A few days ago, Hamas, the governing authority of the Gaza Strip, launched a surprise attack against Israel, killing hundreds of civilians, primarily across the nation’s south. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas. On Sunday, October 8, 2023, Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist group, launched rockets into Israel as well, resulting in Israel launching retaliatory attacks into Lebanon. The attacks were supported, albeit unofficially, by Iran, whose Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps reportedly approved the attacks last week.
I have written elsewhere at length about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the legitimate grievances of the Palestinians, the path forward for peace, the justification for Israeli policies, and the righteousness of their last war (in 2021) against Hamas. In summary, while the Palestinian people have, in many ways, gotten the short end of the stick, the violent reaction of groups such as Hamas are both counterproductive and evil. It would ultimately be better for both the Israeli and Palestinian people if the latter were to lay down their arms and devote themselves to securing independence by strictly nonviolent means. It would be both more moral and more effective. Many of those who tentatively support Israel, despite their critiques of its government, because of the brutality of Hamas could then unequivocally support the cause of Palestine. Those who currently full heartedly support Israel because of the justness of its self defense would feel much more conflicted without images of rockets raining down on cities to bolster their convictions.
But things are the way they are, and another spin in the cycle of violence has begun. This war will likely go the way of all the others, with a few days or weeks of fighting resulting in Hamas’s continued ability to wage war being destroyed, after which a ceasefire will be negotiated. Borders may shift, and Israel may feel the need to maintain a permanent military presence in Gaza. The balance of power may shift in the Middle East, perhaps with Saudi Arabia deciding that Iran is even more dangerous than supposed and that further allying with Israel is a strategic necessity. They may decide, perhaps, that allying with Israel is not worth the trouble Iran is obviously capable of making. Regardless, life will go on, Hamas will lick their wounds, and the same story will repeat in a few years.
There are not many alternatives to the above scenario. One is that Israel succeeds in winning a more definite victory and liberates Gaza entirely. Perhaps this will be the war that causes the Palestinian people to finally become fed up with Hamas and seek a more effective government. Perhaps this war will mark the beginning of a new and more permanent peace. This is certainly possible, but I would not bet on it.
The other major alternative, that Israel loses the war, is also very unlikely. The reason why Israel has never lost a war since its founding is that, were it ever to lose a war, Israel would cease to exist shortly thereafter. No matter how much ground they gain, Hamas will not stop fighting until they control everything from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. However much they win, they will just keep pushing until Israel is no more. Israel knows this and thus fights with the desperation of one who has been backed into a corner– in a way that the Palestinians do not. If Hamas loses the war, it will continue to exist, and its leaders will generally enjoy the lives they have lived in the era before the war. If Israel loses the war, the life her people have built in Israel will be no more, and her people will once more be scattered across the world.
Given that this war is a matter of existential survival to one side and not the other, can you doubt who has the greater will to win?