Hamas has proved that it is a bloodthirsty terrorist organisation. Its deliberate murder of Israeli civilians is an unforgivable war crime.
But is Israel’s flattening of large parts of Gaza, its threat of a ground invasion (and it’s cutting off of water, food, medicines and electricity supplies) a legal, proportionate and wise response?
Physical destruction and the withholding of water and food etc to Gaza’s 2.2 million inhabitants will put literally hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians’ lives at risk.
That in turn will create even more anger and hatred which is surely not in Israel’s or the world’s interest.
I am saying all that not just because the killing of civilians is morally wrong, illegal and counterproductive, but also because there is another way that has sadly not yet even been fully considered, at least by the international community.
Without weapons, Hamas would be unable to harm Israel.
Cutting off Hamas’ arms supply
So surely the world’s (and Israel’s) strategy should be to cut off Hamas’ arms supply.
That would be a complex and expensive operation – but it would almost certainly be possible.
And it would be far more effective and would cost far fewer lives and have far fewer geopolitical risks than what Israel is currently planning.
Hamas gets its arms from a variety of sources (especially Iran) – so they probably can’t be blocked at source.
However, delivery to Hamas could be stopped or at the very least massively reduced.
Most of the weapons etc (including many rockets) are smuggled into Gaza in three ways: through secret Hamas-built tunnels from Egypt, hidden in vehicles crossing into Gaza from Egypt – and by sea.
So by taking physical control of the southern mile or so of the Gaza Strip (ie the area immediately adjacent to Egypt) and by massively expanding its control of the small stretch of Mediterranean Sea adjacent to Gaza, Israel would be able to prevent Hamas receiving the vast majority of its arms.
Israel might also need to further strengthen its border defences and its border security along the Gaza border, to prevent terrorist infiltration.
All that would be expensive and challenging – but nothing near as expensive, challenging and risky as the campaign they are currently implementing and planning.
The current plan will be very costly in lives and reputation – but potentially nothing compared to the task of trying to retain control of Gaza. Getting out will probably be even harder than getting in (as the West found out to its cost in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq).
What’s more, mishandling Gaza will play into the hands of Hamas’ Iranian backers, could destabilise the Middle East and will only generate smiles in the Kremlin (which is now ‘best friends’ with Iran and which has hosted Hamas in Moscow three times in the past 18 months).
A mishandling of Gaza by Israel, with the encouragement of the West, will be a huge distraction from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and would be music to the Kremlin’s ears.
The UK government and opposition would be well advised to urge Israel to examine alternative ways of dealing with Hamas that do not potentially involve tens of thousands of civilian fatalities, generated through legally doubtful means. Upholding the rule of law is absolutely crucial, given Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and potential major problems between China and other countries and territories in East and Southeast Asia.