Why Israel needs to conquer Rafah and defeat Hamas

Israel must defeat Hamas in Rafah and elsewhere, and ensure a victorious outcome to restore security.

By Ariel Kasnett, JNS

The Biden administration’s warnings that an Israeli military incursion into Rafah would cause a great number of civilian casualties are being proven wrong as few Palestinian civilians have died since Israel decided to enter the Hamas stronghold.

The international community’s claim that Israel had no credible plan to deal with the Palestinian civilians in Rafah is also being proven wrong as hundreds of thousands of civilians are moving out of harm’s way and relocating to other areas of Gaza.

Under pressure from their far-left constituencies and failing to stand strong in the face of evil, western governments are instead insisting that Israel stop fighting Hamas and allow the terror group to regroup and win.

According to Jacob Olidort, director of research for the Gemunder Center for Defense & Strategy at JINSA, pressure or no, Israel has no choice but to enter the southernmost Gaza city.

“Rafah is critical to the completion of Israel’s objectives in Gaza—not only the last bastion of Hamas, but likely the location of many of the hostages—and so not going in is simply not an option,” Olidort told JNS.

“Israel has been fighting amid heightened international scrutiny and pressure since the very beginning,” he said. “In fact, in late October, Pope Francis reportedly alluded to Israel’s military response as a form of terrorism in a call with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog,” he noted.

Such sentiment has become commonplace on university campuses across America and Europe, as well as in the halls of power in many countries.

As Olidort correctly notes, “Although the loss of one innocent life is a tragedy, it is unfortunately an aspect of all wars.”

According to figures released by Israel last week, the Israel Defense Forces is actually outperforming other western militaries in this regard, achieving a historically low civilian-to-combatant casualty ratio.

“Despite Israel going to great lengths to protect civilians—including by halting military operations when an innocent bystander is in the target—the criticism it has faced has been both disproportionate and without context, based universally on the unreliable reporting from Gaza’s Health Ministry,” said Olidort.

Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, takes umbrage at the international community’s insistence that Israel end the war.

“War requires patience,” he told JNS.

It seems the United States and Europe believe wars must be fought within weeks, but they are mistaken, he continued. Wars must be fought until the enemy, in this case Hamas, is defeated.

According to Inbar, “It’s a question of strategic culture.”

“Europe has not been at war for many years,” he said, adding, “Even the Americans were impatient in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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Inbar recalled that former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said at the time she expected Iraq to be a multi-generational war.

“But today, no one in the West has patience for such a war,” he said.

Israel’s war against Hamas not only requires going into Rafah, “But we will have to continue to ‘mow the grass’ [in Gaza] like we are now doing in Jabalia,” he said.

Inbar also noted the West’s seeming obsession with the Arab-Israeli conflict compared to many other conflicts with far greater civilian casualties.

“No one cares about people in Congo, Sudan or Syria,” he said. “There was no uproar when civilians died in the thousands in these countries. When Jews are responsible, suddenly they are sensitive to civilian losses,” he added.

According to Olidort, U.S. pressure has less to do with Gaza and more to do with the wider picture in the Middle East.

“U.S. support—not only consistency in actions, but also rhetoric…is decisive less for the operational success of Israel’s military efforts in Gaza but rather for their strategic effects, particularly in deterring Iran,” he said.

Once Israel completes its necessary and just operations in Rafah, according to Olidort, there “will likely be a laser focus on the north, which involves not only a far more superior Iranian proxy—Hezbollah—but potentially an escalation from other proxies and Iran itself.”

According to Olidort, “U.S. rhetoric and actions that signal it has no daylight with Israel…will make the difference in the key issue of whether and how Iran chooses to engage, whether through its proxies or even directly.”

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But the United States continues to create daylight with Israel as the Biden administration attempts to win over potential voters ahead of the November presidential elections.

Part of this effort includes an attempt to install the failed Palestinian Authority as the governing body in Gaza after Hamas’s defeat—an endeavor Israel’s current government has resolutely opposed.

The Biden administration would like to see the establishment of a Palestinian state as a preferred outcome of this war, possibly with a Saudi normalization agreement as part of the deal.

But according to Inbar, the Biden administration’s obsession with establishing a Palestinian state as a seeming reward for terrorism is “naive.”

Such an entity would be nothing less than a terror state, according to Inbar, and the tragic events of Oct. 7 prove that Israel cannot afford to allow terror states to exist along its borders.

“America is lucky to have two big moats on either side,” he said, referring to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

According to Inbar, Israel must defeat Hamas in Rafah and elsewhere, and ensure a victorious outcome to restore security.

“Israel cannot afford to make mistakes,” Inbar said. “Israel’s margins of security are much smaller.”

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