No Peace Until Hamas Rules Gaza

WASHINGTON – In a recent editorial, (Stop the rockets, but lift the siege, July 20th, 2014), The Economist provides  thoughtful suggestions about how to end the current Israeli invasion of Gaza, while creating the foundations for serious negotiations leading to a final settlement of the perennial conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

What about Hamas?

What I find baffling, however, is that there is nothing in this piece about Hamas radical intransigence, and about its refusal to finally recognize Israel’s right to exist.

I fully appreciate that there are equally intransigent factions within Israel that want to hang on the occupied territories, because they believe that the whole of Palestine is part of the Promised Land.

Israeli fundamentalists are a real obstacle to serious negotiations, that is negotiations aimed at reaching a final, equitable and sustainable peace agreement.

Israeli intransigence is the problem

Still, to say, as The Economist does, that the only obstacle to peace “stems fundamentally from the refusal of Israel to negotiate in good faith to let the Palestinians have a proper state encompassing both Gaza and the West bank” is a huge misrepresentation of reality.

While it is proper to question Israel’s good faith and real intentions, I see nothing in this analysis and list of recommendations about the role of Hamas. The Economist says only that, in order to move forward towards peace, “Hamas must promise not to fire its rockets into Israel”. That’s it?

Stop launching rockets

Let me say that this is a ridiculously low bar. Based on this, if Hamas, for the time being, stops launching rockets –as opposed to a solemn, public pledge to give up all terror attacks and all violence, especially violence aimed at Israeli civilians, while recognizing Israel’s right to exist–  the organization is immediately recognized as a legitimate political entity that should be fully engaged in future negotiations?

And why does Hamas have all these rockets? And why did Hamas use its limited financial resources to construct a vast network of tunnels reaching into Israel? And –most fundamentally– is it a good idea to negotiate with a counterpart that is unwilling to recognize Israel’s right to exist?

Not to mention the destructive role played by outside parties in the rest of the Arab world, eager and willing to fund and supply Hamas knowing full well how their aid will be used.

Silence on Hamas betrays an anti-Israel bias

These are well-known issues. But, according to The Economist, they do not play any role. Just get Hamas to promise that it will stop attacking Israel, (for how long? A month? A year?), and all will be well.

This silence on Hamas’ intransigence, stemming as we all know from deeply rooted ideological biases, is completely disingenuous, betraying an anti-Israel bias.

This old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is difficult enough. There will be no meaningful steps towards its resolution if we purposely ignore the actual role played by key actors.

Israel Will Be Forced To Stop Its Offensive Against Hamas

WASHINGTON – Predictably, Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza strip has been loudly condemned by international public opinion. The news coverage is only about the large number of Palestinian civilians killed or wounded by Israeli fire. It is about the destruction of homes, schools and hospitals. 

Cruel Israelis

So, there you have it. The cruel Israelis used a pretext to invade Gaza in order to inflict horrible pain on poor and defenseless Palestinians. This is the official, universally accepted narrative; and there is no way of changing it.

To the extent that the world acknowledges that there are Hamas hostile actions against Israel, they are immediately condoned on the basis of the fact that people under perennial military occupation are driven to take desperate counter measures. Yes, Hamas launches a few rockets here and there into Israel. But who wouldn’t, under the circumstances?

The broader context does not matter

Never mind that Israel does not occupy Gaza, having withdrawn from the area years ago. Never mind that Gaza was supposed to be demilitarized. Never mind that the Gaza Palestinian population created the preconditions for this state of permanent warfare with Israel by voting for Hamas, a terror group, (with a political wing), openly committed to the destruction of Israel.

So, given all this, can Israel “win”, now or at any time in the future, against Hamas? I very much doubt it. Victory could be achieved only through the complete delegitimization of Hamas.

Hamas will stay in charge

In other words, the Gaza Palestinians –and the rest of the Arab world– would need to have the strength and the cohesion to say: “Enough. We want to live in peace. To the extent that Gaza is deliberately used as a staging area for rocket assaults against Israel and/or other aggressive actions, we shall never have peace. Hamas, you are out of here. No more money. No more weapons”.

Well, this change of heart would be nice. But I would not count on it. And do not count on Hamas all of a sudden becoming reasonable. Hamas leaders live in their own world in which there is only violence and conflict, until Israel is destroyed.

Israel cannot win

This being the case, Israel cannot win against a determined enemy that is totally embedded among civilians, in a densely populated area. Victory would be possible only through a prolonged and nasty fight that would entail the virtual destruction of Gaza, with thousands and thousands of civilian casualties.

And Israel simply cannot do this, because of the universal condemnation that such a campaign would provoke. (By the way, this is exactly how President Vladimir Putin won his war against the separatists in Chechnya in 2000. He destroyed the province, completely. Its capital, Grozny, was called by the United Nations in 2003 “the most destroyed city on earth”. But the international media did not tell us much about that ruthless campaign that costs thousands of Chechen lives. After all this was “just” a Russian internal matter, right?)

Tactical success, and then back to conflict

In the end, unless Israel wants total international isolation, the most that can be achieved through the current Israeli military invasion of Gaza is a blow to Hamas and the destruction of a few more tunnels that the terror group planned to use to infiltrate Israel.

Once a cease-fire is in place, you can count on Arab friends to resupply Hamas, so that it can start all over again.