Why America Must Support Israel’s Efforts to Destroy Hamas

This week, I visited Israel with General Keith Kellogg, my colleague at the America First Policy Institute, to learn about the state of the Israel-Hamas War and Israel-U.S. relations. As part of our research, we met with senior Israeli officials and toured two sites where the horrific October 7 Hamas terrorist attack took place.

What we learned was disturbing and shocking. It confirmed our strong belief that America must stand with Israel in its efforts to destroy Hamas and not agree to a peace agreement with the Palestinians without major, generational reforms.

This was a very different trip than the one I took to Israel last July. There were no nonstop flights to Tel Aviv from Washington-Dulles. Our hotel, the same one where I stayed last year, had few guests and limited services. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the narrow streets around it in the Old City were deserted. It was clear that Israel’s economy has been hit hard by a sharp drop in tourism due to the October 7 terrorist attacks.

General Keith Kellogg (pictured right) and the author at the Kfar Gaza, Israel Kibbutz.

We visited sites where Hamas massacred innocent Israeli civilians in southern Israel at a kibbutz and the site of the Re’im music festival. It was shocking to see hundreds of bullet holes in tiny kibbutz homes where beautiful young couples were brutally killed. [See above photo]. Photos of these couples were posted outside of their destroyed homes. The music festival site was a sea of photographs of over 300 young people who were mowed down by Hamas terrorists. Many were killed as they desperately tried to escape the slaughter.

It was made clear to us at the sites of these massacres that these attacks were extremely well-planned and designed to kill as many Israelis as possible. Gazans who worked in southern Israel gathered intelligence on how to conduct the attacks. Meticulous steps were taken to destroy and blind security cameras and sensors at the border. It was also stressed to us that after Hamas fighters breached border fences, they were followed by civilians from Gaza who committed their own atrocities and looted Israeli homes and stores.

We were told that Hamas believed negative news coverage of an Israeli invasion of Gaza and the hostages would lead weak Western leaders to pressure Israel to end the war before Hamas was defeated. The Israeli officials said they were right about weak Western leaders pressuring Israel in response to negative media coverage about the war, but they were dead wrong that Israel would ever give in to this pressure.

General Kellogg and I met with several senior Israeli officials who all told us the same two things.

First, Israel must and will destroy Hamas. They stressed it is crucial to defeat the remaining four Hamas battalions in southern Israel, near Raffa. We were told that although Israel may agree to a temporary cease-fire to win the release of the remaining hostages, after a cease-fire, the war will resume until the Hamas battalions are defeated. The Israeli officials politely but firmly rejected repeated calls by President Biden and European officials for a permanent cease-fire before Israel had taken Raffa and destroyed these battalions.

Second, the Israeli officials told us in no uncertain terms that the two-state solution peace plan is dead and that no peace plan with the Palestinians is possible without major generational reforms.

We were told it is impossible for Israel to strike a peace agreement with an enemy that is determined to destroy it, and Israeli and Western leaders made a grave mistake for decades of believing otherwise. The officials insisted that Israel cannot give its enemies an independent state that it will use to arm and train fighters to destroy their country like Hamas did over the past 20 years in Gaza. They added that Israel cannot make peace with an enemy that trains its people, starting in kindergarten, to kill Jews and destroy the state of Israel.

The Israeli officials said no peace plan with the Palestinians is possible until they are deradicalized. This must include reforming Palestinian schools, mosques, and media. They said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is doing this in Saudi Arabia and insisted that it must be done in Gaza and in the West Bank. Some officials suggested Arab states might help implement a Palestinian deradicalization project. The Israeli officials said such a project will take a generation to achieve, but they believe there is no other way to bring about a lasting peace with the Palestinians that safeguards Israel’s security and existence.

We heard disagreement, anger, and bemusement at the Biden administration’s policies and statements about Israeli security and peace plans. The Israeli officials said they do not appreciate the constant public pressure and statements by President Biden and Biden officials to end the war and implement a permanent cease-fire before Hamas is defeated. Some especially objected to the Biden administration discussing peace proposal ideas in the press that they had not raised with the Israeli government.

Several Israeli officials strongly objected to the Biden administration constantly calling for a two-state solution peace plan when they know the Israeli government has definitively ruled this out for the foreseeable future. The officials said these calls are extremely unhelpful for Israel at a time when it is increasingly isolated.

Even though I knew about the horrific violence of October 7, I was still shocked to see the evidence of these killings at the kibbutz and the music fair site firsthand. This evil is why Hamas must be destroyed and never again be allowed to govern Gaza or anywhere else.

I was not surprised but still disheartened to hear the frustration of Israeli officials at the Biden Administration’s inept and irresponsible approach to the Israel-Hamas War. And I was embarrassed for my country because the Israeli officials were fully aware that President Biden’s feckless policies on this conflict are being driven by domestic politics and the president’s low poll numbers on the left.

I came away from this trip believing more strongly than ever that the United States should be solidly standing with Israel at this critical time. And as one of America’s closest and most important allies, I believe Israel deserves much better treatment by a U.S. president and his administration.

Fred Fleitz is vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst, and a House Intelligence Committee staff member.

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Photo: BE'ERI, ISRAEL - JANUARY 11: Landscape views of Kibbutz Be'eri over three months after the surprise attack by Hamas that killed over 90 residents of the farming cooperative, on January 11, 2024, in Be'eri, Israel. Of the 1,200 residents before the attack, only around 30 have returned to start the rebuilding process. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

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