Psychological warfare: Hamas wants to turn Israel against itself

Through their brutality, its operatives reopened all the Jewish people’s collective scars – and they did so deliberately. Thus, their aim is to turn the war into a psychological war against ourselves

What we know with certainty is that the objective of the Hamas attack was to infiltrate sovereign Israel and carry out as many civilian atrocities for as long as possible.

We are aware that the objective of the Hamas attack was to assassinate any potential for peace. The context for this is the peace agreements signed between Israel and several Gulf States in 2020, and the anticipated peace treaty between Israel and Saudi Arabia. This treaty was expected, not only to normalize relations between Israel and a majority of the Arab world but also to grant significant concessions to the Palestinians. Nothing is more alarming to Hamas than the prospect of peace.

One could say that the goal of the Hamas attack was the Israeli response that would follow it. The IDF and Hamas are not evenly matched. Hamas cannot defeat the IDF in direct combat. The only way for Hamas to alter this imbalance is by enticing additional armies and terrorist entities into the conflict against Israel. The most effective way to do so is to force the IDF to do something that won’t leave these hostile groups any choice but to join the battle. And thus, through a series of no-choice events, we find ourselves in a multi-front war.

The actions taken by Hamas, and the way they were executed, would leave any nation with no option but to retaliate with a counterattack, and rightfully so. But it is important to recognize that Hamas did not engage in these acts because it lost its mind; the attacks were designed to make us lose our minds. Through their brutality, its operatives reopened all the Jewish people’s collective scars – and they did so deliberately. Thus, their aim is to turn the war into a psychological war against ourselves.

To achieve a comprehensive victory over Hamas, we need to dismantle not only their military capabilities, but also their psychological objectives. This requires strong leadership from the Israeli government, which, for valid reasons, many Israelis believe is lacking.

On one hand, we have a prime minister who is unfit for the role, a figure reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy. On the other hand, we have military brass who are burdened with guilt, a sentiment that would benefit the prime minister to experience and express. This does not provide an ideal foundation for judicious decision-making.

What will happen to Gaza?

WHILE WAR is a short-term endeavor, even in cases of prolonged wars, politics is an ongoing experiment involving millions of people and subject to few ethical constraints. You experiment with various policies, observe the outcomes, and then decide whether to continue down that path or to reverse course and try something different.

Through this lens, the future is uncertain, but one thing is for sure: there is no shortage of speculation.

Some advocate for the immediate reinstatement of the Palestinian Authority. However, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the PA remains weak, corrupt, and increasingly illegitimate; it struggles to govern parts of the West Bank, let alone Gaza.

Few suggest that Israel should reoccupy the Gaza Strip, along with its two million inhabitants. As Defense Minister Yoav Gallant articulated during his address to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in Tel Aviv on Friday, a new “security reality” will be established, but Israel has no intention of occupying the territory. Here too, the likelihood of reverting to a pre-2005 reality is slim to none.

If occupation is not a viable option, then annexation should be viewed as yet another delusion held by fringe messianics chanting: “Take Back Gaza.”

Others speak of the possibility of forming a “coalition” as a post-conflict initiative, encompassing the US, the EU, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the PA to assume interim responsibility over the Strip. It’s not a question of resources; they exist in abundance. The real challenge lies in interest and willingness. Nonetheless, there is historical precedent for a collaborative approach of this nature.

On August 14, 1941, during World War II, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill formed the Atlantic Charter. Even as the swastika flag flew over the Eiffel Tower and the Acropolis, as Londoners lived in fear of Luftwaffe bombers, and as Nazi tanks advanced toward Moscow, Roosevelt and Churchill looked to the future. In the Atlantic Charter, they outlined their vision for the world following the defeat of Nazism.

The Charter asserted that the victorious Allies would not exploit their victory to expand their territories. It emphasized the recognition of nations’ rights to self-determination and democratic governance and stipulated that any redrawing of national borders would occur only with the consent of the local populations.

WHAT OF the Arab interest? Listening to statements from Arab leaders at the Cairo Peace Summit this week, one would think they were attending a meeting of Scandinavian countries run by professors of Kantian morality and Feuerbachian humanism. This is a far cry from the reality. These are statesmen from some of the least democratic and most abusive states in the world. It is unclear whom they are trying to convince, but no sane person takes them seriously when they start talking about “humanism.”

However, here too, there is reason, not in values, but in regional interest. The decade of turmoil that followed the events of the Arab Spring has left the region deeply divided, plagued by ethnic and religious conflicts, ungoverned territories, and an increasing number of failed states.

While the Middle East remains rife with violence and instability, the axis of struggle has shifted. It is no longer a battle between Israel and the Arabs. Rather, it is a struggle between an Arab-Israeli coalition on one hand, and Iran’s Islamic Revolution and its terror proxies on the other.

An axis of resistance, spearheaded by radical elements from both the Shia and Sunni worlds, poses a growing challenge to a coalition of actors led by several Gulf countries, including the Saudis. These countries view radicalization as an existential threat. When Islamism became the main threat and Iran became a major concern, these dissenting voices became synchronous with the new emerging regional thinking, which no longer accepts Islamists or Iranian sympathizers.

The immediate task at hand is clear, but the outcome is far from predictable. What we do know is that we are faced with a range of unfavorable options, from self-destructive disasters to the unlikely but hopeful formation of a Middle East Atlantic Charter facilitated by the US and the EU. Only time will tell. Until then, we remain in the fog.

The author is a writer and political researcher. He works at the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI).

Published by Jerusalem Post