Opinion

Netanyahu Is Making Israel Radioactive

Israel today is in grave danger. With enemies like Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and Iran, Israel should be enjoying the sympathy of much of the world. But it is not. Because of the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition have been conducting the war in Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank, Israel is becoming radioactive and diaspora Jewish communities everywhere increasingly insecure.

I fear it is about to get worse.

No fair-minded person could deny Israel the right of self-defense after the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 killed some 1,200 Israelis in one day. Women were sexually abused, and children were killed in front of their parents and parents in front of their children. Scores of abducted Israeli men, women, children and elderly people are still being held hostage in terrible conditions, now for more than 150 days.

But no fair-minded person can look at the Israeli campaign to destroy Hamas that has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza, about a third of them fighters, and not conclude that something has gone terribly wrong there. The dead include thousands of children, and the survivors many orphans. So much of Gaza is now a wasteland of death and destruction, hunger and ruined homes. Urban warfare brings out the absolute worst in people, and that is certainly true for Israel in Gaza. This is a stain on the Jewish state.

But Israel is not alone in creating this tragedy. The stain on Hamas is black as well. This Islamist militia started the conflict on Oct. 7 without any warnings, protections or shelters for Gazan civilians, and it did so knowing full well from experience that Israel would respond by bombing Hamas strongholds tunneled under homes, mosques and hospitals. Hamas showed a total disregard for the lives of Palestinians, not just Israelis. But Hamas was already branded as a terrorist organization. It is not a U.S. ally and never claimed to practice purity of arms.

All of that said, Israel’s standing in the world could take another very big hit soon because of something that made me wary of its invasion from the very start: Netanyahu has sent the Israel Defense Forces into Gaza without a coherent plan for governing it after any Hamas dismantling or cease-fire.

In my view, there is only one thing worse for Israel, not to mention Gazans, than a Gaza controlled by Hamas: That’s a Gaza where nobody is in charge, a Gaza where the world will expect Israel to provide order but Israel cannot or will not, so it becomes a permanent, grinding humanitarian crisis.

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