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“This battle is not just between Israel and Hamas,” says the president of Israel

Jerusalem — I write these lines from Jerusalem, after spending time with the families of some of the 240 people kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on October 7.

Among the hostages now held in Gaza are Jewish Israelis, Muslim Israelis and foreign nationals of different ethnicities.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli President Isaac Herzog during his visit to Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 3, 2023 REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool

In all my years of public life, meetings with these families were the most difficult and tense I have ever had.

I have also spoken with the families of some of the more than 1,400 of my fellow citizens who died that day, many of them murdered in their living room and kitchen or while dancing at a music festival.

When I returned from a kibbutz devastated by the attack, I had to clean the blood from my shoes.

Tragedy

Tragedy is a part of life in Israel and I knew it would be a part of my life as president.

But none of us imagined a tragedy how are you doing.

In Israel, against our will, we find ourselves in a inflection point for the Middle East and for the world and at the center of what is nothing less than an existential struggle.

This is not a battle between Jews and Muslims.

And it’s not just between Israel and Hamas.

It is between those who adhere to norms of humanity and those who practice barbarism that has no place in the modern world.

Just like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, the Hamas terrorists who attacked homes and families in Israel had no qualms about burn babies.

They tortured children, raped women and destroyed peace-loving communities.

They were so proud of their actions that they made sure to videotape them and even broadcast them live.

These videos They will forever be a stain for the Palestinians and their supporters who celebrated that day and a testament to the depravity of terrorists and the ideas that inspired them.

Sides

But I find it equally disturbing to realize that many in the world, including the West, are willing to rationalize these actions or even publicly support them.

In the capitals of Europe we have seen concentrations that are in favor of the total destruction of Israel “from the river to the sea.”

Professors and students at American universities give speeches and sign statements that they justify terrorismThey even glorify him.

We have heard that some governments did not condemn Hamasbut Israel’s response and even tried to justify Hamas’s atrocities.

It would have been unthinkable to hear such moral confusion after the terrorist attacks. 11 of September or after the attacks of London, Barcelona and Baghdad.

When I gave a speech to a joint meeting of Congress this year, I said that terrorism “contradicts humanity’s most basic principles of peace.”

It turns out that not everyone agrees.

All of this shows that this collision of values ​​is taking place not only here in Israel, but everywhere and that terrorist ideology threatens all decent people, not just Jews.

History has taught us that repugnant ideologies often find the Jewish people first, but they do not usually stop there.

We are on the front lines of this battle, but all nations face this threat and must understand that they could be next.

Since Hamas imposed this war on us, our Army has been dedicated to permanently eliminating this unbearable threat and enabling the return of our hostages.

This means fighting on the battlefield that Hamas has created in Gaza for many years, a field where terrorists hide. among and behind the civilian population.

It is a battlefield with terrorist tunnels under civilian streets, in which civilian casualties are not avoided at all costs, but encouraged by Hamas in order to arouse global compassion and mitigate Israel’s response.

Hamas not only stores missiles under schools and homes; our intelligence services and confessions of captured terrorists show that the Hamas command center is hidden under the central hospital in Gaza.

The result of these disgusting tactics is the civilian suffering that we are all witnessing.

Many reports of humanitarian difficulties in some parts of Gaza cannot be confirmed, but there is real suffering and that suffering concerns us too.

They are our neighbors and our complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 He intended to give them a free life and open the door to peace.

To our dismay, Hamas and its many Palestinian supporters chose the opposite.

Even as Hamas fires hundreds of missiles at our cities and as our soldiers fall in combat, we are making an effort to alert civilians as soon as possible with leaflets and phone calls, to evacuate the main battle zones and allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza through the border with Egypt.

Hundreds of aid trucks are arriving and more are expected every day.

But whoever thinks that cynical exploitation from the suffering of civilians will tie our hands and save Hamas this time is wrong.

For us and for the Palestinians, suffering will only end with elimination of Hamas.

cAnyone who tries to tie our hands is, intentionally or unintentionally, undermining not only the defense of Israel but also any hope for a world in which These atrocities cannot occur.

In the months and years before the Hamas massacre, we began to see signs of the emergence of a better Middle East, from the Persian Gulf to North Africa:

a Middle East inspired by progress and collaboration, a Middle East in which Israel could finally feel at home among our neighbors.

Will this be the world that emerges from this crisis?

Or will it be the world desired by the murderous fundamentalists of Hamas?

These questions will be key among the strategic topics on the agenda of our debates with the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken during their visit to the region starting Friday, as they were during President Biden’s visit to Israel a few weeks ago.

Right now, there is a lot at stake, not just the future of Israel.

On October 7, we were all startled and realized that we were facing a shocking challenge to our hopes and morals.

How we face this challenge will determine our future.

c.2023 The New York Times Company

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