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Middle East expert offers insight to better understand the future of the Israel Hamas War

IDF
Posted at 4:13 PM, Nov 20, 2023

Since the attack on Israel on October 7th, Israel has stated it aims to completely destroy Hamas.

THE BENEFITS OF HUMANITARIAN AID

The U.S. Department of State designates Hamas as a terrorist organization, but says Palestinian citizens are not to blame and should not continue to suffer for Hamas' attacks.

William F. Wechsler is the senior director of Middle East programs at Atlantic Council. It's a non-partisan organization that promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs.

He says humanitarian assistance for the people of Gaza is positive and necessary for a number of reasons.

For one, it helps the people, and will hopefully lead to the release of hostages. It's also positive because it denies Hamas the narrative it's been telling its people that nobody in Israel cares about anyone in Gaza.

"Let's be absolutely clear," Wechsler said. "Israel possesses the power and has possessed the power for many decades if it wanted to, to kill every single person in Gaza. Israel has not done that because Israel doesn't want to do that because it would be a horrible crime to do so. The only reason why Hamas has not killed every single person in Israel is because it doesn't have the capability and because Israel is able to prevent it from taking those actions."

Wechsler says the goal should be to limit the number of civilian deaths which in part can be difficult since Hamas has built underground tunnels directly beneath where people work and live.

However, if humanitarian aid to the people continues and civilians who have been forcibly displaced are eventually able to return and rebuild a better society, Wechsler believes there can be peace in the future.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR THE WAR TO END

Many of us are wondering, how long will the war between Israel and Hamas go on?

Israel says it will continue fighting until it reaches two military objectives. First, it wants to ensure that Hamas doesn't have the capability to carry out another attack like the one on October 7th. The second objective is to deny Hamas the ability to govern Gaza ever again.

Hamas has had political power in Gaza since 2007.

Middle East programs senior director William Wechsler of the non-partisan organization Atlantic Council says those are high bars to meet.

"And the result is both an air campaign that has been very destructive and devastating for the people on the receiving end of that campaign, and now in the last week or more, a ground campaign to root out the Hamas terrorists themselves," Wechsler said.

Wechsler says the best estimates put Hamas' fighting force at 30,000 people. Israel claims that in order to meet its objectives, all of those people will have to be killed or captured.

So far, Israel has reported killing 3,000 Hamas fighters after a month of fighting.

If Israel is successful, Wechsler says many possibilities open up in terms of how Gaza will be governed, and what reconstruction will look like as long as Israel limits unnecessary loss of civilian life.

FUTURE LEADERS OF GAZA

In a recent interview with National Public Radio, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Gaza needs a new civilian government after the war, but he didn’t specify who would take on that role.

He further stated that once Hamas is defeated, Israel needs to ensure there’s not a new Hamas, or a resurgence of terrorism.

Middle East programs director William Wechsler with Atlantic Council says the people of Gaza have been fed a decades-long educational campaign from Hamas that treats Israel as monsters.

He says it’s going to take a multi-generational effort to destroy that idealogy.

“How you win that peace is by allowing a legitimate government to emerge, one that is seen to be representative of and reflective of the desires of its people," Wechsler said. "And how you do it is by providing the kinds of reconstruction and good governance that is necessary.”

Wechsler says it would be a mistake for Israel to reoccuppy Gaza because he says Israel left Gaza in 2005 for good reasons.

Those reasons include alleviating an economic and security burden of maintaining Israeli settlements in Gaza, as well as giving Gaza more independence to find peace.

After the withdrawal, Hamas took control of Gaza, which further complicated the situation.

However, Wechsler says he does believe peace is possible in the future as long as the future government of Gaza is legitimate and supported by the international community.

He says Israel can help Gaza get there if Israeli forces destroy Hamas without unnecessary loss of life among civilians.