Israel vs. Hamas: How Much Violence is Enough

A law professor considers the notion of proportionality in Forbes:

The claim is that it is not permissible for the Israelis to kill many individuals, including civilians, to stop sporadic deaths from rocket fire. Sorry. As with individual aggression, proportionality has no place in dealing with deadly force, where the right rule is that all necessary force is permissible.

The Israelis are not required to slowly bleed in Sderot because Hamas is at present only capable of using primitive rockets against it. It need not wait until the attacks become ever more deadly to raise the ante.

Writing in today’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer thinks Israel is nearing a successful endgame:

[T]he only acceptable outcome of this war, both for Israel and for the civilized world, is … the disintegration of Hamas rule. It is already underway.

This is not about killing every last Hamas gunman. Not possible, not necessary. Regimes rule not by physically overpowering every person in their domain but by getting the majority to accept their authority. That is what sustains Hamas, and that is what is now under massive assault.

Hamas’s leadership is not only seriously degraded but openly humiliated. The great warriors urging others to martyrdom are cowering underground, almost entirely incommunicado. Demonstrably unable to protect their own people, they beg for outside help, receiving in return nothing but words from their Arab and Iranian brothers.

In the same paper on the same day, Jackson Diehl looks at the same situation and reaches the opposite conclusion:

Every day this war continues, Hamas grows politically stronger, as do its allies in other countries and its sponsor, Iran. Though Israel must defend its citizens against rockets and suicide bombings, the only means of defeating Hamas are political. Palestinians, who have no history of attraction to religious fundamentalism, have to be persuaded to choose more moderate leaders, such as the secular Fatah. In the meantime, Hamas’s existence must be tolerated, and it should be encouraged to channel its ambitions into politics rather than military activity.

So Mr. Diehl, let me get this straight. Israel must defend its citizens from violent attacks… but not through military means. It must tolerate the existence of Hamas… even though Hamas has no intention of tolerating the existence of Israel. Hamas “should be encouraged to channel its ambitions into politics rather than military activity”… even though its ambition is to drive Israel into the sea.

I sure hope Krauthammer is right, because I don’t hold out much hope for Diehl’s approach.

4 thoughts on “Israel vs. Hamas: How Much Violence is Enough

  1. Well, Kirk, the problem is the original sin of the situation: the occupation of Palestinian territories and the seige of Gaza. Israeli’s are benefitting and Palestinians are suffering from an unfair distribution of power and resources in a very small space. What does anyone expect the Palestinians to do? Just shut up and die? I don’t think that the Israelis are being very realistic as to the long-term outcome here; they are historically in the wrong, not becuase they are to blame for everything that has happened, but because only they have benefitted from what has happened. No occupied people would accept what the Palestinians are expected to accept.

  2. I certainly don’t expect the Palestinians to shut up and die. I would expect them to refrain from making terroristic attacks on Israeli civilians. Further, I would expect them to control their territory well enough to prevent foreign jihadists from launching such attacks (as opposed to electing foreign jihadists to “govern” them).

    You talk about the “original sin of the situation: the occupation of Palestinian territories”. Are you referring here to the pre-1967 borders? Or to the establishment of the state of Israel? Israel no doubt would accept the pre-1967 borders if it could count on peaceful neighbors.

  3. Kirk,

    Definitely the pre-1967 borders; Israel does have a right to exist as long as Palestinians are treated justly within and without its borders.

    As to “no doubt” Israel would accept–Please? Settlements? More settlements? Do you really believe that?

    Anyway, sorry for my posting on your other entry, you’re right, I can’t attribute attitudes to you. I just want you to know that I want Israel to exist, and am completely convinced that their current state is dooming them to extinction, not in this generation, but in a future generation.

    There is a jewish tale of a grandfather who plants a carob tree that will not bear fruit until his grandchildren are grown. What fruit will this strategy bear for Israel’s grandchildren? To me, that’s the question they should be asking.

  4. Israel’s hard-liner settlement movement is a potent force in Israeli politics, but the settlers are not the government. The settlements in Gaza were forcibly evacuated by the IDF in 2005, in a move that seemed to make sense at the time.

    At other times, of course, the government has actively encouraged the settlements. Israel is faced with an existential threat. I can’t blame them for trying a variety of tactics in search of something that works.

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