A few thoughts on the war

October 15, 2023 • 9:15 am

I’m not a pundit, of course, so take this as the reaction of a biologist who reads the news and a Leftist who doesn’t hate Israel:

As the days pass—and as I predicted—the world’s sympathy for Israel and its residents butchered by Hamas is morphing into sympathy for the Palestinians.  And indeed, Palestinian civilians deserve sympathy for being the victims of Hamas as well. But as most people agreed—and many still do—after the attack Israel had little choice but to uproot Hamas once and for all.

The question I’m asking is this “How are they supposed to do it?”  Now I don’t have the intelligence that Israel has, but that country had several choices about how to respond. None of them will be met by the world’s approbation.  And that is my dilemma and Israel’s. Here are those options:

  1.  Do nothing (“business as usual”).  This is a non-starter as it would simply hearten Hamas and Hezbollah to mount even greater attacks, seeing that Israel will not respond any more than it usually does (reprisal bombing and attempts to kill or capture terrorists in the West Bank). The terrorism and low-level fighting would continue indefinitely. This is not a solution to anything and will not even ameliorate terrorism much less uproot Hamas.
  2. Tender a peace offer immediately.  That is, immediately start negotiations for a two-state solution, mandating a cease-fire during these negotiations. This is a ludicrous solution because the Palestinians, who have rejected five peace offers since the 1930—some of which would be acceptable to centrists on both sides—do not want a two-state solution of any kind, including one with a continuous West Bank.  They want Israel eliminated. (Even non-Hamas Palestinians favor the erasure of Israel.) Now Israelis are starting to realize that a two-state solution isn’t feasible, either.  Those who think that terrorism can be eliminated by any two-state solution that leaves a Palestinian country abutting an Israeli one iare fooling themselves. Terrorism will continue so long as Israel is a state. Most Palestinians and even more Gazans (and many on the Western Left) simply think that Israel should be erased, either via military action or forming a single state that includes Jews and the millions of Palestinians who claim the “right of return”. The latter solution will, by flooding the state with Muslims who hate and want to kill Jews, is simply another method of eliminating Jews.
  3. Increase the bombing of military targets. This has been Israel’s go-to solution, but it comes with the death of civilians as a byproduct, particularly because Hamas uses its citizens as  human shields and isn’t really concerned whether they die. (In fact, though this is unpleasant to contemplate, Hamas wants Gazans to die because they get more aid and sympathy from the world.)  This solution is also unlikely to get rid of Hamas because they are hiding, presumably with the hostages—if the hostages aren’t dead yet.
  4. Put a siege on Gaza.  This has happened, and I don’t favor it for three reasons. First, it inflicts suffering on innocent Palestinians. Second, I don’t think it will work. Israel’s object is not to kill Gazans through starvation, but to weaken them so much that they’ll get rid of Hamas.  But I doubt this will work given the ability of Palestine to smuggle goods into their country through tunnels from Egypt.  The shortage of power could be remedied if Hamas’s corrupt millionaire and billionaire leaders would ante up some of their ill-gotten loot to pay for medical goods and fuel, but fuel would be hard to get in under any circumstances. Further, it’s crazy to think that millionaires like  Ismail Haniyeh (the political head of Hamas), or even Mahmoud Abbas, would give up their personal wealth to help Gaza.  Third, a siege is the tactic least likely to gain sympathy or support for Israel.  Thus I support organizations who try to relieve the suffering of Palestinians caused by the siege by contributing food, water, and medicine. (Good news: I just heard that Israel has restored water to Gaza.)
  5. Mount a ground war.  This is the solution I favor (though without the accompanying siege), and it appears to be Israel’s main strategy.  A ground war should be conducted with the aim of extirpating Hamas, not killing civilians, and Israel is indeed taking its usual precautions to avoid, as far as possible, civilian deaths. (If you think that the Palestinian militants try to avoid killing civilians you are ignorant: they aim to kill Israeli civilians. They would give Israel no exit corridor.) Israel has opened an exit route to southern Gaza and are negotiating with Egypt to open its borders to refugees. Sadly, those borders are apparently still closed, as Egypt demands the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza to open the single exit, and there is squabbling about how to inspect aid trucks for weapons—a reasonable consideration given Hamas’s past behavior. If Egypt won’t open its borders without reasonable precautions to prevent the incursion of weapons, that fault falls upon Egypt. The Gazan-Egyptian border needs to be open as an exit route, but of course Egypt doesn’t want to be flooded with refugees, either, particularly because some of them will be Hamas terrorists and Egypt has no way of telling who is who.  Finally, remember that a ground war will result in the deaths of many Israeli soldiers, so it’s not a “cost free” way of eliminating Hams.

Now none of the feasible solutions (3-5) are going to be applauded by the world (though some would be approved by countries like the U.S.), and for one reason: they all lead to the deaths of Palestinian civilians.  If you count out a siege, which I don’t favor, we’re left with options 3 and 5, both of which are being implemented.  Both of those will result in the deaths of non-terrorist civilians because it’s simply not feasible to extirpate Hamas without killing civilians as an unintended byproduct. Remember:  Hamas is using civilians as human shields.  We all know (though few admit) that Israel takes more care than any combatant country in the world to NOT kill civilians. But it’s impossible, if your goal is to get rid of Hamas, to accomplish that without the death of civilians.

Despite that, those deaths are enough to make people tell Israel to hold off and revert to strategy #1: do nothing. This is what Nicholas Kristof said in his NYT column yesterday:

“If you fire missiles at densely populated areas, you will kill children, and that is what the Israeli military has been doing,” Sari Bashi of Human Rights Watch told me. War crimes shouldn’t be avenged by more war crimes.

Many Israelis aren’t in the mood to hear this. They have suffered a shattering blow, among the worst massacres of Jews since the Holocaust. The refrain from Israel is an anguished: But what do you expect us to do?

Fair enough. Everyone expects Israel to hit back. The practical question is how far to go: In the bluntest terms, for Israel, how many dead Gazan children are too many?

As Kristof goes on to say, that is an “impossible question”. Is there a threshold for the number of civilians killed (not just children), above which people will tell Israel to get out of Gaza and stop trying to eliminate Hamas? Is the number of bodies the important factor in the calculus of what to do? (Sam Harris says “no”; see also this response from Douglas Murray, who mistakenly sees “proportionality” as a uniquely British consideration). What about the hostages, which are taken by Hamas but not by Israel?

The best Israel can do is to take great precautions to avoid harming civilians, but remember that Hamas wants its own civilians killed to gain the world’s sympathy. That means that using them as human shields will inevitably increase the death toll of civilians, causing the world to come down even harder on Israel.  As Bret Stephens wrote in his NYT column today, “Hamas bears the blame for every death in this war,“:

As I write, Israeli forces appear to be on the cusp of launching their ground assault into Gaza. With that invasion, the balance of global sympathy, along with the weight of diplomatic pressure, will undoubtedly turn against Israel. That has always been part of Hamas’s strategy: Like the boy who murders his parents and then, through his lawyers, pleads for the court’s mercy because he’s an orphan.

Hamas wants the benefits of being a perpetrator and the sympathy of being a victim at the same time. Whether it gets away with it will depend, in part, on the international community — which, in this case, includes you, the reader.

We ought to be able to get this right. The central cause of Gaza’s misery is Hamas. It alone bears the blame for the suffering it has inflicted on Israel and knowingly invited against Palestinians. The best way to end the misery is to remove the cause, not stay the hand of the remover.

(Stephens, by the way, doesn’t favor a siege, either.)

Israel will not survive unless it can defend itself.  Yet when it tries, it gets harshly criticized. NONE of the strategies listed above—except perhaps the risible idea of a cease fire and two-state negotiation—will avoid criticism of Israel, mainly because many, at least on the Left, despise Israel: not just the government, but the country’s mere existence. I have reluctantly concluded that those who criticize Israel for any method it uses to defend itself, no matter what that method may be, share the Palestinian view that Israel needs to be erased. These people give lip service to the view that Hamas needs to be erased, but they’re lying about the object.

96 thoughts on “A few thoughts on the war

    1. This might be an excellent Israeli strategy to alternate between the heavy hand of retribution and the light touch of not wanting innocents suffering depending on world sympathies. I am sure Hamas will find a way to abuse the situation either way.

  1. I too am a retired biologist, for whatever that’s worth. However, based on following informed commentary fairly closely, I have these thoughts.

    1. Israel has to go after Hamas, and doing so will necessarily lead to civilian casualties. But total elimination of Hamas and company is most likely a pipe dream – their ideology is too well entrenched for that.
    2. A major goal of US diplomacy has to be to keep Hezbollah and its allies out of the fight. In other words, Israel and its allies should focus on Hamas but do what it can to avoid a wider war.
    3. It won’t take a special commission to identify the failings of the Netanyahu approach – contain Hamas and let West Bank settlement proceed. Per Max Boot (a hard core supporter of Israel) Bibi needs to go. For different reasons, the same might be true of Abbas.
    4. When resumed, the Israeli-Saudi negotiations might provide the impetus for initiating meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
    5. I’m probably dreaming.

  2. I read James Michener’s “The Source” (1965) back in 1972. Reading what he wrote it’s apparent that there is no viable solution. This territorial / range war goes back 1000s of years and can only get worse as more people are added to the Zero-sum struggle for survival.
    What was our solution to the territorial dispute in North America? Reservations. What’s changed? Technology, yes; but not human nature. There are rational ways to approach this problem; but one has to agree on what is real / reality. …

  3. I’m not very knowledgeable about the history involved, but I wonder if giving up on a separate state of Israel, and assimilating into other, tolerable areas and countries, wouldn’t be the best long term solution.

    Israel’s population is less than 10 million, and they are surrounded by hundreds of millions of Muslims. They’re also a wealthy country and wouldn’t be a burden to the countries that accepted them.

    It seems like this fighting will go on for centuries more. Anyway, I’m just curious what some of you might think.

    1. Why shouldn’t it be the Palestinians who assimilate into neighbouring countries? They would share the religion of their hosts, which Israelis mostly don’t.

    2. I think your solution isn’t politically viable at all and, worse, will wind up with millions of dead Jews. You know that, right? And what do you want to happen to the country itself?

      Seriously, you want to move all of Israeli’s Jews to Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and the like. Or are you suggesting that they all be deported to Canada, the U.S. and Australia.

      1. Right; I was thinking Europe, the US, etc. And yes, just ending the state of Israel, and moving the population away from the Middle East.

        It seems that the religious intolerance in the Middle East is so great and I don’t see a lasting peace for the forceable future.

        1. Well aside from the trauma of uprooting a whole people, the majority who have known no other land, to some foreign country, you surely know that Jews living in Europe turned out terrible for them and led to Israel?

          1. Yes and according to the statistics from Prof Coyne “antisemitism in the USA is far far worse then Islamophobia and the USA is not unique in this .

        2. Two problems there:

          Citizens of Israel who have no other citizenship can’t be arbitrarily moved (deported or ethnically cleansed) into other countries. That is itself a violation of the UN Convention on Genocide and other countries are not obligated to accept people who aren’t their citizens. If you declared the Jews of Israel “refugees”, hoping that other countries might eventually accept them all after they had been dispossessed and living in squalor in refugee camps, than you would be admitting that a monstrous crime was being done to them.

          Israel would have no reason to agree to its extinction by well-meaning foreigners acting out of their luxury belief that Jews don’t really need Israel anyway. As they say, in all battle plans, the enemy gets a vote.

        3. Europe is once again not looking great on that front eithet.

          Hamas praised on streets of Swedish cities

          Muslim Anti-Semitism in Berlin: “Wide Swaths of Arab-Speaking Population Harbor Sympathies for Terrorists”

          Star of David graffitied on Berlin homes

    3. No. Violent anti-Semitism in the area goes way back, and it isn’t just a recent thing inspired by resentment over the displacement of Palestinians to establish a Jewish state. In the scenario you describe, there would be a Jewish holocaust in the Middle East.

  4. My latest exasperating attempt to express anything on this led me to :

    “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    The Gulag Archipelago

    I make no argument with this – just reaching to understand.

  5. The situation now for Israel bears some comparison with the Sri Lankan army’s final campaign against the Tamil Tigers. The army’s strategy didn’t gain them many friends at the time, but it did bring a definitive end to the TTs and, a couple of decades later, no one mourns their demise.

  6. This is a suicidal situation with no solution. Hamas wants all Jews dead, and is willing, even encouraging their own to die for Allah. To stand behind one’s mother so she can take the first shot…the ultimate madness. GROG

  7. The Israeli reaction will much milder than what any other western country would do in a similar situation.
    It is now clear that Hamas’ presence is intolerable. No to targeting civilians. If they stand between us and the the Palestinian version of ISIS, tough luck.

    1. With respect, the west is holding Ukraine to the same standards Israel is being held to. Their support is fragile with a powerful opponent. So I beg to differ.
      That said, the barbaric behavior shown by Hamas needs to be dealt with. How you do that is not up to armchair warriors to decide, none of us are on the ground.
      We can though just talk ‘shit’… and we are.

      1. I have served my warrior days as a volunteer and now my armchair is comfortable, however I think quite a number here have useful comments and I would hesitate to call it excrement.
        Just saying.

      2. The situation in Ukraine is not similar, because they are fighting in their own terriroty. Even then, their own operations sometimes cause civilian casualties.
        Much better analogies would be Afghanistan, Yugslavia and Iraq, where the ratio of civilians/combatants casualties was significantly higher than in Israeli operations. In all those case, the threat to population of NATO and other nations involved was nowhere near what Israel is facing. And yet, you did not see the same level of outrage and protest.
        If your city was bombarded and your relatives and friends were butchered and kidnapped by terrorists, you would not expect your government to put the security of the population on the other side before yours.
        So keep the preaching to yourself. I am not impressed.

        1. Sorry I am not preaching to you or anyone else. Russian aggression has targeted civilians , hospitals, apartment buildings, crowded cafes, raped and shot elderly in the streets. I’m not commenting about ratios but more war and destruction.
          Who made you the commet police, don’t tell me what I can say or do.

  8. Solutions 3 and 5 are what seem to be required. However, I would propose a modification to solution 5. See below:

    Israel has been preparing for a ground war and has been demanding that civilians move south immediately. But Israel does not have to start the ground invasion immediately. Israel can continue to bomb strategically—as it has been doing the last few days—to go after specific targets in Gaza. But it can *wait* until a reasonable number of Gaza’s civilians move south out of harm’s way.

    If Israel, the U.S., and the international community (including Egypt) can establish safe corridors for passage, provide aid to the civilians who have moved south, and provide medical care in the south of Gaza, then Israel can go into northern Gaza and destroy tunnels and the rest of Hamas’s infrastructure while at the same time limiting civilian casualties. Civilians will undoubtedly die, but fewer will die *and* the international community will give Israel more leeway for action given that they are sincerely and visibly making accommodations for the displaced civilians.

    The above amounts to continuing solution 3, while delaying solution 5 until the conditions are right. Just because Israel gives, say, six hours for everyone to leave doesn’t mean that Israel in fact needs to (or plans to) start its incursion right away. Israel can invade at the time of its choosing.

    Delaying solution 5 (the ground invasion) might unfortunately allow Hamas leaders to flee, but most are probably not in harm’s way anyway. In practice, Israel will need to use its intelligence services to locate and pick off the leaders one by one, which they are already good at doing.

    Full (and obvious) disclosure: I am not a pundit.

  9. Sam Harris has a good new YouTube video comparing Hamas to Israel. One point he makes is using human shields works for Hamas but wouldn’t work for Israel, if Israel was so inclined, which they aren’t.
    I do think the left wing response of hatred for Israel and support for anything the Palestinians do was started by the former Soviet Union and still has influence today.
    Whatever the history was that brought us to this place, things can be changed for the better. A good first step is getting rid of Hamas and then far right Israelis.

    1. I do think the left wing response of hatred for Israel and support for anything the Palestinians do was started by the former Soviet Union …

      Anti-Semitism was rampant in the czarist Russian Empire for centuries before the Soviet Union was a gleam in anyone’s eye. Plus, some of the leading Bolsheviks who founded the Soviet Union were themselves Jewish — most prominently Leon Trotsky but several others, too. (Lenin himself was of Jewish ancestry, though it is unclear the extent to which he was aware of this).

      There was a resurgence of anti-Semitism under Stalin, with Jews being purged from leading government, party, and military positions, but the groundwork for this was laid by the Russian Empire and the Russian Orthodox church.

      Also, keep in mind that so-called Judeo-Bolshevism was a conspiracy theory fostered by the Nazis as part of the justification for the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

  10. Professor Coyne’s analysis makes more sense than anything I’ve seen. And I am probably among the knowledgeable people, as I have been glued to tv and news articles almost 24/7 this entire week (and, with slightly lesser intensity, for the past 56 years).

    There is no solution. The desire to eliminate, eradicate and annihilate the state of Israel will not go away. The primal objective to rid the world of Jews likely will live on no matter what.

    My fantasy is that Israel and the US announce that they have found the head of the snake. That would be Iran. Then, find a reason to attack. Can the Ayatollahs and the most dangerous military capacities be eliminated without (as in Gaza) great collateral damage?

    If so, can we bet on the people of Iran to seek freedom and decency? Maybe. Will Hamas and Hizbollah be spectacularly weakened? Of course. Will Saudi Arabia emerge as the uncontested power in the Islamic Middle east? I would think so. And then the hard part (as if the rest is the easy part), can SA and Israel complete their peace deal , adding a promise to patriate the Palestinians somewhere? Would that not lead to a safer and more productive Middle East?

    Other than the fact that this won’t happen, an additional impediment: is that neither Saudi Arabia nor any other Arab country actually cares about the Palestinians. Alas, they have never done a thing for those brethren for the past 75 years. So the genocidal hatred will go on…

    1. I think that if Iran gets directly involved, as well as the US, this war can escalate fairly quickly to outside the middle east.

  11. I support the ground invasion option. Don’t siege the Palestinians. Allow water and medicine in and food but have UN representatives and the Red Cross inspect and distribute the supplies to the Palestinian people, not Egypt or in-country proxies. Have Israel and their allies (US etc.) tell the Palestinian people that Hamas has to go and Israel’s quarrel is with them not the Palestinian people who are being used as human shields. The Palestinians should be helped by the ultrarich Hamas leaders (power, food, water) who have pillaged their economy and remain safely in foreign countries (name them). Instead, Israel itself with the backing of the UN and Red Cross is sending aid to the Palestinian people because they do not want them harmed. Israel should say ‘despite controversial settlement construction, we gave Gaza back to the Palestinians as a show of good faith only to have 1500 Jews murdered by barbarians surging from that territory. If the Palestinian people continue to support Hamas, we might just have to acknowledge that returning Gaza was a mistake and retake it and keep it indefinitely because this unproked massacre cannot be sllowed to happen again. It’s up to you, Palestinian people.’

    1. >”Allow water and medicine in and food but have UN representatives and the Red Cross inspect and distribute the supplies to the Palestinian people, not Egypt or in-country proxies.”

      Jimbo, Israel can’t allow a single truck or motor boat into Gaza unless its own military people have inspected it for gunmen, weapons, and other contraband before it enters or docks. Israel can let Red Crescent vehicles in but it can’t rely on UN Agencies — the UN?!! — to vouchsafe that the contents are humanitarian aid only. Most of which Hamas will steal anyway and distribute as it sees fit.

      How does Israel permit only Red Crescent staff to distribute supplies to the “people” when Hamas, not Israel, controls Gaza? Hamas has the guns and therefore they get first crack at whatever Israel or Egypt lets in.

      Even if Israel doesn’t want to besiege and blockade Gaza it is more or less forced into doing it anyway just to control the military situation. Turning the water back on is about all it can safely do.

      1. It’s a strange idea that a ground war might be conducted, whilst sending food, water, medicine and electricity to the enemy you are fighting. That rather makes for a prolonged war, rather than the shortest possible.

  12. Some of you may have noticed that on social media, the same Tankies who insisted Assad and Putin didn’t gas, bomb, and murder 500,000 people in Syria, are now recycling atrocity footage and presenting it as footage from Gaza.

    Among those 500,000 were Palestinians. But we rarely hear about them.

  13. A thought : “belief in belief” (Dennett) seems to make equivalent the religious dimension.

    I think readers here know there is no reason for the religious dimension – of any faith, cult, or religion – to be assumed equal.

    IOW at some level, spectators of this say “well, all religions have fought each other over land since antiquity” – the point being clear only to those spectators. A close example are the “Coexist” bumper stickers.

    I haven’t listened to the S. Harris piece but it seems this is what he gets into.

  14. Since Israel cares about world opinion, they need to frame and formulate their moral philosophy in terms that resonate with the world. Instead of presenting their response as justified military retaliation, or an end to Hamas which can be replaced tomorrow with something even worse – perhaps they should present a new and permanent hard-line policy of “zero tolerance for terrorism”.

    This could essentially end the constant second-guessing of pundits and politicians, as the rest of the world understands what a zero tolerance for terrorism entails on the ground. Every other country in the world prosecutes terrorism without mercy. It is high time Israel is given the same latitude.

    This would also apply to PA leadership in Judea and Samaria who aid, abet, glorify, recruit, and financially reward terrorism. They could be arrested and tried, monies which support paying terrorists could be seized retroactively, and new Palestinian politicians who promote terrorism could be detained and exiled.

    These Executive policies should be ratified by the entire Knesset. I’d like to see the world try to criticize a policy which they themselves deploy.

  15. What do you think the United States would do if there was a densely populated anti-American cartel controlled region just south of the Mexican border, whose aim was the destruction of the United States, and the cartel just launched similar missile and terrorist attacks on the border towns with similar butchery, killing a proportionate number of United States citizens (approximately 30,000)? You know what we would do. I admit this is far from a perfect analogy but it’s easy to pontificate from our comfortable homes devoid of panic rooms.

    1. A better analogy would be ISIS on the border, regularly launching missiles to any, LA and Boston, in addition to the butchery of border communities.

    2. We already know what would happen. We saw the response to 9/11. On that occasion, the US (and the UK) went too far by invading Iraq, but, IIRC, nobody seriously questioned what we did in Afghanistan at the time.

  16. Enthusiasts of the pop-Left are always blissfully unaware of the history of contemporary attitudes, including their own. (1) The pop-Left of my childhood was pro-Zionist: Pete Seeger’s great, black-listed folk-group used to sing Israeli, Zionist songs such as “Artza Alinu” (“We Ascended to the Land”, meaning guess which Land?). (2) The savage Jew-hatred represented by Hamas tracks back to the merging of fundamentalist Islamic and Nazi propaganda by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who spent WWII in Berlin as an organizer and radio broadcaster with the Nazis. {Recounted at: https://quillette.com/2023/10/10/the-ideology-of-mass-murder/ .] (3) The conventional anti-Zionism of today’s pop-Left tracks directly back to the USSR’s 180 degree shift on Israel in the 1950s and after. [Recounted at: https://www.jns.org/the-soviet-origins-of-left-wing-anti-zionism/ .]

    1. Yes, I remember that. I remember telling a Jewish friend that Zionists we’re Nazis.
      I remember Trotskyites we’re Nazis.
      And Ukrainians are Nazis. That is what the Comintern used in the past and what Putin uses now to discredit those they cannot control. I was definitely a useful idiot.

  17. I would offer $ 10000 to every Palestinian to move to another Arab country -there are more than 20. That’s cheap, about 23 billion -1% of the cost of the war in Afghanistan-, and many countries can contribute. Or the value of 23000 human lives, if you think that a human life is about $ 1 million -it’s probably more, and it’s likely that 10s of thousands will die or get severely injured in the next few months. I know it’s a crazy idea, but nobody has a better one.

    1. This would not stop or even reduce the hatred aimed at the Jews and the State of Israel. It would make the perpetrators more comfortable.
      Lots of Palestinians have moved and have good lives elsewhere, or haven’t you seen the number demonstrating and supporting Hamas despite it being illegal in countries all over the world. The hatred is still there, it’s in their genes .

      1. The hatred is still there, it’s in their genes

        It’s not in their genes or in their blood or anything like that. The behaviour is instilled culturally which means it can be changed for future generations. Hatred is learned. If you can find a way to stop people from teaching it, it will go away.

        This conflict will go away when a generation of people tires of all the killing and finds that life is better when you get on with your neighbours. This will eventually happen, but I don’t expect to see it in my life time.

    2. There are good reasons that other Arab countries would not take more more Palestinians. They would cause more instability and violence in countries that already have these problems, as have the Palestinian refuge camps. That is why Egypt will never open its border to a flood of Palestinians.

  18. Regarding a ground war, the combination of urban conditions, a vast network of tunnels and 30,000 militants more than willing to detonate themselves is a horrific combination. Most wars are fought under the assumption that an enemy will surrender when overwhelmed/cornered; that’s not the case here. Probably no better option, but I fear for the IDF.

  19. In context from another time and another place and regarding the problems facing Israel in Gaza.
    .I remember during my RAF training being told of this prior to service in Bomber Command
    ( The V Force) 1965. Harris at that time was still a hero.
    This quote was made by Sir Alexander Cadogan about Czechoslovakia, and later by Air Marshal Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, who, seeking to justify continuation of his policy of bombing German civilians, wrote that “personally I do not regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier”. Ironically, both had plagiarised this quote from a German, Otto von Bismarck, who had earlier expressed a view that the pacification of the turbulent Balkans was not worth the healthy bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier — surely a view held in error since it was a later terrorist incident in the Balkans that set off the horrors of the 1914-18 war.

    1. Unfortunately says much of the UK now when you compare the numbers from Saturday supporting the Palestinians (and Hamas)

        1. I was saying that the Palestinian numbers on the demonstration on Saturday was stated as in the thousands in London in support of Palestine and Hamas whereas Sunday in support of Israel the numbers were reported was only in the hundreds.
          Sorry for the confusion.

        2. Prof Coyne.
          Not sure you received my reply ref Jezgrove 3-11pm.
          I was stating that the numbers supporting Palestine and Hamas on Saturday in London UK were reported in the thousands whereas those supporting Israel on today, Sunday are reported in the hundreds which I feel is a poor reflection upon the UK in support of Israel.

  20. In the interest of preventing an Israeli assault on Gaza and in protecting the lives of the innocent, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian men in Gaza who are not Hamas terrorists are engaged in vigilante violence against the vastly-outnumbered perpetrators of last week’s atrocities and are dumping the dead and battered Hamas bodies at the border fence.

    No? Well, then Israel will need to do “bluntly” what others either won’t or can’t do with far less bloodshed. Innocent children will die; Israeli soldiers will have to live with the memories of seeing the young innocents die at their hands, the dead being dead whatever the intent; and the cycle of violence will go on without foreseeable end.

    To every thing there is a season . . . now is not the time for peace.

  21. What I am missing from Isreal is an ultimatum. Make clear demands, such as complete surrender of the Hamas leadership into Isreali or international custody for trial and the right for Israel to prosecute identified terrorists on Gaza soil.
    Clearly indicate, which part of Gaza will be invaded if conditions are not met. Then it is purely the Hamas who decides, if Gaza will be invaded while Israel can point to their effort to solve this without bloodshed.
    Result will be an invasion, but it’s harder to justify opposition to that invasion.

    1. I don’t think Israel should reveal where they’re going to invade; that is a military secret and depends on intelligence like where the hostages are–stuff we don’t know. You don’t tell the enemy where you’re going to invade, but you can try to ameliorate damage to civilians, which Israel has done. Of course if Hamas surrendered and disbanded the invasion would stop, but that’s never going to happen and it would be foolish to even ask.

      There’s enough justification for an invasion now.

      1. The warning given to civilians reveals as much about where they are going to invade as an ultimatum. As such I don’t see this “reveal” as a cost. Of course the Israeli government has enough justification for an invasion, but more cannot hurt and I think the important point would be to provide Hamas with a clear choice and make clear that they chose to be invaded.

        I don’t think it’s foolish to put out the ultimatum. It would only be foolish to expect surrender. But that’s not the point. The point is to turn the dilemma of decision from Israel to Hamas.

        A few Muslim leaders (e.g. Erdogan) have offered to mediate and putting them on the case of advocating for Hamas to surrender. For them I think it would be very hard to stay in Western good graces and denounce the demands for the arrest of Hamas leaders.

  22. Unless the IDF has developed some unusual tactical innovations (which it has done in the past), I think entering Gaza in large numbers is a military error. Urban warfare flattens almost all the advantages of the Israeli military. I fear an invasion would achieve little, at high cost to both the IDF and Gazan civilians.

    Coincidentally, I recently finished reading Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad, and so I was forcefully reminded of the horrors of urban warfare, especially for the attackers. The prospect of war in Gaza City also brings to mind the 9-month campaign needed by the Iraqi government and the Kurds to retake Mosul from ISIS: a numerically and technically superior force, backed up by an American air campaign, took forever and suffered significant casualties to take a city whose residents, for the most part, welcomed the retaking of the city. I fear it will go much worse than what happened in Mosul for the IDF in Gaza, and for the Gazans, who will not welcome the IDF. (For what happened in Mosul, see https://www.ausa.org/sites/default/files/publications/LWP-130-The-Mosul-Study-Group-and-the-Lessons-of-the-Battle-of-Mosul.pdf by Major A.C. Fox, USA.)

    My first thought would be that making the border truly impenetrable, and striking from the air, perhaps with occasional boots-on-the ground raids, would be the best military approach. I fear few or no hostages will survive, whatever approach is taken.

    I hope that better military minds can figure something out.


  23. The issue is not whether Israel will not survive unless it can defend itself, but whether Israel can survive without making peace with the Palestinians.

    1. Yes but as I’ve said repeatedly, the Palestinians have rejected five peace offers for a two-state solution, and their desire to engage in negotiation is nil. Now Israel isn’t in the mood to negotiate for a two-state solution, either. Israel has survived for 75 years without making peace with the Palestinians (despite Israel offering a two state-solution at least five times), so your question is already answered.

  24. The German newspaper BILD has a report this morning titled “Die übelsten Fakes im Hamas-Krieg”/”The Worst Fakes in the Hamas War” (fabricated by pro-Hamas propagandists):


    There is a tweet by a Turkish man named Erem Sentürk showing a picture of a severely injured boy who is said to be a victim of the Israeli use of white phosphorus. This is the tweet’s text:

    “Israel did this. Israel burnet these children. They did it with white phosphorus, a banned weapon. The Israeli Defense Minister boasted about this act on live broadcast because he stated that these children were ‘subhuman creatures’ according to Yahidis.”

    According to BILD, it turned out that this is a bunch of blatant lies, and that the picture actually shows a Kurdish boy in 2019, who was severely injured by chemical weapons in Northern Syria, with Turkish president Erdogan being responsible for their use.

  25. I wonder about the two-state solution. From what I’ve read, the tendency of the regions to be occupied by the Palestinians is always land of lesser value than that to be occupied by Israel, and that is just a part of the reason the Palestinians rejected the proposals. Am I incorrect, and if so, where can I inform myself better?

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