What can’t be emphasized enough, especially among those who think of themselves as pro-Palestinian: If you want a Palestinian state to exist and succeed, you must also want Hamas to be humiliated and defeated. Hamas’s sole aim for over 30 years has been to turn a difficult, but potentially negotiable, conflict into a nonnegotiable, zero-sum holy war. That strategy has to be proved a loser before Palestinian politics can move in a better direction.
By the same token, if you’d like a more moderate cast of Israeli leaders, then the last thing you’d want is for Hamas to emerge emboldened and essentially unscathed in the current round of fighting. No Israeli government of any ideological stripe is going to concede territory for a Palestinian state that’s likely to look like a larger version of Gaza today: one that terrorizes its neighbors while tyrannizing its people.
Nor is the Israeli public going to pay much heed to hectoring critics in the West who, like Sanders, somehow think that, for Hamas, a legal case involving an ugly eviction effort in East Jerusalem was anything more than a pretext to start a war while jockeying for political advantage against its Palestinian rivals in Fatah.
Israel made plenty of mistakes in the run-up to the current fighting, including heavy-handed policing in Jerusalem at Ramadan and inadequate policing in Arab-Israeli towns that have been hit by mob violence. But there is a vast difference in moral weight between Israel’s miscalculations and Hamas’s calculations, between blunders and crimes. That’s something to bear in mind when Palestinian rockets hit Israeli civilians by design and Israeli missiles hit Palestinian civilians inadvertently.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the U.S. does not have a vital national interest in creating a Palestinian state: It’s on the “nice” but not “necessary” list of America’s Middle East priorities. But we do have a vital interest in nurturing and sustaining an alliance of moderates and modernizers, people who can offer a plausible alternative to the forms of politics that have dominated the region and spread their pathologies worldwide: terror-sponsoring theocracies like Iran; military dictatorships like Egypt; cult-of-personality regimes like Turkey.
When it comes to Gaza, the goal of U.S. policy is to support Israel’s efforts to defang, deflate and ultimately disempower Hamas, not just for the sake of Israelis living under threat but also for Palestinians living in fear. Moderates only thrive when the shadow of terror lifts.
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