Israel has more than a right to defend itself

In a nation that has a long history of enduring terrorist attacks at the hands of its enemies, the Hamas assault on Israel that began on Saturday morning exceeded others by several orders of magnitude. As Jews observed Shabbat and on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, thousands of rockets bombarded Israel, and Iran-backed Hamas terrorists bulldozed through the fencing on the border of Gaza and southern Israel. Massive teams of terrorists flooded into Israel, where they carried out attacks that could only be described as barbaric: shooting civilians, invading homes, killing parents in front of their children, raping Israeli women, and taking dozens of hostages, some of whom may be U.S. citizens. Those taken range from young children to whole families to an 85-year-old woman. Videos showed that when Hamas terrorists drove through Gaza in pickup trucks parading dead bodies, crowds cheered. More than 900 Israelis were killed according to current estimates, and with thousands injured and the search for the missing ongoing, that number will sadly climb.

In the days and weeks ahead, Israel will have to conduct a long, complex, and delicate operation the likes of which have never been seen before. Israel will have to clear out southern towns and hunt down all the Hamas terrorists who remain in Israel; identify, find, and rescue hostages; protect the north from Iran’s other proxy, Hezbollah — and it will have to pulverize Hamas.

Israel must ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

The traditional rhythm of conflict between Israel and its enemies has been that Israel gets attacked and is given a small window to respond, and then world public opinion gathers against Israel, while Western leaders urge “calm” and an end to the “cycle of violence.” From Israel’s perspective, conflicts with Hamas over the past several decades have followed a similar pattern. Hamas fires rockets at Israel, Israel responds with air strikes, and after a certain amount of time there is a cease-fire.

While the terrorist organization has been committed to the destruction of Israel since its 1988 founding as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, to this point, Israel has made the strategic calculation to tolerate Hamas. The operating theory has been that dealing with a weakened Hamas that can be degraded periodically is better than pulverizing the terrorist group and depriving Gaza of any governing authority, leaving only chaos. But after what has just happened, that calculation has changed. Israeli leaders have now recognized that Hamas can no longer be tolerated — it must be destroyed.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared that Hamas “will soon realize it made a grave mistake, and will pay the price.” He added that “we will change the face of reality in Gaza 50 years ahead.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed, “The Israel Defense Forces will act immediately to destroy Hamas’s capabilities. We will cripple them mercilessly and avenge this black day they have brought upon Israel and its citizens.”

The Biden administration stumbled out of the gate in its response. In the wake of the attacks, the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs posted that Israel should “refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks.” It later deleted the post. Biden himself didn’t appear before cameras to make remarks until the late afternoon. In those remarks, Biden acknowledged, “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Full stop.” The weeks ahead will show if he really means it.

Biden’s record up until this point provides reason to worry. The administration moved to restore funds to Palestinians and funneled $6 billion to Hamas patron Iran while desperately seeking a nuclear deal. While officials insist the money was all for humanitarian purposes, this defense neglects the fact that money is fungible and there is a long history of such monies being diverted to terrorism. Additionally, Biden interfered in Israeli domestic politics by excoriating the government’s proposed judicial reforms and has been pressuring Netanyahu to make concessions as part of a deal with Saudi Arabia.

Now, Biden insists, “the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back.” If he truly means it, he must give Israel free rein for as long as it takes to do whatever is necessary to vanquish its savage foes.

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