Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Gali Tibbon, Pool via AP)

Where’s the pressure on Hamas to stand down? | EDITORIAL | Letters

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The temporary pause in fighting that Israel accepted has already intensified misguided calls for the Jewish state to “de-escalate” its response to Hamas’ barbaric Oct. 7 terror rampage.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Cabinet debated a deal with Hamas — negotiated through third parties, including the United States — that would impose a four-day cease-fire under which Hamas would release 50 of the more than 200 hostages it took during the Oct. 7 massacre. Israel would also free 150 Palestinian prisoners it holds.

“Once a pause in fighting takes effect,” The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, “the pressure on Israel to pursue talks toward further (hostage) releases and potentially make its pause permanent could rise, analysts said.”

Which raises the questions: Why are outside forces fixated on the Israeli response rather than the brutal terror act that precipitated it? Why is international pressure directed at Israel, which seeks simply to secure its existence, rather than at Hamas, which purposely provoked the Israeli military action in an effort to further its goal of wiping the state off the map?

Certainly, Israel has tough choices to make regarding the innocent hostages held by Hamas. The terror group no doubt hopes to leverage their lives in return for future “pauses” that will allow militants to regroup and rearm. The length to which Israel should make concessions in this area is a matter of great internal debate and controversy.

But it’s worth wondering whether Hamas would have agreed to release any hostages at all had Israel not used its military capacity to such an extent. It’s vital to remember that Israel didn’t start this latest war. Hamas did, by committing the Oct. 7 atrocity and showing a stunning indifference to the lives of innocents, both Israeli and Palestinian.

In stark contrast, Israel has taken great steps to avoid civilian casualties, and the pause in fighting will allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza. Hamas has the capability to end hostilities by releasing all of the hostages, acknowledging that Israel has a right to exist and ending its terror campaign.

Notably, it instead seeks death and destruction.

And that leaves Israel with little choice but to defend itself against those who would obliterate it.

“The war continues and will continue until we achieve all our aims,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week, “to destroy Hamas, to bring back all the hostages and to ensure that the day after Hamas, Gaza will no longer be a threat to Israel.”

Hamas is squarely to blame for the current conditions. And Israel has every right to pursue its objectives.

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