[Make sure to read Joseph Klein’s contributions in Jamie Glazov’s new book: Barack Obama’s True Legacy: How He Transformed America.]
Israel and Hamas reached an agreement brokered by Qatar to pause their fighting for four days following what a senior Biden administration official described to reporters as an “extremely excruciating five-week process” of negotiations. Under this agreement, Hamas committed to release fifty women and children the terrorists had taken captive on October 7th, in groups spread out over the four days and selected from the terrorists’ two hundred forty or so captives. In return, Israel agreed to free one hundred fifty Palestinian women and teenagers imprisoned in Israel. For each subsequent day of a pause in fighting agreed to by Israel and Hamas, an additional ten hostages would be released.
The agreement between Israel and Hamas also calls for a substantial increase in humanitarian aid and fuel allowed into Gaza during the four-day pause, supposedly to be used for the benefit of Gazan civilians.
In an entirely separate arrangement announced by Qatar, Hamas also released captured Thai nationals and a Filipino.
Hamas is exploiting for propaganda purposes images of joyful reunions of the freed Israeli hostages, especially children, with their families. Hamas wants the world to view it as a legitimate resistance movement that has taken the high moral ground by releasing vulnerable women and children from captivity. These genocidal terrorists want the world to forget that they viciously slaughtered and abducted women, children, babies, and the elderly in the first place when they invaded Israel on October 7th.
The deal between Israel and Hamas for the initial four-day pause took effect on November 24th, a day later than originally scheduled, with Hamas’ release of thirteen hostages and Israel’s release of thirty-nine Palestinian prisoners. No abducted American citizens were among the first group of women and children whom Hamas set free – not even a little American girl, Abigail Mor Edan, whom Hamas refused to release on her fourth birthday.
Hamas initially delayed its release of a second group of hostages on day two of the pause, but the snag was eventually resolved. Thirteen Israelis and four foreigners were released. However, no Americans were included in this second group either – another day that Americans kidnapped by the terrorists were left behind.
Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists killed at least thirty-one American citizens on October 7th and abducted about ten Americans. Yet President Biden, who has taken credit for his personal involvement in the hostage negotiations, failed to secure the release of a single American in the first two tranches of freed hostages.
Finally, on the third day of the pause, Hamas released Abigail Mor Edan, the little American girl whom Hamas forced to spend her fourth birthday in captivity. But thanks to the Hamas murderers, Abigail Mor Edan, a dual U.S. and Israeli citizen, has no parents to reunite with. She will not be free for the rest of her life from the trauma she experienced in witnessing the slaughter of her mother and father.
President Biden pointed to Hamas’ release of Abigail Mor Edan and of other hostages, and the sharp increase in humanitarian aid going into Gaza, as proof that the pause is a success. “Critically needed aid is going in and hostages are coming out,” Biden said in remarks to reporters that he delivered on November 26th from Nantucket where he was staying for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. “And this deal is structured so that it can be extended to keep building on these results. That’s my goal,” the president added.
However, President Biden admitted that he does not know when all the remaining American hostages will be released nor their conditions in captivity. He did not call Hamas out for violating its deal with Israel by refusing so far to allow the Red Cross to visit the hostages and report on their well-being.
While the release of any hostages is certainly a good thing, the deal as a whole benefits Hamas and places Israel at a major strategic disadvantage. The initial pause, coupled with multiple extensions as the price for the release of more hostages, stops Israel in its tracks from continuing to pursue and kill the Hamas fighters while they are on the run. Israel’s momentum in destroying Hamas’ infrastructure is stalled. In short, Israel agreed to what amounts to a de facto ceasefire, which gives Hamas an undeserved timeout to regroup and rearm with Iran’s help.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu originally vowed that there would be no ceasefire until all the hostages were released. But he agreed to accept the freeing of far less hostages, along with the military pause and other concessions, under intense pressure from the Biden administration.
Indeed, according to a senior U.S. official, the Biden administration was involved in “daily, sometimes hourly, senior level of engagement with Qatar, with Egypt and with Israel on the issue of the hostages.” President Biden himself “was engaged daily as extremely difficult talks and proposals were traded back and forth,” the official said.
Prime Minister Netanyahu undoubtedly sensed a shift in the political winds in the United States, evidenced by more Democrats turning against the U.S.’s continued military support for Israel’s counter-offensive and ratcheting up their calls for a ceasefire. The Biden administration, responding to President Biden’s declining poll numbers among young voters sympathetic to the Palestinians, expressed deepening concerns regarding Israel’s conduct of the war against Hamas and the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.
President Biden and senior administration officials called for more Israeli restraint and for humanitarian pauses in the fighting. Prime Minister Netanyahu had reason to worry about the backlash if he did not listen to his most important ally. Moreover, Prime Minister Netanyahu had been under intense pressure at home from families of the kidnapped Israelis to secure their release.
Thus, one can understand the Israeli prime minister’s reluctant acceptance of the deal for an initial four-day pause in fighting with Hamas and the return of some hostages. But that does not make it the right decision in the long run. Hamas remains a very formidable threat to the lives of Israeli civilians and has threatened to repeat their October 7th savagery over and over again if given the chance. Israel has lost the initiative in executing its mission to destroy Hamas.
Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to assure the Israeli people that the war “will continue” after the partial release of hostages is completed until Hamas is destroyed and all the hostages are released. But Israel has painted itself into a corner with this seriously flawed deal.
So long as Hamas dangles the prospect of releasing additional hostages for every day that Israel continues to halt all military operations in Gaza, the pressure will only intensify on the Israeli government to prolong the pause. This is part of Hamas’ continuing pattern of psychological and propaganda warfare. Moreover, as the uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid and fuel to Gaza expands during the initial pause, President Biden will face increasing demands at home and abroad to join other world leaders in calling for an indefinite ceasefire. He is already pushing hard for an extension of the pause.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was successfully applying overwhelming force to eliminate Hamas’ senior officials, destroy Hamas’ command centers, tunnels, and weapons caches, and drive Hamas fighters out of their positions in northern Gaza. As a result, the Jerusalem Post reported, “Hamas morale has been dealt a significant blow, causing many terrorists to retreat southward in Gaza, abandoning guns after clashes with IDF soldiers.” The report added that “after the IDF successfully targeted Hamas brigade, battalion, and company commanders, the terrorist group’s armed wing struggled to execute attacks against Israeli forces infiltrating terrorist strongholds.”
Before Israel agreed to the de facto ceasefire, the IDF controlled the battlefield in Gaza and ran the clock on its own timetable. Israel retained the power to unilaterally pause the fighting in localized areas for limited hours of its choosing while the IDF’s counter-offensive continued in full swing.
All this has now come to an end for who knows how long. Israel’s agreement to a de facto ceasefire, with the whole world watching, gives Hamas an invaluable reprieve before the IDF has come anywhere close to eliminating the terrorist cancer in Gaza. Hamas is undoubtedly using the prolonged halt in fighting throughout Gaza to regenerate, reorganize, resupply, and reposition its fighters to regain the advantage of surprise over its Israeli targets.
As part of the deal, Israel has halted all air traffic over the southern portion of Gaza, including drones for surveillance purposes, and is allowed only six hours a day to conduct flights in northern Gaza. Many of the terrorists had fled to southern Gaza to escape IDF’s relentless attacks in the north, but Israel’s hands are tied in being able to use aerial surveillance to effectively track their movements.
Moreover, the exchange of Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel for hostages abducted by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups – in a three to one ratio no less – incentivizes the terrorists to kidnap more Israeli civilians as bargaining chips. Hamas, Hezbollah, and their terrorist state sponsor Iran will not hesitate to seize ever more hostages as leverage.
Hamas is releasing grannies and little children whom the terrorists forcibly abducted on October 7th. In exchange, Israel is releasing Palestinians who were in jail for attempted murder or other violent crimes and who will now be free to join Hamas in conducting further attacks against Israeli civilians.
One should learn from history, not repeat it. The 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in 2011 whom Israel exchanged for one Israeli soldier captured by Hamas five years earlier, Gilad Shalit, included Yahya Sinwar, a founding member of Hamas who became its top commander in Gaza. This bloodthirsty terrorist said he had learned, according to a Guardian article, that “the capture of Israeli soldiers was the ‘only way to free prisoners.’” Sinwar is said to be the mastermind behind Hamas’ genocidal attacks in Israel on October 7th and no doubt was behind the strategy of kidnapping so many hostages.
Every day that Israel releases three Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one hostage captured by Hamas is a day that Israel is releasing more recruits to join Hamas’ declared “permanent” war against Israel.
Every day that the IDF continues to lay down its arms is a day that Hamas will exploit to rebuild its terrorist network while making it harder for Israel to resume its military mission to destroy Hamas. So long as Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups survive to fight another day, the Jewish state’s population remains in mortal danger.
President Biden appears to be moving away from his initial full support for Israel’s objective to eliminate Hamas completely. He is adopting a softer position that would tolerate Hamas’ continued existence so long as it does not “control” any portion of Gaza. This is a recipe for disaster. Unless the terrorist cancer is removed root and branch entirely, it will metastasize.