Opinion | Why Israel Is in Existential Danger Today

Opinion | Why Israel Is in Existential Danger Today

If Israel can end the war in Gaza, it can lead to a U.S.-mediated deal with Hezbollah to quiet the northern border war — which has been terrible for civilians on both sides. It could enable Israelis and Lebanese along their countries’ border to return home while enabling the Israeli Army to recover and restock from a draining fight. It could halt the erosion in both Israel’s economy and its global moral standing and let the country do something it should have done on Oct. 8. That is: pause, rethink, strategize and not do exactly what Iran and Hamas wanted it to do — i.e., charge head just like America did after Sept. 11, 2001 — and sink into an endless war without any plan or partner for the morning after. And, as Barak argued, Israel must then hold new elections.

Yes, yes, I can hear the criticism from the war hawks right now: “Friedman, you would let Hamas’s leader, Yahya Sinwar, come out of his tunnel and declare victory?”

Yes, I would. In fact, I wish I could be at the news conference in Gaza when he does, so I could ask the first question:

“Mr. Sinwar, you claim this is a great victory for Hamas — a total Israeli withdrawal and a stable cease-fire. I just want to know: What existed on Oct. 6 between you and Israel, before your surprise attack? Oh, let me answer that: a total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a stable cease-fire. If you don’t mind, I’d like to stick around for a few days to watch you explain to Gazans how you started an eight-month war — causing the destruction of roughly 70 percent of Gaza’s housing stock and leaving, by your count, some 37,000 Gazans dead, many of them women and children — so you could get Gaza back to exactly where it was on Oct. 6, in a cease-fire with Israel and no Israeli troops here. Another Hamas victory like this and Gaza will be permanently unlivable.”

And to Israelis who would ask, “Friedman, are you crazy, you would let Sinwar run Gaza again?” my answer would again be — yes, for now. The alternatives — Israel running Gaza or Gaza becoming another Somalia — are far worse. Netanyahu’s idea that some perfect Palestinians — who are neither members of Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority — will run the place for Israel is a fantasy.

The only people who can defeat Hamas are the Palestinians of Gaza. They, too, need better leadership, and if they find it, we should help them rebuild. But until then, Israel would be crazy to want to stay in Gaza and be responsible for its reconstruction. That honor should go to Sinwar.

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