“The enemy gets a vote” is a common expression that is invoked when your plans go awry. But what happens when events go according to plan?

There have been plenty of rocky roads during Israel’s nine-month military campaign in Gaza, but one of the underlying concepts guiding the IDF brass and the country’s political leadership hasn’t changed: keeping total victory as the goal puts pressure on Hamas.

This principle has been so maligned lately—even President Biden dismissed it as “an unidentified notion of total victory” that “will only bog down Israel in Gaza”—that it’s easy to forget it was the consensus among Western allies after October 7. Yet it’s not Israel that has just received a rude reminder of the limits of long-term planning—it’s Hamas.

“Several officials in the Middle East and the U.S. believe the level of devastation in the Gaza Strip caused by a nine-month Israeli offensive likely has helped push Hamas to soften its demands for a cease-fire agreement,” reports the Associated Press. To which the response might be: Well… yeah. Losing a war can do wonders in adjusting your refusal to compromise.

The AP isn’t just going on intuition. It has seen internal messages from senior Hamas officials describing “the heavy losses Hamas has suffered on the battlefield and the dire conditions in the war-ravaged territory.” According to the AP, “a person familiar with Western intelligence…said the group’s leadership understands its forces have suffered heavy losses and that has helped Hamas move closer to a cease-fire deal.”

This story coincides with Hamas leaders deciding to drop their demand that any ceasefire-for-hostages deal with Israel contain an up-front IDF concession it will not restart hostilities—thus meaning the war would be, for all intents and purposes, over. That would have effectively guaranteed Hamas’s survival. Instead, reports the Times of Israel, Hamas has expressed its “desire for ‘written guarantees’ from mediators that Israel will continue to negotiate a permanent ceasefire deal once the first phase of a ceasefire goes into effect.”

As I wrote in November, relentless Israeli pressure was key to the first ceasefire-for-hostages agreement. Hamas’s first true openness came when it wanted to forestall an Israeli ground invasion. Then it became pliable once again when the IDF was on the verge of taking Shifa hospital, forcing Hamas fighters to flee and leaving Israel in position to reveal the military use of the hospital by Hamas. That pattern continued until a deal was in place.

In contrast, the times any deal looked least likely were during moments of paralysis—US threats to withhold weapons from the IDF, Israeli domestic political instability, perceived Israeli diplomatic isolation. Pressure works. Unfortunately the Biden administration went from pressuring Hamas to pressuring Israel, and the hostages languished in Gaza dungeons or camps—except for the few rescued by the IDF.

Hamas isn’t only feeling the pressure from without. It’s also dealing with an increasingly assertive Gazan civilian population, whose suffering was brought upon by Hamas’s design.

“I hope that God will destroy you, Hamas, like you destroyed our children,” screams a grieving Palestinian mother in a video taken by NBC. Gazans’ support for the October 7 attacks have dropped in recent months, as have their support for Hamas.

The BBC quotes another Gazan: “I am an academic doctor. I had a good life, but we have a filthy [Hamas] leadership. They got used to our bloodshed, may God curse them! They are scum!”

The report goes on: “Residents have told the BBC that swearing and cursing against the Hamas leadership is now common in the markets, and that some drivers of donkey carts have even nicknamed their animals after the Hamas leader in Gaza—Yahya Sinwar—urging the donkeys forward with shouts of ‘Yallah, Sinwar!’”

What these desperate men and women realize is that this deprivation isn’t going to end until Hamas is out of power, because Hamas won’t let it end. Everything the West has done to buy time for Hamas leaders has moved the Palestinians in Gaza ever closer to a future that looks a lot like their present.

Those Gazans whom Hamas permits to live, that is. Hamas has been executing rival clan members and perceived competitors for postwar governance. Gaza peace activist Hamza Howidy, who has been imprisoned and tortured for protesting against Hamas, recounts that since October, “hundreds of Gazans have been killed by Hamas’ failing rockets. Hamas has confiscated the food, fuel, and medicine sent to Gaza, and they did not stop here. 13-year-old Ahmad Breka was shot in the head by Hamas in Rafah while attempting to collect humanitarian aid. Others were fortunate because they were merely shot in the legs by Hamas while attempting to grab humanitarian goods that Hamas stole and kept in their facilities.”

Putting Hamas’s back against the wall helps the Israeli hostages. It helps the Palestinian civilians. And it enables the US to live up to its professed ideals. There’s a reason this was the goal when all this started. Because that’s the way it should end.

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