Israeli artillery pounds Gaza Strip
Israeli artillery pounds Gaza StripGili Yaari /Flash90

The interesting but unexpected linkage of the disastrous exit of the U.S. from Afghanistan and the first official meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Joe Biden needs exploring.

While the two events are seemingly unrelated, the meeting between the two had to be delayed by over 24 hours because of the Islamic State terrorist attack outside Kabul Airport.

The retreat from Afghanistan has many experts and commentators scratching their heads over this move and the destruction of the hope that the West could leave the landlocked nation peacefully, diplomatically and in a better situation than how they found it in 2001.

Anne Applebaum, writer, historian and fellow at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, wrote recently in The Atlantic: “Of all the empty, pointless statements that are periodically repeated by Western politicians, none is more empty and pointless than this one: ‘There can be no military solution to this conflict’.”

Afghanistan should be the death knell to this proposition.

Of course, it should go without saying that it is preferable to end all conflicts without bloodshed and through diplomacy. However, from this, there is a vast expanse to the claim that a conflict can not ever be ended through military or other means.

Unfortunately, despite protestations to the contrary, decades of violent Palestinian rejectionism, that is only deepening and not decreasing, should alert us to the understanding that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can not be ended merely through negotiations.

If one needs to see how deep this violent Palestinian rejectionism runs, one only has read the comments by British-Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan, a regular contributor to the BBC.

According to MEMRI, Beri Atwan said that Israelis know that the scenes from Kabul Airport will be repeated at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport. He made his remarks in an interview that aired on pan-Arab Mayadeen TV on August 19, 2021. Atwan said that the Israelis will then find that there are no planes leaving Ben Gurion Airport, and they will be forced to escape to the Mediterranean Sea. He further said that in 1995, PLO leader Yasser Arafat promised him that he would live to see the day that the Israelis will flee Palestine "like rats fleeing a sinking ship." Atwan added: "Today, I believe that this prophecy will come true."

Unfortunately, Atwan’s views are shared by many Palestinians.

According to all surveys, Hamas remains the most popular party in Palestinian controlled areas, and subsequent to the Taliban takeover, sent out a congratulatory message to its Afghan ally. The leader of the Taliban expressed his gratitude to their Palestinian well-wishers, he made a point of tying the success in Afghanistan to the Palestinian effort to eradicate Israel and establish a Palestinian state from the river to the sea.

While this might seem absurd provided the relative strength of Israel and the Palestinians, the rejectionists amongst them have been buoyed by the Taliban’s tenacity and sacrifice in defeating the greatest superpower on earth.

Hamas, and other Palestinian rejectionists, are keen to capitalize on the Taliban’s momentum, and despite Israel’s recent goodwill measures it has turned up the heat with a return to attacks on Israel’s defensive border fence surrounding Gaza and explosive projectiles.

These might seem like mere nuisances for Israeli authorities, but for the violent rejectionists, they represent an optimism that the Jewish State can be eventually driven out, despite the imbalance in power.

The Palestinian rejectionist leaders must be dissuaded of this hope and belief, in fact it must be crushed. Hamas’ will to continue fighting must be ended, because only in this will the conflict with them be over. It doesn’t matter how many buildings Israel destroys, what kind of blockade it imposes, or the restrictions it implements, the key to victory is breaking the will of one’s opponents to continue fighting.

We have seen this throughout history and are now reminded of it in the present.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. and its western allies never broke the will of the Taliban to continue fighting, so it waited, however seemingly perversely, for America’s will to continue fighting to dissipate, which it eventually did.

The difference in firepower and strength between the Taliban and the U.S. is far greater than that between Hamas and Israel. Even the Afghan army was supposed to outnumber the Taliban almost 4 to 1 and was provided with the latest and greatest implements of technological warfare, yet the battle barely lasted days.

Israel has to take note of these events and learn from them. Superior firepower and a feeling of permanence are not always the key to victory. Sometimes it is mere tenacity and the wearing down of an enemy. In other words, while the hope for victory and the will to continue fighting remain, the conflict will endure, even if it takes decades.

Hamas believes in its ultimate victory and the defeat of the Jewish state, today more than ever.

Israel has repeatedly tried diplomacy to the point where it must start believing that there is a military solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is not preferred but it might be the only option left to truly end the conflict and bring about a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians, freed from the burden, bloodshed and pain of this ‘forever war’.

Defeating Hamas has never been more important, and hopefully Prime Minister Bennett and President Biden will be reminded of this.

The writer is director of the Middle East Forum.