Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer
Rabbi Prof. Dov FischerCourtesy

As an independent country — not a “state” — Israel should make its own policies, domestic and foreign, and not rely on the approaches of others. However, there never is anything wrong with listening to what someone else, at home or abroad, has said, and to giving that viewpoint some serious thought. Maybe they see something you don’t see because they come at it from a different angle. You can always reject that perspective, but any serious approach deserves serious consideration, especially when it comes from someone of authority and time-tested experience.

It seems, more and more, that Israel’s leaders and citizens could benefit from the thinking of an American president on the subject of how to respond when the battered enemy puts a ceasefire proposal on the table. The more I read and think about it, the more I support the American president’s approach to the enemy’s ceasefire proposal.

Actually, the President did not initially set forth his way of thinking when he entered the White House. He had evolved his worldview years before that. He always wanted peace, hated war and all the deaths that war entails. Tens of thousands dying, loved ones lost. There comes a time to realize that, when a determined foe finally absorbs terrible blows and destruction, and finally proposes a ceasefire, a reasonable response is demanded.

The American president I have in mind is Hiram Ulysses Grant. (In time, he dropped the “Hiram” and used his mother’s maiden name, “Simpson,” as his middle name so he was U.S. Grant.) He was the 18th president of the United States. More than a century after his death, he is remembered as a man of humility and personal integrity, though his presidential administration was pocked by corruption, resulting in historians ranking him as having been a middling president, better than some, worse than others.

His greater fame and continued reputation stem from his years as a commanding officer of Union troops during the American Civil War. At first, the North was led by Gen. George McClellan (after a very brief moment as Gen. Winfield Scott moved to retirement). McClellan was deemed a military strategist and projected great charisma, winning the adulation of his men.

The only problem with him was that, all too often, he simply would not attack. He had huge armies that substantially outnumbered the Confederate opposition, and many believe the Civil War could have ended much more quickly than the five years it lingered if only he attacked and did not endlessly procrastinate in the early goings.

McClellan was relieved of his role by President Abraham Lincoln after five months, and was replaced by Henry Halleck. In time, after several more disappointments, Lincoln designated U.S. Grant to be the commanding general of the northern armies.

One of the events that brought Grant to Lincoln’s attention occurred during the 1862 Battle of Fort Donelson. Brigadier General Grant overwhelmed the opposing Southern troops. As a result, Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr., the Confederate fort's commanding officer, essentially gave up. He was beaten. He sent word to Grant that he was prepared to surrender, had no counter-demands, and simply proposed forming two committees, one Union and one Dixie, to negotiate the terms of surrender. (For example, would the Southern troops be held as prisoners or might they be allowed to go back to their homes?) Gen. Buckner certainly was not presenting counter-demands, such as asking Grant to retreat in return for an end to hostilities.

Gen. Grant had a simple response that has been recorded in American history: “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.”

That response became so famous that it eventually carried him to become commanding officer of the Union armies, and it eventually swept him into the White House. President Lincoln and the newspapers of that time began saying that the two initials in the name of “U.S. Grant” stood for “Unconditional Surrender.” That sobriquet stuck for the rest of his life — and beyond. Unconditional Surrender.

I support that American president’s ceasefire approach. Unconditional Surrender.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is in a tough pickle, partly of his own doing — or failure to do. I am not privy to what has gone on in that War Cabinet of his, so I cannot fairly assign criticism to him. Certainly, he never should have allowed Qatar to send $83 million to Hamas in Gaza. That was an easy one, and so many of us said it at the time. He never should have stopped prosecuting several of the five wars that Hamas started over 18 years. The business of “mowing the lawn” every three years was unacceptable, and so many of us knew it and said it then. Each “ceasefire” simply allowed Hamas to fortify for its next attack, based on lessons learned from the previous one. So they built tunnels, and then they built more, and then more. They learned to build better rockets and to import missiles. They improved their training. They even strategized new ideas for invading — like hang-gliding. “There is no substitute for experience.”

But there is a great deal I do not know. Have Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot tying Bibi's hands for the past four months — because he wants as much of a consensus as possible? Or have they all been imitating Gen. George McClellan and tying each others’ hands? Have the permanent treasonous circus weekly displays in Tel Aviv played a part? Has reliable intelligence warned that many more IDF boys would, G-d forbid, die than if time were delayed to clear out the Rafah population and to learn exact locations of places to target and terrorist leaders to kill?

What threats have Biden and Blinken made? We know only the public stuff. What has been going on behind the scenes? Is Tzahal almost out of bullets and tank shells? Are they out of money? Are they running short on fighters?

Is Bibi delaying in the hope of wiping out Hamas only five months from now — in November — hoping that Trump gets elected then, so that the impending and inevitable war against Hezbollah in the north is not hamstrung by D.C. before it even begins? What threats have Gantz and Eisenkot been aiming at Bibi? Do they matter?

On the surface, with the IDF having cut through Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya, then Gaza City, and then Khan Yunis like a sharp knife cutting through melted butter, destroying Hamas brigades and leaders, felling buildings and uncovering and destroying tunnels, it seems to make no sense why they seemingly stopped just as they had one last major objective ahead: Rafiach. Yes, Biden was threatening, but how dangerous were his threats and even his actions? Was Tzahal out of weapons, planes, aerial bombs, grenades, and bullets? Was it deemed strategically important to send the boys of IDF home to their families for rejuvenation, to “recharge their batteries” and even spend sedarim (seders) with their extended families? Did Bibi wait, as many think, for enough arms shipments to arrive before entering Rafah, fearing Biden would then delay them - as he indeed did? Is that why Bibi said israel has enough arms for the Rafah offensive right before it began?

So much makes no sense to us The delay of four months and signs of Israeli hesitation emboldened Jew haters and Israel’s enemies to “catch their breath” and jump in. So South Africa brought in the International “Court of Justice.” Then came the International “Criminal Court.” Always more U.N. resolutions. American campuses became stages for anti-Semitic street theater. If the war had been prosecuted promptly, as had been until Rafiach, perhaps the haters would have remained unable to activate their tools in time.

It is puzzling why Avigdor Liberman and Gideon Sa’ar were not brought into the War Cabinet. Was it politics — that they hate Bibi that much, and he wants no input from them? Or did Gantz and Eisenkot threaten they would leave a War Cabinet that included non-generals like Liberman and Sa’ar? And, of course, if they had been brought in, then Smotrich and Ben Gvir would have demanded being included, and Gantz made excluding them a precondition to his joining. It would have been better to have had Liberman and Sa’ar in that cabinet, with or without Smotrich and Ben Gvir, because there was a crying need to have some fighters, of any kind, in there to balance Gantz and Eisenkot, who are all talk and bluster.

There are no weaker military thinkers than former Israeli generals who go into politics. Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, having become a politician, gave Arafat and Fatah sovereignty in part of Judea and Samaria. Gen. Ehud Barak, having become a politician, gave Hezbollah a hostile country in South Lebanon. Gen. Ariel Sharon, having become a politician, gave Hamas and Islamic Jihad a country in Gaza. Something about former Israeli generals in politics should scare every Israeli. If they need so desperately to be led by generals, Israel would do better having a War Cabinet made up of Gen. Motors, Gen. Electric, and Gen. Mills. So there is that.

And why is the Jew-hating Khan of the International Criminal Court calling Bibi and Gallant “war criminals” who are responsible for “crimes against humanity” but not seeking similar indictments against Gantz and Eisenkot if they are in the same War Cabinet making the same decisions? What’s that about?

Of course, Gantz wants out now. It suited him to be in the War Cabinet when Netanyahu’s election polls hit rock bottom and Gantz was at the top. So he leap-frogged Yair Lapid, who was too foolish to realize that by refusing to sit in the unity government, he would forfeit his status as leader of the opposition to the guy who was enough a leader to join forces against Hamas. But now the polls are turning on Gantz. His numbers are plummeting while Bibi’s have stabilized and even are rising a bit, so Gantz no longer gains by being in the War Cabinet and getting outflanked by Netanyahu. Consequently, it suddenly is time for him to leave and come up with a new campaign strategy. And maybe a bit scared and frightened if he remains in the War Cabinet, this hero avoids being included in the ICC indictment as a war criminal, too.

A century after U.S. Grant stood for Unconditional Surrender, he remains remembered as an American military hero. By contrast, those who ceded land to Arafat and Fatah, Hezbollah, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad can only wish that history not remember their names at all, names that will be associated forever with disgraceful retreats and surrenders — even when they were winning. History has judged Unconditional Surrender well, as the post-World War II years also have proven when considering Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

I support that American president’s ceasefire approach: Unconditional Surrender.

Adapted by the writer for Arutz Sheva from a version of this article that first appeared here in The American Spectator.

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