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Israel must ‘hit back as hard as it can’: David Frum on the Israel-Hamas conflict, 100 days in

Commentary

It has now been 100 days since the surprise terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas. Since October 7th, Israel has launched a military operation into Gaza that remains ongoing, and risks of wider regional escalation grow.

The Hub’s editor-at-large Sean Speer spoke with leading author, journalist, and thinker David Frum on October 7th to get his immediate reaction to the unfolding events. Here, they return to their conversation to discuss the state of the ongoing conflict, how the world’s response has evolved since the initial attack, and what we can expect to happen over the next 100 days.

SEAN SPEER: When we exchanged the day of Hamas’s attack, you said that Israel’s allies should permit it to execute a military campaign to essentially neutralize Hamas as a threat. After 100 days, how would you assess the response from the United States, Europe, and others? Are they following your advice?

DAVID FRUM: The Biden administration has shown magnificent solidarity with Israel. In the past, the U.S. always imposed strict time limits upon Israeli responses to Palestinian terrorist atrocities. This time, the Biden administration has allowed Israel the scope and time it needed, providing important assistance along the way. Unfortunately, Congress—and especially the Republican majority in the House of Representatives—has not shown the same solidarity. House Republicans have blockaded a defence supplemental that would have provided aid to Ukraine and Israel, plus $14 billion for border security. Some are blockading under the influence of Donald Trump’s pro-Russia, anti-Ukraine animus. Others are just playing crass politics.

The attitude of the European Union and the United Kingdom has been nearly equally impressive. High German officials have visited Israel and pledged their support for Israel’s right to defend itself. Fabricated anti-Israel TikTok propaganda videos may influence some young people. Mercifully, they exert much less influence upon major democratic governments.

The bad news is the problem of security against violent attacks and intimidation by antisemitic mobs and individuals inside Western countries. In the U.S., U.K., and EU, this threat is real, worsening, and—to date—poorly policed.

SEAN SPEER: What do you think about Canada’s response over the past 100 days? To what extent is Canada offside its key allies in terms of supporting Israel’s right to defend itself and what do you think explains that divergence?

DAVID FRUM: Canada under the leadership of Justin Trudeau has steered a middle course between doing the right thing and kowtowing to terrorists. The government of Canada has condemned both terrorism against Israel and Israel’s self-defence against terrorism.

When Canadian Jewish populations are harassed or fire-bombed or shot at, the government seems incapable of straightforward statements of solidarity with those who have been harassed, fire-bombed, and shot at. The first priority of Canadian police forces is not to serve and protect populations but to minimize trouble and inconvenience for themselves.

The government’s stated motive is to oppose both antisemitism and Islamophobia. Ironically, the unwillingness to act against bad acts by anti-Israel actors is actually stoking anti-Muslim feeling. Recent polls show that the number of Canadians who regard Islam as a bad influence on Canadian society has jumped over the past 24 months, as many Canadians blame all Muslims for the outrageous actions of a very few.

This government’s real motive appears, as usual, to be panicky dread of bad poll numbers—and appeasement of its NDP coalition partners who could at any time bring this prime minister’s career to an end.

SEAN SPEER: At this stage, how do you think Israel should define success for its military campaign? And do you worry at all that there is a gap growing between how Israel defines it and how the U.S. and other allies define it?

DAVID FRUM: May I object to this concept of “defining success” as applied to existential fights like those of Israel against Hamas and Ukraine against Russia? The concept is not always useless. When the United States and partners strike the Iranian-backed pirates in the Red Sea, then in that case the concept makes sense. Did the piracy stop? Success. Did it continue? Failure.

But when a democratic society is attacked by an aggressor bent on mass destruction, it just has to fight back as best it can. Israel cannot restore life to its murdered citizens, cannot uninflect the trauma of victims of sexual violence. There’s no “success” available here. All it can do is hit back as hard as it can, as long as it can, to restore deterrence as best it can.

SEAN SPEER: What in your mind are the broad contours of a post-conflict plan for Gaza? What is the role of Israel, the Arab states, and the broader international community? How do we create the conditions for greater prosperity and security in Gaza?

DAVID FRUM: I have proposed ideas on Twitter, but here I want to sound a different note in response to the final sentence of this question. Asking what “we” can do in Gaza is exactly the question that has brought the region and the world to this tragic impasse. What are the Gazans going to do? How are they going to shift from a project of hate and destruction to a project of nation-building and reconciliation with neighbours? Maybe it’s time to cease treating Gazans as the world’s special-education class and to put the onus for self-improvement upon the Gazans themselves?

SEAN SPEER: What should we look for over the next 100 days to judge the progress towards a sustainable resolution to the conflict and a path forward for Israelis and Palestinians?

DAVID FRUM: Milestones ahead: Release or liberation of Israeli hostages. Death or exile of the hostage-takers. Cessation of aggression not only against Israel from Gaza and Hezbollah-held Lebanon but also against world shipping by Iranian proxies. Accelerating flows of humanitarian aid to civilian populations in Gaza.

Beyond those immediate items, it is past time to resume reinvigorating better governance inside the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank—and then restoring PA police authority inside Gaza. Any final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians has been set back a long time by Hamas’s horrifying aggression. But in the end, Israel and the PA have to be partners in building better lives for all the people who live in the ancient land so sacred to three great religions.

The carbon tax has ‘outlived its political welcome’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

To start the new year, Hub readers discussed many topics over the past week, including a secret report documented by a British Ambassador and what it reveals about Canada, the country’s fiscal outlook, the Canadian legacy media and the Online News Act, Saskatchewan’s cancelling of the carbon tax, and the state of the country’s stagnant economy and finances.

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community to the fore and to foster open dialogue and the competition of differing ideas in a respectful and productive manner. Here are some of the most interesting comments from this past week.

Sign up for our daily Hub Forum email newsletter today.

‘Very Sensitive’ citizens, ‘Bizarre’ politicians: What a British ambassador’s secret report on Canada reveals 40 years later

Monday, January 8, 2024

“Maybe it’s just Canadians don’t speak or act on their truth. They always seem to hold back as if being polite. But I think it’s based on fear. Fear of being too forward, rude, or maybe wrong, we have to quit being followers and act on our own instincts to move forward and make a difference in this country.”

Lynne

“Our young people have little hope of owning their own house, people struggle to buy groceries and gas, and taxes on everything are going up due to an ineffectual and punishing carbon tax. I fear that [Howard] Anglin’s bleak prediction for 2024 will indeed play out. But we must not lose hope.”

BobSt

Don’t buy the government’s rosy projections—Canada’s fiscal outlook is not a pretty picture

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

“As we approach the 30th anniversary of a key course correction that shifted us away from the fiscal wall we were careening towards, Canadians will soon find themselves facing the same consequences of borrowing money we don’t have to spend on federal programs that are the domain of the provinces.”

RJKWells

The best thing Ottawa can do to help the media? Stop trying to help us

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

“When intervening in a market, which should only happen when the significant public good is at risk, governments are on safer (effective) ground when they try to create conditions with clear guidelines for broad and desirable (by society) outcomes, leaving the solutions to the players in that ‘space.’

Governments get into trouble when they try to favour a specific solution, for lots of reasons, most of which are not good. Too often, powerful players use their influence to have the government ‘go the solution route’ that, surprise surprise, favours them. This is what happened here.

A healthy journalism ecosystem is certainly a public good. However, attempting to force the shape of the ecosystem, particularly in a period of rapid technological change, was folly from the start.”

— Paul Attics

Saskatchewan cancelled the carbon tax. Here’s how the other provinces could do the same

Thursday, January 11, 2024

“I sincerely hope that others now follow Saskatchewan’s lead on this. Less tax means people will spend more; hence, more taxes will be collected through the GST and PST, which means that the government will have an increase in general revenue and this will allow funding of green programs to continue.”

Mark

“While the carbon tax is effective, it has outlived its political welcome. In this sense, it’s time to start looking for another economic instrument designed to reduce emissions. I say this for two reasons.

First, climate change is an existential threat, and, in the name of intergenerational equity, action must be taken. The inefficacy objective—i.e., the common line that ‘Canada barely contributes to global emissions’—is insufficient.

Second, although technology will be a significant part of solving our current conundrum (e.g., carbon capture and storage projects), it alone will not get us out of this mess. Simply put, individuals also need to change their behaviour.”

Mike

“I certainly see this as a consumer-friendly option. The expense could become overwhelming for provincial governments and I believe spending money on health care is very, very important as we need more health-care people in the system to complement existing health-care workers, doctors, nurses, registered nursing assistants, and many other support workers.”

Michael Abramowitz

You can thank Trudeau’s policies for our stagnant economy and deteriorating federal finances

Friday, January 12, 2024

“Obviously, the components of our fiscal health (growth, revenue/taxation, and spending) must be in balance over the medium term and beyond. Ideology has little to do with this practical reality at the top level. The current federal government has been chronically out of balance whether in ‘good’ times or ‘bad.'”

Paul Attics

“Being in my 20s, the increasing federal and provincial debt burdens are very worrisome. I say this because it will inevitably result in more taxation down the line, which, apart from costing my age cohort more, will also drive investment—and by virtue of this, jobs—out of our great country. When you combine these potential tax grabs with the fact that housing, food, etc., is increasingly unaffordable, it makes you question whether you can remain in Canada.”

Mike