As Jews celebrated a festive holiday on Saturday, the Iranian-backed Palestinian militia Hamas invaded Israel from Gaza. Spreading out through Israeli towns, the terrorists went house to house gunning down innocent civilians, including hundreds of young revelers at an outdoor “peace” rave. They abducted scores of civilians—the precise count is as yet unknown—including women and children, as hostages; and chilling videos have surfaced of them desecrating bodies and parading captives through the streets of Gaza, as large crowds yell “God is great.”
It is a
rampage of unspeakable cruelty, the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.
It is also a security catastrophe of unprecedented proportions for Israel’s
military and political class. Much time will be spent figuring out the causes
and responsibility. For now, some broader observations:
call it the Iran-Gaza War. To be sure, Hamas bears responsibility, and any
serious Israeli response will involve its total, unconditional defeat. But
Hamas is an ally and instrument of Iran. An operation of such scale and
complexity is unlike anything Hamas has previously attempted and strongly
suggests significant Iranian involvement. Hamas has publicly thanked Iran for
its support, and Iran’s supreme leader applauded the invasion.
north, Israel faces Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy that has de facto control over
much of Lebanon, with a vast arsenal of missiles aimed at Israeli cities. Iran
is reportedly close to nuclear breakout. This is the war with Israel that it
wants—on Israeli soil, through once-removed marauding militias. Tehran
terrorizes much of the Middle East in this manner.
serious response must go through Tehran. If the U.S. and the international
community are truly outraged by the scenes of senior citizens gunned down on
the street and women and children abducted, they must not only refrain from
limiting Israel’s operation in Gaza but resolve to oust the genocidal regime in
Tehran. President Biden’s policy has been exactly the opposite. His
administration has sought rapprochement with and even allegedly been
manipulated by an Iranian influence operation. He has eased sanctions and in
recent weeks gave the mullahs $6 billion for the release of American hostages.
lesson involves the high cost of Israeli territorial concessions. Until 2005,
there were many Jewish communities in Gaza, known as the Gush Katif
settlements. Palestinians routinely attacked and attempted to infiltrate them.
Israel’s critics claimed the presence of these communities caused conflict.
Some Israelis wondered why significant resources should go to protecting these
small towns. In 2005, Israel’s army completely withdrew from Gaza and uprooted
every Jewish community, even taking the bodies from the cemeteries. Now the
whole country faces the danger those communities face, but 100 times worse. The
myth that the presence of Jewish communities beyond the 1949 armistice line is
the root cause of the conflict has now been firmly disproved. Israel left Gaza
voluntarily. Now Gaza comes to Israel, and it is literally dragging Jewish
women back there.
imagine if those who perpetrated yesterday’s attacks also had control of Judea
and Samaria (the West Bank), a vastly larger territory with a much longer,
irregularly shaped frontier a few miles from Israel’s main population centers.
The consequences would be orders of magnitude worse.
decades, even as Hamas used the opportunity created by Israel’s withdrawal from
Gaza to launch countless attacks against it, the dominant paradigm of Middle
East diplomacy has remained the “two-state solution,” which in practice means
Israel making greater and more strategically critical territorial withdrawals.
Today’s events are a foretaste of what the “two-state solution” would mean.
Kremlinology seeks to distinguish the Ramallah-based Fatah faction from its
rival Hamas. But once one concedes the notion of a Palestinian state, one can’t
decide who runs it forever. Fatah also ruled Gaza when Israel left, until Hamas
took power. Hamas could likely prevail in West Bank elections if Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ever held them. Mr. Abbas, who was elected to
a four-year term in 2005, responded to Saturday’s pogrom by asserting
Palestinians’ right to “self-defense.”
the West don’t take seriously Iran’s or the Palestinian factions’ aspirations
to wipe out Israel. Such motives are foreign to them. They see Israel as strong
enough to guarantee its security through technology and hard borders—which
Saturday’s events show can’t be relied on for the essential security of the
people. The Islamists understand that they can’t win through conventional
military means. That is why they pose as victims so that Western governments
pressure Israel into territorial concessions, which they use as a base to make
gruesome scenes of bloodied Jewish women carted off to Gaza are reminiscent of
the recent ISIS reign of terror. Islamists have driven Yazidis, Christians and
other minorities from much of the Middle East. It can happen here.
there is the question of what can be done with Hamas in Gaza. False doctrines
of international law have given the terror group an insurance policy: No matter
what atrocities they commit against Israel, they will come out of any conflict
with no less territory than before. They may lose men, but they gain gruesome
honor. Hamas’s war aim isn’t to minimize its own casualties but to drive out
the Jews. To defeat and discredit its leadership, the Palestinians must pay a
permanent territorial price. Israel is fighting the clearest possible war of
self-defense. Its 1967 capture of the Golan Heights buffer zone was legitimate
and humiliated the regime of Hafez al-Assad. Israel has every right to annex
buffer zones in Gaza permanently.
Kontorovich is the head of the international law department at the Kohelet
Policy Forum, a Jerusalem think-tank, and a professor at George Mason
University Scalia Law School.