What is the answer to the question, “Why not stop the war right now?”
Now it is time for our second discussion.
So Don, a few days ago, a quarter of a million people marched through London chanting, cease fire now.
And the day before yesterday, 300,000 people gathered in the mall in Washington, chanting, among other things, no cease fire.
What is this disagreement a disagreement about?
Well, in demonstrations, op-eds, open letters, press conferences, academic colloquia, TV commentaries, and in every other forum that political demands these days are demanded, the same demand is being made, cease fire now, meaning that Israeli planes should immediately stop bombing in Gaza, Israeli tanks and artillery should stop firing, and Israeli soldiers should stop shooting, and presumably, Hamas would also stop fighting.
To be sure, lots of consequential people around the world think this would be a bad idea.
A couple of weeks ago, Hillary Clinton said this about a cease fire.
People who are calling for a cease fire now do not understand Hamas.
That is not possible.
It would be such a gift to Hamas, because they would spend whatever time there was a cease fire in effect, rebuilding their armaments, you know, creating stronger positions to be able to fend off any eventual assault by the Israelis.
The other day, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he thought it would be a bad idea to have, quote, an immediate cease fire, because that would mean ultimately that Israel leaves Hamas the possibility of recovering and obtaining new missiles, unquote.
When US President Joe Biden was asked this week, what are the chances for a Gaza cease fire?
He answered, none, no possibility.
Among the more affecting calls for an immediate cease fire was this one, delivered this week by British-American comedian John Oliver on his weekly comic news review.
After describing with pathos and restraint the suffering, especially of kids in Gaza, having acknowledged the suffering of Israelis and the suffering of adults in Gaza too, John Oliver said this, which has been edited for length, with some of the funny bits taken out.
I don’t have a solution for peace in the Middle East.
And even if I did, which again, I don’t, this really would be the worst voice in which to relay that message.
But it does seem to me personally that a cease fire has to be the first step.
That is something that people have been calling for all over the world, but it’s something that world leaders have been reluctant to say.
Joe Biden has said there is no possibility of a cease fire, which is a hell of a thing to hear from perhaps the only world leader whose pressure could actually make one possible.
And listen, there are real dangers to a cease fire that Hamas might regroup once the bombing stops, although that’s arguably going to be a danger whenever it stops.
So why not stop right now?
Continuing down this path only creates more extremists, which is the last thing that anybody needs.
And I don’t want to say anything that denies the pain of those in Israel who have lost loved ones to a truly barbarous act or who are waiting anxiously for the return of hostages.
And I know that for many Israelis, there is an understandable sense of fear and precarity right now amid the specter of Hamas attacks and rockets flying overhead.
But it’s worth also acknowledging the overwhelming sense of precarity among Palestinians living under a blockade and a barrage of Israeli rockets.
And it has to be possible to feel the pain in one community without denying it in another.
It has to be.
So Alice and John Oliver asked it as a rhetorical question, but I’m asking it in earnest.
Why not stop right now?
Or should the IDF stop the bombs and the guns even as we speak?
Well, he talks about a ceasefire as a first step and I would ask him a first step towards what, you know, what is the endgame?
So you have a ceasefire, you have a humanitarian pause.
There’s no way we’re going to be able to, you know, temporarily take care of all the humanitarian needs in Gaza long term.
So how long do you ceasefire for?
How long do you stop?
I think he means ending the war.
So people don’t define their terms.
Everyone’s chanting ceasefire, ceasefire.
Are we talking about a pause?
Israel, just stop dropping the bomb.
No one’s like really paying attention to the fact that Hamas is throwing missiles.
They’re just assuming that if Israel stops bombing, that the missiles are going to stop on the Hamas side.
Experience has shown us in Israel that that’s not an assumption that we can make.
I mean, we’re just sort of amazed that we sit here and they say, we have no fuel for the hospitals and we have no fuel for the babies and there’s a huge crisis here and still there seems to be enough fuel to keep the missiles going.
So, you know, and the way he mixes up, I’m sorry, and this is not like a John Oliver commentary, but you know, yes, you can feel for the Palestinians and you can feel for the Israelis at the same time.
Yeah, feel, feel, feel.
That’s not the same as addressing the actual issue of what will the quote-unquote ceasefire that everyone’s yelling for accomplished.
I think, you know, from the Israeli perspective, we’ve been playing this game since 2007 of, you know, let’s manage the conflict.
Let’s try to make life, you know, you can argue Israeli policy in Gaza as much as you want, but you know, it’s just failed.
October 7th proved to Israelis that whatever has been in Gaza, you know, won’t work anymore.
And that includes listening to calls for a ceasefire in rounds of violence and stopping and we stop and then they rebuild and it’s just, it’s a failed paradigm in the Israeli mind.
And while I see myself, you know, in my alternative life where I hadn’t moved to Israel, where I, you know, lived in the US or Europe or wherever and was watching this conflict from the outside.
I might also be sort of just like yelling like, why can’t they just stop hitting each other?
Why can’t they stop hurting people?
Why can’t they stop bombing?
Like I totally get that and I understand that.
They’re seeing images of dead children every day and they’re seeing images of flat neighborhoods, which Israel is not showing these things.
We’re seeing flat neighborhoods.
We’re not seeing the dead children, which they’re seeing all over the world every single day.
Yeah, but so, you know, I understand where they’re coming from as an Israeli, speaking from an Israeli perspective, looking at these decimated communities, you know, from the Gaza border who all they want to do is to move back to their homes, like they’ve pulled them and you know, in overwhelming numbers.
They want security.
They want peace.
They want to go back to those kibbutzim, even though they underwent huge trauma there and that’s just not going to be possible if we keep playing the same game that we’ve been playing for years and years in which we stop, they rebuild, and then they attack again.
So then the reason that you’re describing to not stop bombing is because you think that there’s at least a possibility worth betting the lives of lots of people on that by continuing to bomb Gaza will turn into something importantly different than it is today, that Hamas will be gone and won’t be replaced by something like Hamas and that Gaza is that.
That’s a whole other conversation.
What is the endgame?
And you know, I could go on about the failure of the Israeli government to have some sort of diplomatic horizon and, you know, sort of saying, oh, we’re going to drop this problem in the international community’s lap and they’re going to fix it for us.
Like, that’s a whole other issue.
But the issue of, you know, after we’ve gotten to where we’ve gotten and we’ve declared this goal a million times as to get rid of the Hamas military capabilities, to stop now when that job is not done for a non-temporary, you know, situation.
I’m, you know, absolutely, especially if it involves hostage exchanges and, you know, suspending it for X number of days or whatever is something conceivable or possible.
But that’s not what people are calling for.
That’s not what John Oliver is calling for.
He’s just saying just stop.
Just stop as a first step.
And again, I ask as a first step towards what?
Well, I think you have to also unpack what Hillary Clinton said, because she said the obvious thing, you don’t need to be a military expert to get this, that it gives Hamas a chance to regroup.
A ceasefire only helps one side.
It only helps Hamas.
In theory, it helps Palestinian civilians.
The Palestinian civilians who are trying to flee the areas of conflict are actually doing it now.
So I would take a minute to unpack what it means when she says Hamas will regroup.
What does it mean that they’re going to regroup?
And Ron Ben-Yishai, who’s an Israel Prize-winning war correspondent and Yidiot, went into this in detail.
He says it will give Hamas days to move the hostages around and it will disrupt whatever Israeli intelligence has gathered up until this point about where the hostages are.
So it actually may prevent the release or the rescue of the hostages.
It’ll give them time to collect hostages who are in the hands of other groups in the Gaza Strip, because they’re not all being held by Hamas, we think.
So this will help them consolidate their efforts.
They can come out from underground and get food and fuel.
They’ll take the food and fuel from the UNWRA facilities and the warehouses in the Gaza Strip so they can stay underground for days or weeks to prolong the conflict.
So it’s going to end up prolonging the fighting and it will allow them to reorganize and rearm, to access troop transport, anti-tank missiles, allow Hamas to restore communication lines.
A lot of communications have been disrupted between different groups operating different parts of the Gaza Strip and to move from tunnel to tunnel.
Some of the tunnels have been destroyed.
This will help them reestablish their communications.
In other words, they have all these advantages and to add to that, they can go back to the rocket launchers and reload them.
They’re hiding in tunnels right now.
You don’t shoot rockets from tunnels.
So if they can come above ground, they can continue firing on Israel.
And finally, we’ve had ceasefires before in our wars with Hamas and only one side honors them.
We honor them and Hamas keeps shooting.
Hamas has killed soldiers and there’s documentation of that in the article after ceasefires were declared because they do whatever they want.
So again, the ceasefire is a gift to Hamas.
The only reason to consider it would be if it’s a way to free hostages and the other consideration, which is what’s driving John Oliver and the rest of the world crazy, is all the people are getting killed in Gaza.
Even if the numbers are inflated, a lot of people are getting killed.
I’m just trying to understand why John Oliver and the quarter of a million people in London and the millions of people around the world don’t see some of the things that— Because they’re watching pictures of dead children in flat neighborhoods and they’re saying whatever was done to the Israelis— and remember, that happened a month ago, more than a month ago, so they’ve forgotten what had happened.
They never really took it in because we didn’t understand what happened for days and days.
So by the time the story really came out what had happened, it had already— And we hesitated.
We hesitated to put our horrific images in front of the world in real time, when they happened, for justifiable reasons.
We’re trying now, and some places are not showing them.
But it’s too late.
It’s too late.
The first horrific images that the world saw were horrific images from Gaza.
Look, Avigdor Lieberman, who I don’t usually agree with, basically made the point that you can only survive in this part of the world by being a bully.
You can only survive— And you know, Obama, for whatever he accomplished, made disastrous mistakes in Syria by not following through with threats.
That’s a country where they killed 600,000 of their own people.
This is a barbaric part of the world.
So that’s the other argument, which is, if you don’t want people coming for you, more attacks like we just experienced, you’ve got to show people that you do that, and we are going to strike back with incredible force and violence.
Is it right?
Is it morally defensible?
I understand all those people seeing the images and going, this just has to stop.
This is intolerable.
That’s why I see myself abroad saying exactly what they’re saying.
But none of them are offering solutions.
None of them are saying Hamas should surrender immediately.
International forces should be sent in to destroy Hamas.
None of them are saying that.
None of them are offering a solution.
They’re just saying, oh, Israel – because many of them fit this into a narrative they’ve been buying into for decades, that Israel is an oppressor, and we oppress Palestinians because we want to, not that some of these – at least many of these measures are done because of previous attacks on civilians by Palestinian militants and terrorists.
So, you know, again, I get where they’re coming from.
I think they’re wrong.
I think Israel has no interest in a ceasefire except for public relations, and ultimately it will probably cost us a lot of lives.
Now listen to this.