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Blinken's Outline: Is There Another Way to Win the War?


Blinken's surprising statements during his visit to the region suggest he is trying to offer Israel normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia in exchange for agreeing to a ceasefire. The disturbing images from Gaza and escalating tensions in the north have spurred an American diplomatic push. The sweeping regional deal the administration aims to broker necessitates synchronizing the disjointed political timelines of many actors, so its prospects for coming to fruition remain uncertain.


The full details of Blinken's initiative, if there are any, remain unclear. However, it presumably involves a ceasefire, an "all for all" hostages-prisoners swap, some symbolic or declarative act in line with the two-state solution, reform in a revitalized Palestinian Authority, and normalized ties with Saudi Arabia. What might Hamas's position be, and what should Israel's stance be?

The Israeli Dilemma

This proposal presents attractive components for Israel. The war has entered a low-intensity phase, and it is estimated that achieving the main war goals will take a long time. In the Israeli public discourse, there's widespread fear that Gaza will become Israel's "Vietnam". Thus, this proposal could be seen as cutting Israel's losses and providing an "honorable" exit through normalization with Saudi Arabia.


Conversely, reaching a ceasefire now implies that the primary goal - toppling the Hamas regime - hasn't been achieved. Hamas and Hezbollah would perceive this as a significant victory, potentially leading to dramatic consequences in the Palestinian arena and the region. Without dismantling Hamas, even with new agreements in the north, the security of communities along the conflict line will rely on undisclosed commitments from Israel's enemies and a borader IDF deployment at the borders. It's doubtful if evacuees in the north and south would return under such conditions. Given the current public atmosphere, the government will find it extremely difficult to renew its commitment to the two-state principle after October 7.

Anthony Blinken in Gaza, the AI version (Midjourney)
Anthony Blinken in Gaza, the AI version (Midjourney)

How Wars are Won?

Major General (res.) Gershon HaCohen, in a perceptive article (Israel Hayom 12/15/23), argues that victory in war depends on its ensuing trends. Winning a war isn't like winning a football match, where the outcome is final and independent of subsequent trends. For instance, Egypt, despite fighting mass battles deep in its territory at the end of the Yom Kippur War, perceived it as a victory due to the political trends in its aftermath trends moving in Sadat's desired direction. The Syrian army, defeated by the IDF in the First Lebanon War, achieved its goals in Lebanon a few years later, while Israel did not.

Thus, Hezbollah and Hamas aim not to win the campaign militarily but to prevent the IDF from defeating them. The IDF wins most military encounters, but its inability to collapse enemy command and control is viewed as a failure. The resistance doctrine (Muqawama) aims to create a permanent state of varying-intensity war and friction, preventing a stable reality based on agreements (See What is a permanent war with Hamas). Israel's concern would be that Blinken's proposal will advance the trends Hamas and Hezbollah aim for.

What Trends Does Hamas Want to Set in Motion?

  • Discourage and break the spirit of Israeli society, inciting Arab citizens of Israel - part of a long-term plan to bring to the implosion of Israel.

  • Maintain it's regime in Gaza.

  • Thwart normalization with Saudi Arabia and undermine the Abraham Accords.

  • Weaken the perception of Israel's strength.

  • Position Hamas as the authentic Palestinian representative.

  • Break the Gaza 'siege'.

  • Institutionalize a multi-arena threat directed by the Iranian resistance axis, creating constant varying-intensity war dynamics.

  • Release Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

What Trends Does Israel Want to Set in Motion?

At this stage, Israel's goals of overthrowing Hamas, removing the Gaza threat, and returning hostages can only be achieved by continuing the fight. Therefore, the document's authors believe that continuing the fighting is a necessity.

However, Israel may face mounting US pressure and decide that attaining those objectives is highly difficult or too expensive in terms of social, political and security costs. In that case, Israel needs to examine how each alternative option best serves its political and security interests.

Even in the most optimistic scenario, Blinken's proposal will not include critical components for Israel that require Hamas to compromise: expulsion of Hamas leaders, replacement of the Hamas government, or Gaza's demilitarization. Israel should consider what trends it wants to set in motion and what components should be added to Blinken's proposal to achieve them. These might include:

What Should Israel's Position Be?

A ceasefire before accomplishing all war aims would be a major victory for Hamas. Though seemingly cornered, Israel also holds leverage in this situation. Hamas wants a permanent ceasefire while Israel persists with military operations. Thus, Israel must formulate a list of elements to supplement Blinken's proposal, separate from Hamas, that can set in motion favorable Israeli trajectories. Some suggestions include:

  • Establishing an effective regional axis under American sponsorship against the Iranian proxy axis.

  • Designing a revitalized Palestinian Authority that addresses Israel's concerns and interests.

  • Dissolving UNRWA, a key factor in perpetuating the Palestinian struggle ethos.

  • Forming an updated, effective security regime with Egypt, including security control around Gaza.

Implementing these proposals could psychologically impact Hamas and strengthen simmering trends. For example, the Gazan public's sense of disaster might challenge the Hamas government internally. After Hezbollah and Iran unexpectedly entered a war, the Iranian ring of fire model also showed the risks of intertwined regional conflicts. Establishing a counter regional axis could weaken ties among players, especially regarding the Palestinian arena.

Finally, the more Israeli leaders understand the importance of social cohesion and Arvut Hadadit for national resilience $ security, the better they can translate limited military achievements into long-term ideological and practical victories.


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