By Bill Connor
On Saturday morning, I woke up to learn of the Hamas terror attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets. I saw the videos of the bodies of victims (military and civilian) being desecrated by Hamas militants. Particularly disturbing was the image of a female corpse being dragged naked through the streets while militants cheered (assumed to have been raped, as reports of rape are rampant). Over 1,200 have been killed and thousands wounded by Hamas – as of this writing – and victims include Americans.
Hamas has taken scores of hostages back to Gaza to use as bargaining chips. Iran has openly backed Hamas, and the Iranian proxy Hezbollah has proclaimed their fighters will attack Israel from Lebanon if Israel invades Gaza. Reports indicate Iran was part of the planning for the attack. Israel Declared War, for the first time since the 1973 war with Egypt. Other Arab nations and even the Biden Administration are calling on Israel to refrain from retaliation, while Iran and Hezbollah have warned the US not to get involved. From having spent significant time peacekeeping between Israel and Egypt (1996-1997), I would like to offer my thoughts.
What struck me first is the tiny size of Israel, and how that drives security problems. Israel’s neighbors are Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, each covering multiples of Israel’s territory. Meanwhile, Israel is equivalent to the size of New Jersey. That, however, is a misleading comparison as 60% of Israel is the virtually uninhabitable Negev desert. The other 40% includes the West Bank and Gaza, which are primarily under the control of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (Fatah). In personally traveling to Israel, it was relatively easy to drive around to the major non-Negev Israeli sites in only a day or so.
That being the case, and unlike what many on the political left claim, Israel cannot just “give up a little land” for peace. Israel did give up territory substantially larger than its size when it returned to the Sinai Peninsula following the ’73 war and the 1979 Camp David treaty (which established the peacekeeping mission I deployed). That land swap was feasible and did bring peace to Egypt. Beyond the Sinai, Israel cannot give up territory and remain secure. An example of the security dilemma: The West Bank is only nine miles from the Mediterranean Sea just north of the major Israeli population center of Tel Aviv. If Israel gave up the West Bank it could be cut in half in a surprise attack like we’ve just seen.
With regards to Hamas, even if Israel were to go back to the undefendable pre-1967 lines it wouldn’t have peace. Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. Iran and its proxy terror group Hezbollah do not accept Israel’s right to exist and seek to recapture all of Israel. Israel’s experience since the 1979 Camp David has been that when it gives up control of land in pre-1967 areas it has suffered heightened terror attacks and less security. This occurred when it forced 9000 Israeli settlers out of Gaza in 2005 giving full internal control of Gaza to the Palestinians/Hamas. A year later Hamas attacked Israel claiming they had forced Israel out of Gaza and should now force Israel into the sea. Around the same time as those Hamas attacks, Hezbollah attacked Israel from southern Lebanon (of which Israel had withdrawn a few years before). Examples abound of Israeli withdrawals and subsequent attacks in the West Bank.
During my time in Israel and surrounding Arab countries (including other Middle East deployments near the Persian Gulf area) I came to understand Israel was generally the “good guy” compared to its adversaries. In the years following the Israeli War of Independence in the late 1940s, Jews were expelled from surrounding Arab nations. In contrast, Israel has continued treating its almost two million Arab-Muslim (Palestinian) citizens as legal equals. That includes Arab Muslim representatives in the Knesset and on the high court. Israel maintains the kind of legal equality, due process, and free speech we recognize in America. As a Christian, I felt treated with respect in Israel, while entities like Hamas and Hezbollah advocate and practice Shariah Law, which treats non-Muslims as legally inferior. Israel is not perfect in responding to terror attacks, but it doesn’t retaliate by copying their enemies’ war crimes.
As I watch the heartbreaking tragedy, I am in prayer for Israel and anger against Hamas. At the same time, I feel bitter toward the Biden Administration for its actions harming Israel’s security. This includes immediately restarting the financial aid to Palestinian authorities, including Hamas, which the prior administration had stopped. Allowing the Abraham Accords to fall apart after it had brought Israel together with many neighbors. Reports indicate that some weapons used by Hamas were those left behind from the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. Unbelievably, the administration provided Iran with six billion dollars of support by unfreezing those assets in trying to restart the flawed Iran nuclear deal. Lastly, the administration transferred stockpiles of artillery shells being kept in Israel to Ukraine in January.
We need to pray to God for Israel, and then support her fully during this hour of need. Israel has been and will remain our top ally in the region.
Col. Bill Connor is a retired U.S. Army Infantry officer, attorney, and founding partner of NATIONAL DEFENSE CONSULTANTS, LLC. While in the Army, Connor logged multiple deployments to the Middle East, and he has commanded both light Infantry and Ranger training companies. From 2007 through 2008 he was deployed to Afghanistan where he became the senior U.S. military adviser in Helmand Province.