Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 27 March 2024


What if the U.S. Helps Hamas Win?


(4 min)

Israeli soldiers stand guard as Palestinians line up to enter a checkpoint in Qalandia in the West Bank, March 22. Photo: zain jaafar/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Let’s imagine that Israel yields to the pressure. Pushed by an American president already under fire from a segment of the electorate that objects to his support for a “genocidal” state, Israel refrains from entering Rafah to finish off Hamas’s four surviving battalions. Israel agrees to the general cease-fire of indeterminate duration that the U.S. administration seems to push amid increasingly virulent antisemitism.

The idea that Washington unconditionally supports Israel is a longstanding myth. While the U.S. often vetoes anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations Security Council, the one that passed Monday was far from the first exception. Recall Resolution 1701 (2006) to halt Israel’s Lebanon offensive at the Litani River—thus sparing what remained of the Hezbollah units.

So the supposition that the U.S. pushes Israel into capitulating isn’t implausible. It is the path forward that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who styles himself the Jewish state’s shomer, or protector, has chosen. It isn’t hard to picture an Israel that is sermonized, impeded and prevented from dealing with Hamas the way the U.S. dealt with Al-Qaeda and ISIS a few years back—an Israel forced into defeat.

If that came to pass, what would happen? Hamas would declare victory—on the verge of defeat, then the next minute revived. These criminals against humanity would emerge from their tunnels triumphant after playing with the lives not only of the 250 Israelis captured on Oct. 7, but also of their own citizens, whom they transformed into human shields.

The Arab street would view Hamas terrorists as resistance fighters. In Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—nations that signed the Abraham Accords or were leaning toward doing so—Hamas’s prestige would be enhanced. In the West Bank as in Gaza, Hamas would quickly eclipse the corrupt and ineffective Palestinian Authority, whose image would pale next to the twin aura of martyrdom and endurance in which Hamas would cloak itself.

After that, no diplomatic or military strategy would prevail against the iron law of people converted into mobs and mobs into packs. None of the experts’ extravagant plans for an international stabilization force, an interim Arab authority, or a technocratic government presiding over the reconstruction of Gaza would stand long against the blast effect created by the last-minute return of this group of criminals adorned with the most heroic of virtues.

Hamas would be the law in the Palestinian territories. It would set the ideological and political agenda, regardless of the formal structure of the new government. And Israel will never deal with a Palestinian Authority of which Hamas is a part. Goodbye, Palestinian State. Hope for peace harbored by moderates on both sides will be dead.

This is why the world has one choice. Instead of putting all their energy into trying to get Israel to bend, leaders should push Hamas to surrender. The Biden administration should redirect the time it is spending in useless negotiations with the Qataris—experts in double-dealing—to calling the Qataris’ bluff by demanding that they push the “political” leaders of Hamas, whom they host and protect, to live up to their responsibilities.

Those who portray themselves as praying for the end of this war and a negotiated peace on “the day after” must recognize there is only one path to that end. First, the release of all hostages. Next, the evacuation of civilians from the zone of imminent combat. When will the world recognize that Israel, having been forced into this war, is doing more than any army ever did to prevent civilian deaths?

And finally, in Rafah, the destruction of what remains of Hamas and its death squads. Without this military victory, the endless wheel of misfortune will begin to spin yet again, though faster. This is the terrible truth.

Mr. Lévy is author of “The Will to See: Dispatches From a World of Misery and Hope” and author and director of the documentary “Slava Ukraini.” This article was translated from French by Steven B. Kennedy.


In his final appearance before the House Armed Services Committee on March 20, 2024, Navy Admiral John Aquilino repeatedly referenced the need to 'speed up' the U.S. defense effort in the Indo-Pacific, with China's military expanding on a 'scale not seen since WWII,' and growing cooperation between China, Russia and Iran setting up a new 'axis of evil.' Images: AP/Zuma Press

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Appeared in the March 27, 2024, print edition as 'What if the U.S. Helps Hamas Win?'.

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