cease-Fire, Get Hostages, Leave Gaza, Rethink Everything

If I were Israel, I’d take a weakened Hamas over Somalia, for two reasons.

I have no illusions that the morning after a cease-fire commences and Sinwar comes out, some will wildly cheer him for the hurt he inflicted on Israel. But the morning after the morning after, Sinwar will face brutal questioning from Gazans: Where’s my house, where’s my job, who gave you the right to expose my children to death and devastation?

It is the best punishment I can imagine for Sinwar. Let him own all of Gaza’s travails that he so recklessly exacerbated — not Israel. Only Palestinians can delegitimize Hamas, and though it won’t be easy, and Hamas will kill anyone to hold power, this time we won’t be talking about just a handful of dissidents.

Amira Hass, Haaretz’s well-informed reporter on Palestinian affairs, recently wrote a story based on phone interviews with Gazans, with this headline: “‘People Are Constantly Cursing Sinwar’: Gazans Opposing Hamas Are Sure They’re the Majority.”

It read: “The donkey cart full of people and mattresses is one of the sights of the war on Gaza and the current siege. ‘More than once, I’ve heard a cart owner urging his donkey on and saying something like, ‘Move it, Yahya Sinwar, move it,’ says Basel (a pseudonym, as I’ve used for everyone in this article). … Yes, Israel bombs and kills, Basel says, but he refuses to absolve Hamas from responsibility for the catastrophe that has befallen the Gazans ‘People are constantly cursing Sinwar, but this isn’t reflected in the journalists’ reports,’ he says. ‘I know that I speak for a lot of people,’ Basel says. ‘I have the right to speak, if only because I’m one of the millions whose lives Hamas is gambling with for crazy slogans with no basis in reality.’”

For the time, if it happens, when Israel gets out of Gaza and has its hostages back, the Biden team is already talking to Egypt about working closely with the U.S. and Israel to ensure Hamas can never again smuggle in the sorts of arms it did in the past under the Egypt-Gaza border. Israel could say that every ounce of food and medicine that Gazans need will be delivered, as well as the bags of cement for rebuilding from countries that might want to help. But if one ounce is found going to dig new attack tunnels, rebuild rocket factories or restart rocket attacks on Israel, the borders will close. Again, let Sinwar deal with that dilemma: Go back to Hamas’s old ways and starve his people — or keep the cease-fire.

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