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No country wants peace in the Middle East more than Israel. Jerusalem’s relentless efforts to be accepted in the community of Middle Eastern and North African states speak for themselves.

Israel has consistently made reasonable and generous concessions to its neighbours in exchange for peace — first with Egypt, then with Jordan and after that with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Israel even dismantled Jewish settlements and withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip in 2005 as a sign of good faith to the Palestinians.

In retrospect, however, that withdrawal was a catastrophic mistake that led to a power vacuum in Gaza. Hamas mercilessly massacred members of Fatah to gain control of the enclave in 2007. Despite multiple reconciliation efforts, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) governing the West Bank still isn’t on speaking terms with Hamas-controlled Gaza 16 years later.

The PA and Hamas diverge on almost everything. Fatah is a secular organization. Hamas is a militant Islamist group. The PA has a working relationship with Israel. Hamas seeks to “obliterate” the Jewish state. The PA co-authored the Oslo Accords. Hamas vehemently refuses to recognize the State of Israel.

The terrorist group had 16 years to show the international community what type of state it could build. Rather than turning Gaza into a vacation destination, as the PA once envisioned, Hamas embezzled foreign assistance and prioritized manufacturing weapons instead of building infrastructure.

Hamas repurposed Gaza’s pipes to build rockets while begging Israel for running water. Rather than building homes to house the homeless in Gaza’s refugee camps, Hamas built an extensive network of underground tunnels to launch terrorist attacks against the Jewish state.

All of this, and the radicalization of children, was accomplished under the nose of UNRWA and the NGOs that rely on endless Palestinian suffering to justify their inflated budgets.

Hamas does not care about limiting civilian casualties. Its use of human shields is well-documented. The terrorist group builds military infrastructure in civilian neighbourhoods. It had more than a week to surrender unconditionally, stop firing rockets, cease launching incursions into Israeli territory or release the hostages it abducted from Israel.

Instead, the terrorist group has only escalated. In fact, Hamas is preventing innocent and defenceless Gazans from relocating to the south, despite Israel’s warning for them to leave the north. The terrorist group is committed to its suicide mission and intends to bring the blameless population of Gaza down this destructive path with it.

Meanwhile, Hamas’ western supporters continue parroting the terrorist group’s propaganda. Israel is a free, prosperous and democratic state — not the “Zionist entity.” Ashkelon and Ashdod are part of Israel in the same way that Toronto is a Canadian city and Cairo is the capital of Egypt. People living in Tel Aviv or Haifa are citizens of Israel. They are not “colonists” or “settlers” or whatever other terms “progressives” use to dehumanize Israelis and justify the despicable crimes committed against them.

Israel will assert its right to exist and honour its solemn obligation to defend its people. This is non-negotiable. No virtue-signalling, terrorist whitewashing, false moral equivalencies, half-truths or blatant lies in the world will change that.

To better understand how Israel might dismantle Hamas, the U.S.-led international coalition’s campaign against ISIL is revealing. At least 11,000 soldiers of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces died fighting the terrorist group in Syria alone. Even more Iraqi security and paramilitary forces made the ultimate sacrifice against ISIL in Iraq.

Densely populated cities like Raqqa and the Old City of Mosul were destroyed, with less than 30 per cent of the buildings left standing. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed, and hundreds of thousands more were displaced. That is the heartbreaking cost people paid to defeat terror in the past. It’s also why civilians should follow Israel’s instructions and leave northern Gaza before the IDF launches its ground invasion.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, most countries in the region share Israel’s strategic worldview: Iran-backed non-state actors in the Middle East, including militant Islamist groups like Hamas, destabilize the region and pose existential threats to their respective national security.

No sane and self-respecting country would accept the brutal crimes against humanity that Hamas perpetrated against Israelis on Oct. 7, nor would they tolerate the endless amount of hatred and terrorism it has exported to Israel over the years.

Hamas has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not want to engage diplomatically with Israel, any more than its western supporters want to engage in fact-based discussions. They want to destroy Israel and watch the West burn in the name of “decolonization” and other morally bankrupt notions of ideological purity. Let us hope that their sadistic dreams never come true.

Originally published by National Post on October 17, 2023.

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