Israeli forces made a major advance overnight toward Gaza City, marking their deepest push into Palestinian territory since they entered the strip last week. An Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 was freed overnight during ground operations as well. Meanwhile, in a rare news briefing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out a cease-fire in Israel’s conflict. He was answering calls for such action from the United Nations and Amnesty International among others.
Critics of Israel’s continuing military action against Hamas are responding to reports from the Gaza Health Ministry that the death toll among Palestinians has already passed eight thousand, mostly women and minors. Many doubt the veracity of this organization’s numbers since it is run by Hamas, but the pictures of devastation in Gaza tell a tragic story of their own.
We should all grieve the loss of life in this conflict. However, Israel’s military must contend with the fact that Hamas has hidden weapons under hospitals, schools, and mosques while disguising its fighters like civilians. Their strategy is intended to escalate Palestinian deaths and provoke an international backlash against Israel.
Hamas’s strategy appears to be working. So, should Israel seek a cease-fire with Hamas?
“The next round of war will be inevitable”
As I have followed reporting on this conflict from a wide variety of sources and viewpoints, I found a New York Times guest essay by Dennis B. Ross to be especially informative. Mr. Ross served in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, was the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and has served as a special advisor for the region as well. His article is headlined, “I Might Have Once Favored a Cease-Fire With Hamas, but Not Now.”
His central thesis: “It is clear to me that peace is not going to be possible now or in the future as long as Hamas remains intact and in control of Gaza. Hamas’s power and ability to threaten Israel—and subject Gazan civilians to ever more rounds of violence—must end.”
Ross notes that if Israel agrees to a cease-fire now, Hamas’s military infrastructure, leadership, and control of Gaza will remain intact. As it did after conflicts with Israel in 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2021, the terrorist group will almost certainly rearm for the next conflict. It will be able to add to its system of tunnels running under the area as well.
As a result, he warns, “the next round of war will be inevitable, holding both Gazan citizens and much of the rest of the Middle East hostage to Hamas’s aims.”
What makes this conflict different from those in the past? While the atrocities of October 7 have understandably heightened Israel’s outrage and justify a much stronger military response than in previous conflicts, there is more to the story.
“If we do not defeat Hamas, we cannot survive here”
As I have been reporting throughout this conflict, the aim of Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are backed by Iran, is to eradicate Israel and reclaim the area for Palestine. But these groups acting alone or in concert do not possess the military means to defeat Israel in a conventional war. Nor does Iran, even if it were to engage directly with the Israel Defense Forces.
But what they can do, as Ross notes, is to make Israel unlivable and thus drive Israelis to leave. This seems to be their clear goal now. Ross points to predictions by Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, that Israel will not survive another twenty-five years. And he quotes an Israeli commander who said after October 7, “If we do not defeat Hamas, we cannot survive here.”
I understand the commander’s sentiment in a way I would not if I had not led more than thirty study tours to Israel over nearly thirty years. Israel is a tiny country, approximately the size of New Jersey. Iran continues to arm Hamas and Hezbollah with ever more sophisticated technology now capable of launching missiles in such numbers that Israel’s Iron Dome defenses cannot protect all their civilians in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and across the country. And the October 7 invasion has shocked the Israelis, who believed their sophisticated military intelligence and powerful defense forces would protect them from such atrocities.
Israel’s previous wars were fought by their soldiers against the soldiers of their enemies. Never before have so many civilians been slaughtered or taken hostage. All this to say, in the new world created by the October 7 invasion, if a cease-fire is declared and Hamas survives, Israelis will know that they and their families will be in danger in ways unprecedented in the nation’s seventy-five-year history.
“Be strong and courageous”
This fact is crucial to the calculus because so many Israelis live in Israel by choice. Theirs is one of the best-educated, most skilled workforces in the world. Every Israeli I have met would be imminently employable in any nation in the Western world. They have chosen to live in the State of Israel for the purpose of securing a future for the Jewish people.
If the nation can no longer defend them, its very reason for existence is in question. And the willingness of its citizens to risk their lives and their families could come into question as well, perhaps leading to an exodus of Israelis out of the nation.
As a consequence, through a combination of more advanced weaponry and brutal terrorist attacks, Hamas and its allies have raised for the first time the specter of a world without the State of Israel as we now know it. This is why my friends in Israel have said since Hamas’s horrific October 7 invasion that these terrorists must be defeated. They understand firsthand what I have attempted to explain today: the future of the nation is now in the balance.
This fact leads me to conclude this Daily Article by asking you to join me in urgent, consistent intercession for Israel and her people.
- Pray that they will heed God’s instruction to the military general who first led them into their promised land: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed” (Joshua 1:9a).
- Pray for Israeli forces to defeat the terrorists who threaten the future of their nation.
- Pray for the protection of Palestinian and Israeli civilians in this conflict.
- And pray that all will turn to the one and only Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) so they can testify, “The Lᴏʀᴅ Gᴏᴅ is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).
Will you join me in such intercession right now?