Friedman is probably right about most of what he says here. The threat of a wider war is real. The problem with his proposed solution is that there is no way that the government of Israel as it now exists is going to permit a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and a withdrawal from West Bank settlements in exchange for rooting out Hamas in Gaza. But it’s not often you read in a mainstream publication about “unjustifiably building an apartheidlike society run by Jewish supremacists in the West Bank.”
I believe that if Israel rushes headlong into Gaza now to destroy Hamas — and does so without expressing a clear commitment to seek a two-state solution with the Palestinian Authority and end Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank — it will be making a grave mistake that will be devastating for Israeli interests and American interests.
It could trigger a global conflagration and explode the entire pro-American alliance structure that the United States has built in the region since Henry Kissinger engineered the end of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
I am talking about the Camp David peace treaty, the Oslo peace accords, the Abraham Accords and the possible normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The whole thing could go up in flames.
This is not about whether Israel has the right to retaliate against Hamas for the savage barbarism it inflicted on Israeli men, women, babies and grandparents. It surely does. This is about doing it the right way — the way that does not play into the hands of Hamas, Iran and Russia.
If Israel goes into Gaza and takes months to kill or capture every Hamas leader and soldier but does so while expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank — thereby making any two-state solution there with the more moderate Palestinian Authority impossible — there will be no legitimate Palestinian or Arab League or European or U.N. or NATO coalition that will ever be prepared to go into Gaza and take it off Israel’s hands.
There will be no one to extract Israel and no one to help Israel pay the cost of caring for more than two million Gazans — not if Israel is run by a government that thinks, and acts, as if it can justifiably exact its revenge on Hamas while unjustifiably building an apartheidlike society run by Jewish supremacists in the West Bank. [False. The U.S. will continue its pro-Israel insanity.] That is a completely incoherent policy.
Alas, though, a senior U.S. official told me that the Biden team left Jerusalem feeling that while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel understands that overreach in Gaza could set the whole neighborhood ablaze, his right-wing coalition partners are eager to fan the flames in the West Bank. Settlers there have killed at least seven Palestinian civilians in acts of revenge in just the past week. [Last I heard on Al Jazeera was that 85 West Bank Palestinians had been killed, including from the IDF, and thousands imprisoned.]
Meanwhile, U.S. officials told me, the representatives of those settlers in the cabinet are withholding tax money owed the Palestinian Authority, making it harder for it to keep the West Bank as under control as it has been since the start of the Hamas war.
Netanyahu should not allow this, but he has trapped himself. He needs those right-wing extremists in his coalition to keep himself out of jail on corruption charges.
But he is going to put all of Israel into the jail of Gaza unless he breaks with those Jewish supremacists.
Unfortunately, the senior U.S. official told me, Israeli military leaders are actually more hawkish than the prime minister now. They are red with rage and determined to deliver a blow to Hamas that the whole neighborhood will never forget.
I understand why. But friends don’t let friends drive while enraged. Biden has to tell this Israeli government that taking over Gaza without pairing it with a totally new approach to settlements, the West Bank and a two-state solution would be a disaster for Israel and a disaster for America. …