Australia/Israel Review


Deconstruction Zone: Israel and the “Forever War”

May 31, 2024 | Seth Mandel

The "Forever War" was declared by Hamas long before October 7 (Image: Shutterstock)
The "Forever War" was declared by Hamas long before October 7 (Image: Shutterstock)

Ever since October 7, we’ve gotten a steady stream of reminders of just how different life in Israel can be from the rest of the West. No matter how European the architecture or how Americanised its politics have become, Israel’s experience has always been different from that of its allies in crucial ways.

For example, the renewed fighting in Gaza’s north is the subject of this lead from the Wall Street Journal: “Seven months into the war, Hamas is far from defeated, stoking fears in Israel that it is walking into a forever war.”

This is a very Western, and indeed American, way of looking at it. Because when you live far from the war zone, as in the case of the US invasion of Iraq, you always fear walking into a trap. But Israel isn’t walking into anything – in fact, Israel tried walking away from Gaza. Not just in its 2005 disengagement, although that move did end once and for all any notion of an Israeli “occupation” in Gaza. Israel, in fact, tried walking away in 1967 – that is, immediately upon taking and holding the territory in a defensive war. The Arab states Israel had defeated met in Khartoum and released a famous resolution declaring the “three noes”: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiation with Israel.

Thus, instead of immediately negotiating back the territory it won, Israel was forced into a simmering state of war that turned into a full-blown war of annihilation against the Jewish state once again in 1973. In the aftermath of that war, the Arab states, which had instigated each war against Israel, began to accept the fact that they weren’t going to vanquish the Jews after all. Israel returned the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, including oil fields that could supply Israel with about a fifth of its energy needs at the time. 

In 2000, Ehud Barak offered to Yasser Arafat a Palestinian state that included the Gaza Strip. Arafat turned down the offer of statehood. Five years after that, Israel left Gaza unilaterally, after decades of trying to walk away from the Strip. Hamas’ takeover of the Strip soon followed, and it was turned into a large military installation, the entire point of which was to keep Israel from walking away completely.

Attacks from Gaza did not begin in 1967, just as they did not stop after Israel’s disengagement in 2005. Hamas’ attacks have nothing to do with a supposed occupation. Whether or not there are Israeli boots on the ground in the Gaza Strip, there has been and will be war.

Which brings us to the second point: This is already a forever war. And that forever war was declared by Israel’s enemies and is re-declared each time Israel offers to end it. Hamas’ raison d’etre, in fact, is forever war. You can find this out by doing such things as: asking Hamas leaders; reading Hamas statements; reading Hamas’ essential documents; watching interviews; opening your eyes; etc.

Hamas does not deny this. Since October 7, Hamas officials have been saying this with even more regularity than they did before. Just one example of about a million: “Hamas’s goal is not to run Gaza and to bring it water and electricity and such,” Khalil al-Hayya, one of Hamas’ top leaders, said in November. “Hamas, the Qassam [brigades] and the resistance woke the world up from its deep sleep and showed that this issue must remain on the table. This battle was not because we wanted fuel or labourers. It did not seek to improve the situation in Gaza. This battle is to completely overthrow the situation.”

Israel is not “walking into a forever war.” It has spent its 76 years as a state trying to get out of a forever war imposed on it by the enemies of its existence, some of whom, such as the Hamas leaders and fighters involved in the October 7 attacks, are barbarian war zombies who have no other setting.

If you want to end the forever war against Hamas, you must destroy Hamas. Opposition to that is, in essence, opposition to ending the forever war launched against Israel the day of its rebirth as a state. There isn’t another option. The twist here is that Israel is the only actor involved in this drama that wants to end the forever war. No one else seems to be in much of a rush.

Seth Mandel is senior editor of Commentary. © Commentary (www.commentarymagazine.com), reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.

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