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EDITORIAL: Israel moves forward and Hamas wants to bargain

Let it be noted that Hamas raced to the bargaining table once it became evident that Israel was prepared to follow through on its vow to enter Rafah and to finish off the terror group. Strange how that works.

Strange, because the Biden administration, in its effort to appease the hard-left activists who dominate the Democratic Party and who have thrown their lot behind a barbaric terror organization, has ignored the obvious dynamics. The White House, to placate progressives, has spent the past many months backing off its support for Israel and pressuring the Jewish state to stand down. This played into the hands of Hamas, which counted on Western criticism of Israel to ensure it could terrorize another day.

On Sunday, however, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a direct message to Mr. Biden — and to Hamas. “No amount of pressure, no decision by any international forum, will stop Israel from defending itself,” he said. “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. But we know we are not alone because countless decent people around the world support our cause.”

On Monday, Israel ordered civilian evacuations in eastern Rafah. (That in and of itself highlights a major difference between the two sides in this war.) Israeli tanks then advanced in a targeted approach to rooting out remaining Hamas fighters. On Tuesday, according to various news reports, Israeli troops seized the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt, an area from which Hamas had fired rockets into Israel.

Not surprisingly, Hamas rushed to submit a counteroffer to the latest cease-fire proposal shortly after Israel launched the incursion. The details were macabre and revealing. According to The New York Times, the terror group sought a six-week stop in the hostilities in return for the return of a few of the 100-plus hostages Hamas seized during the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the hostilities. But Hamas acknowledges, the paper reported Tuesday, “that not all of the 33 hostages who would be freed … are still living and that the remains of those who have died would be among the initial releases.” Hamas uses the bodies of dead women, children and the elderly as bargaining chips.

Even if such a release were to occur, the terror group would still retain about 100 innocent civilians — including a handful with American citizenship — that it took during the Oct. 7 rampage.

It will be up to Israeli officials to decide whether any Hamas “compromise” is in their nation’s best interest. Negotiations remain ongoing. Until then, demands that Israel unilaterally halt the Rafah campaign are a recipe for continued long-term conflict and a lifeline to Hamas, which can end this war at any time by returning the hostages, accepting Israel’s right to exist and moving forward in peace rather than terror.

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