Among other works, Yuval Noah Harari is the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. He’s recently turned his attention to perhaps the most complex and conflicted recent history of humankind; the Middle East crisis. Unsurprisingly, he’s written a clear, evenhanded, absolutely must-read piece for WaPo (Gift Article): Is Hamas winning the war? Below are a few key excerpts.

+ On Hamas, Harari explains what many in America (including college presidents) don’t seem to understand. The terror group is not after peace or a two-state solution or a better life for residents of Gaza. “Hamas launched this war with a specific political aim: to prevent peace … Hamas slaughtered hundreds of Israeli civilians, in the most gruesome ways it could devise. The immediate aim was to derail the Israeli-Saudi peace deal. The long-term aim was to sow seeds of hatred in the minds of millions in Israel and across the Muslim world, thereby preventing peace with Israel for generations to come.” (You can dislike the current Israeli government, you can be pro-Palestinian, like so many victims on October 7, you can be pro-peace and want a two-state solution, you can and should mourn for the innocent lives being lost, but you can’t be pro-Hamas.)

+ We’re all justifiably worried about the civilians paying a price for the crimes of Hamas. What does Hamas think about their human shields? “Doesn’t Hamas care about the suffering this war inflicts on Palestinian civilians? While individual Hamas activists surely have different feelings and attitudes, the organization’s worldview discounts the misery of individuals. Hamas’s political aims are dictated by religious fantasies … For Hamas, Palestinians killed by Israel are martyrs who enjoy everlasting bliss in heaven. The more killed, the more martyrs.”

+ On the response of the far left in America, especially on college campuses: “They absolve Hamas of any responsibility for the atrocities committed in Be’eri, Kfar Azza and other Israeli villages, or for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Instead, these organizations place 100 percent of the blame on Israel. The link between the radical left and fundamentalist organizations such as Hamas is the belief in absolute justice, which leads to a refusal to acknowledge the complexity of realities in this world.” (With all of today’s sensitivities on college campuses, you’d think they’d be triggered by terrorism.)

+ On the damage done by Netanyahu (in addition to being the leader of the biggest security failure in Israel’s history): “For more than a decade, Israeli governments led by Netanyahu abandoned all serious attempts to make peace with more moderate Palestinian forces, adopted an increasingly hawkish policy regarding the occupation of disputed territory and even embraced the right-wing messianic ideas of Jewish supremacy.”

+ On the dangers of BiBi playing into the hands of Hamas: “As the bodies keep piling up, who will win this war? Not the side that kills more people, not the side that destroys more houses and not even the side that gains more international support — but the side that achieves its political aims. Hamas launched this war with a specific political aim: to prevent peace … If Hamas’s war aims are indeed to derail the Israeli-Saudi peace treaty and to destroy all chance for normalization and peace, it is winning this war by a knockout. And Israel is helping Hamas, largely because Netanyahu’s government seems to be conducting this war without clear political goals of its own.”

+ Of course Israel must defang Hamas, not just for revenge, but because it’s a requirement of “any chance of future peace, because as long as Hamas remains armed, it will continue to derail any such efforts.” (Again, if you are pro peace, you are anti-Hamas. Period.) On the Israeli side, the biggest impediment to a peaceful, post-Hamas world is the terrible, extreme government that Netanyahu has pieced together to remain in power. As Harari explains: “Having been deeply involved in Israeli politics for the past year, I fear that at least some members of the current Netanyahu government are themselves fixated on biblical visions and absolute justice, and have little interest in peaceful compromise.” (I didn’t say the piece was optimistic, but it really is a must read.)

+ Tom Friedman on the conflict being felt by so many pro-peace Israelis right now, who need protection and security, but have contempt for the person leading the effort. “Bottom line: Netanyahu has a completely incoherent strategy right now — eliminate Hamas in Gaza while building more settlements in the West Bank that undermine the only decent long-term Palestinian alternative to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, which Israel needs to safely leave Gaza.” NYT (Gift Article): To Win the War, Defeat Hamas and Stop Settlements.

+ As opposed to how unlucky Israel is with their current leader, America is fortunate in theirs. In his speech on defending Ukraine and defeating Hamas, Joe Biden was pitch perfect; from explaining what’s at stake abroad, to restating what’s required from us here at home, to warning against repeating mistakes America made in our post 9-11 rage. “History has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction. They keep going, and the cost and the threats to America and to the world keep rising. If we don’t stop Putin’s appetite for power and control in Ukraine, he won’t limit himself just to Ukraine.” Here’s Biden’s full Oval Office speech: We’re facing an inflection point in history.

+ Want a glimpse of just how difficult it is to negotiate in the region. Here’s an example from Hussein Ibish in The Atlantic (gift article): The Reckoning That Is Coming for Qatar. “Doha faces the looming risk of being called to account over its record of support for such radical Islamist groups, and especially for Hamas … At the same time, Qatar has long been a key U.S. partner in the Middle East.”

+ “Diminutive, her gray hair cropped short, she is known among activists in Israel and abroad for her seemingly never-ending energy, commitment, and creative efforts to promote peace with Palestinians and equality between Jews and Arabs within Israel.” Time: A Family’s ‘Terrible Hope’ for a Peace Activist Taken Hostage.

+ Two American hostages (a mother and daughter) have been released, Israel says a majority of hostages are still alive, conditions in Gaza are getting more dire as humanitarian aid remains stuck at the border. Here’s the latest from CNN and BBC.