During the second century BCE one of the greatest politicians of the Roman Republic, Cato the Elder, continuously called for the destruction of Rome’s enemy, Carthage. He would use the phrase Carthago delenda est, meaning “Carthage must be destroyed.” Although Rome had been victorious in previous wars, they were having a particularly difficult time during the Third Punic War until Scipio Africanus the Younger finally laid waste to the enemy at the Battle of Carthage in 146 BCE. This is from where the legend comes that the Romans salted Carthage so their enemy wouldn’t even be able to farm in the future. Rome understood that their Republic would not be truly safe and secure until their greatest maritime enemy could no longer pose a military threat.
Today Israel faces the same problem. Once again the Near East has devolved into conflict between the Israelis and its neighbor, but unless Israel is willing act in its national interest then this problem will continue to persist into the foreseeable future beyond Operation Protective Edge. Since Israel’s inception in 1947 the Jewish state has fought a war with one of its Arab neighbors at least once a decade. Even though state vs. state conflict practically ended with the Camp David Accords in 1979, this only began the era of asymmetric war: two wars in Lebanon, two intifadas, and now two incursions into Gaza. The solution to finally begin the end to the problem is to follow paraphrased council by Cato. Hamas delenda est. Israel should not end its land incursion and aerial campaign until Hamas is completely neutralized.
Israel is making the same mistakes it has made in the past by allowing the current ceasefire to continue. One must only look at the egregious nature of the Hamas regime to see that this is not an organization Israel can negotiate with at the present moment. In Hamas’s Charter it states that “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.” It also states that “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.” Besides the fact their foundational text calls for the elimination of Israel, the organization presently commits acts of terrorism by firing rockets into Israel and deliberately targeting non-combatants. Finally, Hamas not only disregards the value of Israeli citizens, but they also use their own citizens as “human shields,” which demonstrates their selfishness and hypocrisy.
To bring about an appropriate solution Israel will need to mount a significantly large invasion force to send into Gaza, combining this with an extensive bombing campaign of all military sites and refusing to end the incursion until all of Hamas’s leaders and commanders are captured or killed. Then Israel will have the ability to force a negotiated peace onto Hamas and the Palestinians. But this does not mean that Israel should destroy Palestine or deliberately target Palestinian non-combatants in order to achieve their goals. Neutralizing Hamas and negotiating a peace settlement could lead to a better life for Palestinians in the end. If Israel takes this approach then it will need to make serious concessions to the Palestinians at the negotiations, including statehood, protection of access to water, and even working with the international community for a sizeable development package. Once Israel’s main enemy in Palestine is neutralized no other terrorist organization will pose a substantial threat to Israel’s security and interests. Only then can the two state live side by side in peace.
Some will argue that this approach fails ethically due to the criteria of proportionality and discrimination of jus in bello. An invasion of this size would undoubtedly lead to collateral damage. In Operation Protective Edge 1,800 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have died. However, just war allows actions that kill non-combatants if attacking the military target would be justified if non-combatants would not die, the non-combatants are not the intended targets and therefore their death is not intentional, and the benefits outweigh the loss of non-combatant life. These directives primarily come from the Geneva Convention, Protocol I, Article 51.
In addition, one must always keep in mind the principle of double effect when discussing proportionality and discrimination. This means that the morally good effect should be equal to or exceed the morally bad effect. The principle of double effect comes from Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica (Secunda Secundae Partis). If the ultimate objective is a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, then all of these criteria would be met. The long term benefits/morally good effects would definitively outweigh any immediate costs/morally bad effects.
Therefore, remember the wisdom of the Roman military theorist Vegetius: Si vis pacem, para bellum.