Dark days lie ahead. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops are preparing to cross into Gaza, facing a bloody, street-to-street fight. 

Dark days lie ahead. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops are preparing to cross into Gaza, facing a bloody, street-to-street fight.  (Office of Congressman Gary Ackerman/Wikimedia Commons)

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Even now, the full scale of the horror visited on Israel by Hamas terrorists last weekend is hard to fathom. A brief scan of the news yields images of mangled bodies and slaughtered innocents; footage of terrified young people, gunned down or carted off in captivity at a music festival; witness accounts of elderly and disabled victims, indiscriminately killed. A massacre at the kibbutz of Kfar Aza included young children.

Dark days lie ahead. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops are preparing to cross into Gaza, facing a bloody, street-to-street fight.

Their stated goal is to destroy Hamas as a fighting force. Any nations that have the best interests of either Israelis or Palestinians at heart ought to help Israel to complete that task swiftly - and to find a longer-lasting solution once the fighting has ceased.

That begins with the US. President Joe Biden set the right tone in his address on Tuesday, decrying the Hamas attack as “pure, unadulterated evil.” He vowed the US would “make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself and respond to this attack,” and he warned Iran and proxies such as Hezbollah against widening the conflict.

The US should continue backing up those words with actions. At least one carrier battle group will soon be stationed in the region; another may join it. The Pentagon is expediting shipments of bombs, ammunition and missile interceptors to the Israeli military.

Congress should set aside its internal squabbles and move fast to approve further aid.

Even though Iran hasn’t been directly linked to the attack, its money, weapons and training have certainly bolstered Hamas’ capabilities. The White House should pause its recent outreach to the Islamic republic and resume more stringent enforcement of oil sanctions. No disbursements from the $6 billion in oil revenue the US allowed Iran to access for humanitarian purposes should be permitted for now.

The US also needs to lean on its Arab partners to play a more constructive role. None would benefit from violence spreading beyond Gaza, whether to the West Bank or southern Lebanon. Israel almost certainly doesn’t want to reoccupy Gaza any longer than it must, yet any new Palestinian administration imposed at the point of Israeli guns would lack credibility. Arab nations will be crucial to finding a more stable solution.

The US should also underscore that a lasting political settlement remains in everyone’s interests. Asking Israel for substantive concessions will be harder after this experience but also more necessary - and easier if framed as part of a deal to normalize ties with its most important neighbors.

Meanwhile, Arab leaders should remind their citizens that Hamas launched this savage and cowardly attack fully knowing - indeed, hoping - that the Israeli response would result in the death of Gazan civilians. Hamas, as Biden said, does not “stand for the

Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination.” No Arab government should pretend otherwise.

For its part, Israel should remember that a mounting civilian toll in Gaza will only serve Hamas’ interests, and that the longer the conflict lasts, the less international support it will have. Maintaining discipline, minimizing casualties and upholding the laws of war will buy the Israeli military more time to act and preserve the possibility of better relations with Israel’s neighbors in the future. If US intelligence and advice can help Israeli operations - especially attempts to rescue hostages - it should be provided unstintingly.

What Israeli leaders can do as they face up to the grim task ahead is come together. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to form a rare emergency government with opposition leader Benny Gantz. That will hopefully make it easier for Israel to handle the sacrifices to come. Nothing will erase the horrors of Oct. 7. Nothing is more important than ensuring they’re never repeated.

Michael R. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, and chair of the Defense Innovation Board.

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