By Earle I. Mack

In an era when the tenacity and resolve of global leaders are routinely tested, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unequivocal stance against Hamas emerges not just as a beacon of strength but also as an essential pillar for the security and future of Israel.

His relentless pursuit to dismantle the formidable threat posed by Hamas in their “last bastion” of Rafah, is not merely a strategic military objective; it is a bold declaration of Israel’s unyielding commitment to safeguard its democracy, its people and its right to exist peacefully within its borders.

Like King David, Israel’s warrior-poet who secured his people’s place in the land of Israel, Netanyahu finds himself in the unenviable position of waging a battle for the survival of his nation. His leadership during this tumultuous period is a testament to his vision for an Israel that not only survives but thrives amid a sea of hostility, forging a legacy that, though mired in controversy, will ultimately be recognized for its pivotal role in securing the future of the Jewish homeland which has been sought after for thousands of years.

Netanyahu’s approach draws parallels with historical moments where leaders faced tough decisions in times of conflict. Much like Moshe Dayan’s leadership during the Six-Day War, which transformed the landscape of the Middle East and secured a decisive victory for Israel, Netanyahu’s current stance is poised to redefine Israel’s security environment.

During World War II, tens of thousands died in the firebombing of Dresden. The bombing disrupted German military and transportation networks and completely decimated what was left of civilian morale.

Similarly, President Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb in World War II, albeit controversial, effectively ended the conflict, saving countless American lives that would have been lost in a protracted war.

Netanyahu’s commitment to eradicating Hamas’s military capabilities, a group known for using women and children as shields in hospitals, schools and even beneath United Nations facilities, highlights the harsh realities of modern asymmetric warfare.

The strategy of Hamas to embed its militant operations within civilian infrastructure and its ongoing detention of over 100 hostages not only makes military responses more complex but also places innocent lives at great risk. Hamas even threatens its own people and their families with death if they surrender or cooperate. This approach, universally condemned, presents a significant challenge to effectively counter while minimizing harm to civilians.

Criticism of Netanyahu’s strategic decisions has emerged, notably from President Biden, who has expressed concern over the humanitarian implications of the conflict. As Biden navigates his reelection campaign, he encounters pressure from the progressive wing of his party, many members of which have been accused of harboring antisemitic views.

However, the question arises: Would the expectations be the same if the United States faced a similar threat? Drawing parallels between Israel’s current predicament and America’s response to the 9/11 attacks underscores the complexity of engaging with non-state actors who do not adhere to the traditional rules of war.

The loss of innocent lives in Gaza is horrific, yet the responsibility lies squarely with Hamas and its abhorrent tactics. Despite widespread criticism, Israel will proceed with a ground invasion of Hamas’s last stronghold in Rafah while providing the best efforts for the safe passage of the civilian population.

The scenario of hostages and civilians being used as human shields is a distressing reminder of the brutal reality of terrorism that Israel faces. It is a tactic designed to exploit the moral compass of democratic societies, knowing that such actions place democratic leaders in a quandary over how to respond without causing harm to innocent lives.

Yet, Netanyahu’s leadership navigates this treacherous terrain with a clear-eyed focus on the long-term security and stability of Israel, drawing upon the collective spirit and resilience of its people.

Netanyahu recently said people against entering Rafah “are basically saying lose the war, keep Hamas there. And Hamas has promised to do the Oct. 7 massacre over and over and over again.”

Israel’s mission to dismantle Hamas’s military capability is a dire necessity, not just for its immediate security, but as a deterrent against future aggression from the likes of the Houthi rebels, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, ISIS and other evil actors past, present and future. The message is clear: Hiding behind innocents will not be tolerated, and those who threaten the safety of their own people to shield themselves from retaliation will be held accountable.

In the aftermath of this conflict, when the threat of Hamas has been eliminated, Israel would be wise to embark on a Marshall Plan to rebuild Gaza and provide special aid to surviving children. But today, leadership is a lonely endeavor for Netanyahu.

As written in Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers: “If I am not for myself who will be for me.” No matter the popular sentiment of the day, in the fullness of time, statues will be erected to commemorate Netanyahu’s courage. His leadership is a beacon for democratic nations worldwide, exemplifying the resolve required to confront and eradicate the scourge of terrorism.

“Peace through strength” implies that occasionally, the demonstration of that strength may be necessary. Israel’s demonstration of strength today will earn the respect of the world tomorrow.

The path to peace is fraught with difficult decisions, but history honors those who, in the face of existential threats, choose the security and liberty of their people over appeasement and inaction.

Earle Mack is a former United States ambassador to Finland. He is a partner with the Mack Company, a real estate development and investment firm, and a trustee of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.

Read the full post from Earle I Mack on The Hill: https://thehill.com/opinion/international/4485076-a-profile-of-benjamin-netanyahus-courage/