by Barry Rubin
Last December, Hamas unilaterally ended its ceasefire with
In addition, Israelis know that Hamas is totally dedicated to their personal and collective destruction. The group will not moderate, cannot be bought off, and will not respect any agreement it makes. As a result, the usual kinds of diplomatic tools — concessions, confidence-building, agreements, moderation resulting from having governmental responsibilities, will not work. Any solution short of Hamas's fall from power will bring more fighting in future.
What should happen is that the international community cooperates in the removal of the Hamas regime. It is an illegal government, brought to power by an unprovoked war against the Palestinian Authority (PA) which was the internationally recognized regime in the Gaza Strip. Hamas may have won the elections but it then seized total power, suspended representative government, and destroyed the opposition.
Moreover, Hamas is a radical terrorist group which openly uses antisemitic rhetoric and actively seeks to wipe
From a strategic standpoint, Hamas is a member of the Iran-Syria alliance which seeks to overthrow every Arab regime in the
If, however, the world is not going to support Hamas's fall from office,
What then are
Two possible outcomes are rejected:
There are at least six major things
• The practical weakening of Hamas. Granted it will continue to be aggressive in future, its losses will reduce Hamas's ability to hurt Israeli citizens.
• Deterrence, while retaining its longer-term goals, Hamas will be more reluctant to attack
• Border control, a change from the situation in which Hamas can import weapons fairly freely to a stricter order in which humanitarian aid but not arms can come in.
• The return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, seized in a Hamas attack on Israeli soil and held hostage, lacking any contact with international humanitarian groups.
• A reduction of Hamas's standing among Palestinians. Despite macho and religious rhetoric about Hamas's strength, Gaza Palestinians are more eager for a return of the PA;
• Regional perception of Hamas's defeat, lowering support for the Iran-Syria alliance and encouraging more moderate Arab forces to resist radical Islamism and Tehran's power.
Despite this being the best realistic program,
Hamas will break any agreement and not change.
The international community is weak and contains tendencies toward appeasing extremists to avoid trouble.
Thus, even this best-case scenario has problems. First, Hamas will return to building up its forces for future confrontations, teaching a whole generation that it should prepare to sacrifice itself to achieve a "final solution" of the Israel problem. In short, any outcome that leaves Hamas in place is at best a lull until the next round.
Second, it is quite possible that within days or weeks of any agreement, Hamas — partly to prove to itself and others how it remains unbowed — will return to firing rockets and mortar rounds into Israel as well as trying to carry out terrorist attacks across the border. In that case,
Finally, as long as Hamas survives as rulers of the Gaza Strip, it will be impossible to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The PA will be too intimidated to make compromises and cannot even deliver its own people. There can be no Palestinian state with half the territory being controlled by an organization which will never accept an agreement and will do everything possible to wreck it.
"Saving" Hamas and making the main or sole priority pushing for a ceasefire at any price is a very short-sighted policy for the international community which will be paid for in future. If the
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.