Friedman’s Modest Proposal

Some offer a simplistic solution. There are too many dead in Gaza, so Israel should just stop. That would certainly have an impact on the number of Gazans killed, but then what? The hostages remain in captivity. Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel, until it’s next barbaric rampage across the border. And Israel just takes it because the alternative is terrible for Gazans?

.@chrislhayes: “There is no terrorist attack, no matter how horrific—and truly Oct. 7 was horrific—that can wash clean what we are seeing in Gaza and what we as Americans and our government are abetting. It must end. We must stop it.” pic.twitter.com/2nKYlWoaGl

— All In with Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) December 20, 2023

It’s not that some Israeli officials have made some reprehensible statements. It’s not that Hayes doesn’t make some fair points. It’s that walking away from October 7th, from the hostages, leaves terrorist in control. And if it worked there, it will work anywhere. If they can rape, behead, burn, kidnap and murder in Israel, they can do so in New York. If there is nothing to be done about it, well, that’s that. And for all the cries that there has to be a better way, no one has ever come up with it.

But now, Thomas Friedman has offered a proposal and argument in support.

It’s time for the U.S. to tell Israel to put the following offer on the table to Hamas: total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, in return for all the Israeli hostages and a permanent cease-fire under international supervision, including U.S., NATO and Arab observers. And no exchange of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

In support of this proposal, Friedman argues that while Hamas will look like the winner on Day 1, things will change on Day 2.

On the first day, Sinwar will strut around the rubble of Gaza like a peacock, declaring how he and his men inflicted terrible damage on the Jews, and supporters will carry him on their shoulders, shouting “Allahu akbar.”

On Day 2, with the Israelis gone, they will scream at Sinwar publicly and privately: What were you thinking? Who gave you permission to launch this war? Who is going to repair my home? Who is going to bring back my loved ones? How are you going to get any help rebuilding Gaza if you keep on lobbing missiles at Tel Aviv? You thought Hezbollah, the West Bankers, Israeli Arabs and Iran would all jump full-scale into this war and rise up against the Jews. It didn’t happen — except at some American colleges — and now all we have are ruins and the dead.

In support of this view, Friedman points to other “wars,” notably with Lebanon in 2006, where the people blamed Hassan Nasrallah for the destruction his unprovoked and losing war caused. Friedman says this is already happening in Gaza.

How do I know that will happen? Because it is already happening. Consider this Bloomberg report from Dec. 11:

Since the war, life in Gaza — which never was easy — has become unbearable. And while most Palestinians are furious at Israel, some are also expressing anger at Hamas, which has ruled the strip since 2007, when it threw out the Palestinian Authority through a brief and violent civil war. “Hand over the hostages and stop the war,” Rahaf Hneideq, a Gaza-based professor of Islamic studies, wrote to Hamas on Facebook. “Enough death, enough destruction. Stop the displacement. Don’t your people deserve that?”

How do I know that will happen? Because while polls conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research show support for Hamas growing in the West Bank since Oct. 7 — which are really signs of contempt for the Palestinian Authority and antipathy to the violent Jewish settlers — support for Hamas in Gaza, which usually rises during wars, has not significantly increased.

Does this proposal have merit? The initial proposal, that Hamas releases the hostages without any exchange, would seem to be a hurdle too high to take seriously. Hamas won’t agree to a truce that requires release of 40 hostages, so what would make this idea seem remotely possible?

Second, why would the US want to puts its boots on the ground in Gaza to be responsible for stopping the next terrorist attack by Hamas? How many American bodies in bags would be good with Friedman. The UN certainly can’t be trusted, as it’s been in bed with the Palestinians for years. Other Arab countries are far too smart to engage with herding terrorists. That’s why Egypt won’t allow Gazans into Sinai, bringing their terrorists and death to a country that wants nothing to do with them.

But even if Hamas would agree and then actually perform under the proposal, and even if there could be a coalition willing to police terrorism in Gaza, would the Gazan people turn on Hamas and blame Sinwar more than they hate Israel and blame Netanyahu? What Friedman fails to appreciate is that Gazans can do both, but in the grand scheme of their belief system, that their misery is the result of Israel’s existence and their ultimate salvation will come from a Palestine from the river to the sea, who offers them the future they believe they deserve?

It would be wonderful if there was some way to avoid the deaths of innocent Gazans. But neither magic bullets nor unicorns prancing on rainbows is going to deal with the fiasco of Gaza. It might be true that Israel has no viable plan for what to do about Gaza after the bombing stops, but then it’s too much to expect that Israel had a plan in place just in case Hamas managed to cross the border and rape, behead, burn, murder and kidnap civilians. Maybe they should have, but they can’t be blamed for seizing the only option available to them under the circumstances.

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