IMMEDIATE RELEASE Nov 23, 2023
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
The Hamas plan for survival
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON — Now that a deal is in place for Hamas to return some of the hostages seized on October 7, it is fair to ask why Hamas is agreeing to give up the only collateral it has against Israel.
The answer is to stall — not to reconstitute and rearm its fighters – but to escape with what is left of its fighters.
The deal was hammered out between Israel and Hamas with the Emir of Qatar as an intermediary and President Biden pressing Prime Minister Netanyahu to ease up on Gaza. It allows for an initial 4-day pause in fighting to receive 50 hostages, all women and children, and then additional single day pauses to release more of those held captive for up to 10 days.
Taken together, that is a significant chunk of time coming as it does when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are deep into Gaza and making headway cleaning out the enemy.
Analysts have said that Hamas needs the time to rearm and regroup, but that is unlikely. The terrorist group has surely seen enough of the hellscape inflicted by the Israeli forces on Gaza communities, refugee camps and hospitals.
Hamas knows it cannot go head-to-head with the IDF. They cannot possibly win this fight. They are not taking back Gaza.
Perhaps some Hamas leaders were naïve enough to think they could trick Israel into over-reacting, and they could take out a substantial number of IDF soldiers in the booby-trapped tunnels they built underground.
But the IDF is a professional army too smart to fall for that, which leaves Hamas as being on the verge of the vanquished, with only one option: survival. And for that they need time. The multi-tiered hostage release program gives them the time and space they need to escape through their tunnel network into the Sinai Desert, and from there the world is wide, with Syria a likely destination.
They cannot win. Israel has turned Gaza into rubble. Hamas will not be reinstated as the governing body in Gaza. Self-preservation is the only option.
The top leaders of Hamas are already safely in exile in Qatar while the lower-level commanders and fighters are likely to seize on the pauses in fighting to get out through the tunnels to reach safety.
Netanyahu resisted the pause in fighting because he did not want to lose momentum in eradicating Hamas. Unrest among Israelis demanding more attention be paid to the hostages forced his hand to agree to let a hostage release go forward, with more to follow potentially.
Hamas in Gaza has been demolished, its ability to reconstitute and fight another day greatly compromised.
Netanyahu may be able to claim a military victory, but what happens next in Gaza, how and whether it is rebuilt, if Gazans can return to their homes, depends on a political will on all sides of the conflict to do more than go back to an uneven status quo.
There is more to war than military might. Nobody questions Israel’s ability to prosecute a war. They can flatten Gaza, and at Netanyahu’s direction they have bombed this narrow strip of land to smithereens in a display of power that is overwhelming. In the process, also thanks to Netanyahu, they lost much of the moral high ground they occupied after Hamas terrorists murdered and captured innocent Israelis on October 7.
They are now making amends by allowing a pause in the fighting and letting more humanitarian aid get through to the people in Gaza.
for Hamas, after what they did on October 7, it is unlikely they are acting out of humanitarian concerns for the hostages. They are acting out of self-interest. They are buying time to run from a fight they cannot win.
Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
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END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND
IMMEDIATE RELEASE Nov 23, 2023