In the early morning of October 7, Hamas terrorists attacked the State of Israel with thousands of rockets, hundreds of armed aggressors, and a civilian-focused campaign of murder and kidnapping. The attack was well planned, a surprise. As of this writing, at least 500 Israelis have been killed, and unknown numbers—including women and small children—kidnapped into Gaza.
Why now? Because the leadership in Iran that has been closely coordinating the timing of this attack with Hamas believes that both Israel and its most potent backer are weak. The United States is riven by politics, led by compromised and elderly men with little tolerance for danger. And Israel, too, has been in the throes of one its greatest internal rows—a fight over judicial reform so corrosive that military reservists threatened to boycott any call up. Add to the mix the ongoing talks with Saudi Arabia and Israel’s growing acceptance in the Arab world, and the timing feels almost inevitable.
More importantly: There are a few things that should be clear in what are certain to be the early days of an extended conflict. This is not about Palestinian lives or the liberation of territory; this is not about a military-military operation to establish dominance. This is about killing Jews.
Hamas is not an independent organization. It is armed, financed, advised, and led by Iran, and, in part, subsidized by Qatar. That doesn’t mean that the group has no agency, but attacks of this magnitude are not independent actions.
Right now, iconic buildings around the world are lit with the Israeli flag, a sign of solidarity in the initial shock of the attack. That will change quickly, particularly as Israel begins to retaliate as necessary against the terrorist infrastructure of Gaza. In truth, however, now is the moment of greatest clarity. Israel withdrew fully from Gaza in 2005. There are no “settlements” there, there is no Israeli government there; Hamas controls Gaza fully, with Israel at the borders.
Faced with a choice about its future and the future of Palestinians under its control, Hamas leaders have opted to create a terror beachhead no less horrifying than the one that existed in Afghanistan under the Taliban and al Qaeda, no less primitive than the one that existed in Syria and Iraq under ISIS. Because the Palestinian cause is complex, the nature of Hamas and its allies and backers is, to some, more ambiguous than their Salafi brethren. But it should not be.
It is not simply Israel that cannot tolerate terrorism and war. On 9/11, America came to a standstill over the death of 3,000 civilians in the most brazen attack in its history. The Israeli population stands at some 9.2 million people. A little rough math gives us a proportionate death toll of about 18,000 people if the attack had killed the same percentage of Americans. What would the president of the United States do?
Hamas and its fellow Iranian proxy in Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, can no longer be tolerated. These groups must be destroyed, much as the US and its partners destroyed al Qaeda and ISIS. Unlike that effort, however, these groups cannot be allowed to resurge. Hezbollah, the world’s most potent, best armed, and most dangerous terrorist army must also be dealt with. But how?
This is not Israel’s job alone. Nor is this simply about war. It must ultimately be about the question of Iran, the terrorist master state that facilitates the existence of the most sophisticated terror infrastructure in the world. It is time to ask the question about the continued tolerability of the Islamic State of Iran as currently constituted.
Iran has a nuclear weapons program that will soon be ready on demand, and an inter-continental ballistic missile program that will soon deliver those weapons everywhere. It has proxy armies across the Middle East that terrorize all who surround them. It has established weapons manufacturing facilities from Gaza to Yemen and in between. Iranian actors and proxies have killed Americans, kidnapped Americans, and sought to sustain America’s enemies from Russia to al Qaeda. Iran is not simply Israel’s problem.
What’s the answer? At the first, at least, an honest discussion of the problem. For as long as this regime exists, terror exists. Containment, the de facto Biden administration policy, is not working. Certainly, they came first for the Jews. But that is never where it ends.
Danielle Pletka is a distinguished senior fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where she focuses on US foreign policy generally and the Middle East specifically. Until January 2020, Ms. Pletka was the senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at AEI. Concurrently, she also teaches US Middle East policy at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.
Reprinted with Permission from AEI.org – By Danielle Pletka