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  • Mark Lavie

Israel has lost the war in Gaza--Now what?

Yes, Israel has lost the war in Gaza.

No, it’s not the bitter, bloody end of the Jewish state.

When Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously said that if the Arabs lose a war, they lose a war; but if Israel loses a war, it loses everything—she was right, for her time. The 1973 war threatened Israel’s existence. Heroic Israeli army operations and a huge American airlift of weapons and ammunition saved the Jewish state, but left it in a deep, decades-long trauma.

The pogrom of last Oct. 7, when Hamas sent thousands of bloodthirsty terrorists across the border and killed, maimed, mutilated and raped more than 1,200 Israelis, most of them civilians, taking more than 200 hostages, equally traumatized Israelis, but the state itself was never in danger of destruction. Israel is many times stronger than it was in 1973. Today, defeat in war is painful, but it is not “losing everything.”

And defeat it is. Israel has failed to achieve its stated goals—wiping out Hamas and returning all the hostages.

Even capture and occupation of Rafah, the Gaza city on the Egyptian border that hides dozens of huge tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle weapons, ammunition, rockets, and even vehicles, will not bring about achievement of those goals.

So Israel lost the Gaza war. But did Hamas win?

That depends on the definition of “win.” It can be said that Hamas already won on Oct. 7, when its terrorists embarrassed the vaunted Israeli military, overran army bases, killed so many Israelis, and made it back to Gaza with the hostages.

It can also be said that Hamas won by continuing to exist as a force in Gaza despite the devastation wrought by the Israeli military, killing many top Hamas commanders and thousands of lower-ranking terrorists, blowing up dozens of tunnels, destroying weapons stockpiles and workshops.

Most of all, Hamas has won by putting the Palestinians back on the international map after years of neglect, making Israel a pariah in the world again, and endangering the grand US plan of forging an alliance between Israel and moderate Arab nations.

Does it make sense for Israel to continue pressing for achievement of its unachievable goals? Or should it shift gears and work toward something attainable?

If the answer is the latter, then Israel needs new leadership. In the current government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trapped by the demands of the most extreme elements in his Cabinet, the ones who take the most hawkish stands on everything, foreign and domestic, and likely don’t want an end to the war at all.

A new Israeli leadership must adopt a practical plan of action to salvage as much as possible from the Gaza war wreckage and rehabilitate Israel’s image and place in the world.

First, Israel must accept these principles:

·        Israel cannot go it alone against the world.

·        Israel should not fight Hamas, Hezbullah and Iran by itself.

The first item may be hard to swallow. Generations of Israelis have been brought up in the shadow of the Holocaust, when the world stood by as 6 million Jews were murdered by the German Nazis and their collaborators. Israelis were taught that Israel can count only on itself.

That is no less true than it was 75 years ago, but it’s a luxury Israel cannot afford. Facing enemies like Iran, backed by Russia and China, and threats on all its borders, Israel cannot continue to alienate its natural allies in the West and the Arab world. The ad-hoc alliance that helped Israel repel the Iranian attack of hundreds of missiles and drones in April illustrates that. It might mean giving in to some demands Israel doesn’t like, but that’s the new reality.

It fits in with the second point. Hamas and its extremist, genocidal Islamist ideology threaten not only to Israel, but also the West as a whole. Likewise Hezbullah. Both are guided by Iran, and just as the West banded together to negotiate a nuclear accord with Iran, it needs to band together again to deal with these threats.

In fact, there is a UN Security Council resolution that bans Hezbullah from operating anywhere near the Israeli border. So clearly it isn’t Israel’s responsibility alone to stop the Hezbullah rocket and drone attacks on Israel’s north.

But is it practical to expect the world to switch over to Israel’s side after more than seven months of devastating warfare in Gaza and the tsunami of anti-Israel sentiment sweeping the world?

No, not as Israel is currently led. What’s more, it’s hard to imagine an Israeli leader who would agree to these points, the minimum for changing the world’s blanket criticism:

·        Agreeing to end the war in Gaza and pull Israeli troops out.

·        Allowing the Palestinian Authority a role in ruling Gaza after the pullout, and leaving administration of Gaza to them and their Arab partners.

·        Accepting negotiations toward creation of a Palestinian state. I’ve written here previously that this is just a mantra—the Palestinians will never accept an offer of a state.

These steps will not bring peace. After the attack of Oct. 7, peace is clearly many years, maybe decades away. At best, they restore a reality that Israel can, live with, if painfully. It’s part of the price to be paid for falling into a “conception” that Hamas would not use the tens of millions of Qatari dollars flowing through Israel for four years to prepare for a war.

And as long as Israel is trapped in its “conception” of total victory and us-against-the-world, the war will drag on and on, Israeli casualties will mount, and no hostages will be freed.

If, on the other hand, Israel changes course and teams up once again with the more sensible elements in the world, with their help there’s a chance that Gaza can be relatively pacified, the hostages freed, and Hezbullah put back under its rock.

That’s the only way to turn this defeat into anything resembling a victory.

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