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(37,165 posts)
Wed Oct 18, 2023, 10:22 PM Oct 2023

The Best of Bad Options for Recovering the Hostages

This terrible crisis leaves no good choices—but the U.S. may have more ways to pressure Hamas than Israel does.

There is, regrettably, no simple answer. Hamas seized the hostages knowing full well Israel’s history of making trades. On the one hand, the terrorist leaders no doubt hoped the hostages would be a deterrent against Israel’s launching of an all-out war against them. On the other hand, Sinwar and his Hamas allies knew that if they could trade their hostages for a number of militants held in Israeli prisons, they would be heroes among Palestinians who see those held in the Israeli jails as part of the struggle against occupation. Indeed, the spectacle of Hamas gaining the release of prisoners in spite of its killing spree of Israelis would allow its leaders to claim that their way worked. That perception would enable them to promote the idea that, in time, the Hamas-led “resistance” would deliver Israel’s disappearance... And make no mistake, that is the group’s strategic purpose here. Hamas is not about ending the occupation; it is about ending Israel...

One avenue the Biden administration could explore through the Qataris or Turks—or, preferably, the Egyptians, who have no interest in strengthening Hamas—would be a release of women and children in return for an agreement from Israel to permit some deliveries of humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Hamas might agree to this, to improve its international standing, even as it will surely seek to exploit such a deal by infiltrating its fighters into southern Gaza. That is a risk, but Israel, too, has reasons to manage its image—to show that it is fighting Hamas but not punishing the Palestinian people...

In general, President Joe Biden has signaled that there will be no daylight between the U.S. and Israel on this matter. According to a report I have heard, the U.S. has already deployed a hostage-rescue unit to Israel to assist with possible coordination. This suggests that both shared intelligence and possibly joint efforts to conduct rescue operations may follow—especially if Hamas carries out its dire threats to start executing hostages. Typically, rescue operations are attempted only as a last resort. The necessary intelligence gathering takes time, and such operations carry an intrinsically high risk: As likely as they are to succeed and save some hostages, they can also result in the death of others.

This terrible crisis has no straightforward, immediate solution. For now, the best way the White House can help Israel is to continue to call for the hostages’ unconditional release. It should emphasize the terrible damage inflicted on the Palestinian cause by Hamas’s illegitimate attempt to gain leverage through innocent victims. Above all, the U.S. can lean with all its might on those who have some influence with Hamas—and let them know what they have to lose by their association with a cult of death, not life.

Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, is the counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute.

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(482 posts)
1. no compromise for Israel
Wed Oct 18, 2023, 10:55 PM
Oct 2023

Israel won't be satisfied unless it's an unconditional surrender of Hamas, and their expulsion from the region. Maybe send them to Iran, but I doubt Iran wants them.

Israel won't trade hostages for prisoners anymore. And Hamas has no incentive to provide humanitarian aid for palestinians.


(37,165 posts)
2. It is looking that way. But things might change, since neither side is clearly in control of the outcome.
Wed Oct 18, 2023, 10:59 PM
Oct 2023


(37,165 posts)
4. How would that work? The expert author pretty much rules that out, doesn't he?
Wed Oct 18, 2023, 11:25 PM
Oct 2023

They have to be able to negotiate with who. The head of Hamas? Does he even know which of Hamas cell members have hostages? Or where they're all located? Or be able to contact any of the 200 hostage taker? Or have the communication tech means for negotiating? Seriously?

I'm pretty sure that every Hamas hostage taker will take out their hostage and die themselves before negotiating. Have you forgotten about martyrdom as sending them to Allah? Or that their Charter calls for no surrender of any kind?

200 simultaneous negotiations? I'd rule that out.


(14,408 posts)
5. Here's how
Thu Oct 19, 2023, 10:55 AM
Oct 2023

They'll negotiate for the release of whomever they can get out. As they determine some hostages are dead, they ask for bodies. This narrows down the list of people alive for potential rescue as they monitor communications and conduct strikes trying to drive all of the hostages and hostage takers into one location. The two aircraft carriers will be providing a lot of intelligence.


(37,165 posts)
6. It's obvious that you didn't read my questions.
Thu Oct 19, 2023, 05:08 PM
Oct 2023
They have to be able to negotiate with who. The head of Hamas?
Does teh head of Hamas even know which of Hamas cell members have hostages? Or where they're all located? Or be able to contact any of the 200 hostage taker? Or have the communication tech means for negotiating? Seriously?

See how you don't know how your "here's how" can even work. The KEYS to making your "here's how" actually work are
-- WHO the Hamas are who have hostages,
-- WHO the hostage is with each Hamas hostage taker,
-- WHERE each one is in the 300+ mile tunnels beneath Gaza,
-- HOW to contact teach once they know the above
-- HOW to "drive all (!) the hostages and hostage takers into one location" IF they could do any of the above to begin with.

What you've admitted -- that it takes a LOT of intelligence work up front -- is theoretical, at best. You've got no better answers than the current author in the OP.

Thanks for trying.
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