Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Test of Force with the Hamas.




by Raphael Israeli


Three years after Gilad Shalit was abducted by the Hamas, it has become apparent that the organization has not budged from its starting position of not releasing him, unless Israel responds to their demand of liberating hundreds of Hamas operatives who have committed horrors in Israel. The Hamas has stood consistently by its demands even though part of its parliamentary  leadership, including the Speaker of the Parliament, have been taken into custody by Israel in order to ensure Gilad’s freedom. But like Mustafa Dirani, who was taken by Israel from Lebanon, did not help advance Ron Arad’s cause, so it appears that Speaker Duweik’s incarceration in Israel  has not moved the Hamas from its initial goal. (both were ultimately released one-sidedly in view of the vanity of their arrests).


The Hamas, unlike Israel, has a stronger capacity of resistance to public will, due to its tough, doctrinaire and uncompromising leadership, who does not ply to the pressures of the families of the hostages. Moreover, when such influences are exerted, the Hamas leadership, especially the one abroad which is not subject to local public opinion, has been consistent in subordinating their public will to the greater public clamor of repatriating the many more numerous prisoners of much longer periods.


Consequently, many prominent and devoted Israelis have of late shifted from expecting Hamas to show flexibility, to focusing on the successive Israeli governments of Olmert and Netanyahu to evince more openness to pay the requisite prize and complete the deal. This would, of course, not only credit Hamas with a great victory, but would also constitute the first step towards the next abduction of more Israeli servicemen, in order to ensure a repeat of Israel’s capitulation and the release of yet another bunch of Hamas killers. Let us not confuse ourselves: we are not talking about a process of prisoner exchange that usually follows the conclusion of hostilities between two rivals. On the one hand we are talking about the kidnapping of an innocent Israeli soldier from his defensive position; on the other about thousands of murderers who were convicted by courts of law and incarcerated for long periods.


To posit one side of the equation against the other as if they were equivalent, and demand that Israel ought to show more “flexibility”, as if there were any negotiations when  an un-negotiable ultimatum has been hurled at Israel, who is required to capitulate, does not bode well for the resilience power of our society, nor does it evince any fairness towards our leadership who is required and expected to pronounce the terms of the capitulation, and then take the responsibility for its consequences. Had this been a one-time, aberrant solution, which would have resolved once and for all the problem of Palestinian prisoners, most Israelis would have swallowed it for the sake of the Shalit family and for our national sanity. But the Hamas promises us that this “exchange of prisoners”, if implemented, would be followed by so many more.


Would this capitulation to a gang of unscrupulous murderers, who have vowed the annihilationist goals of their Iranian sponsors, even if Israel should make the requisite concessions to settle the Palestinian issue with the PLO, remain the only option open to us? Do not those who counsel surrender, out of concern for the family of the abducted soldier to be sure, realize, that raising a white flag now would by necessity generate more and more painful and costly losses? Is there truly no other option but to capitulate? There were years when surrender was not even contemplated, since we all understood and feared the price of surrender. Then, in order to rescue our sons, we had to find ways to vanquish the enemy and make it retreat, instead of capitulating to it. It is the Hamas which must come to the conclusion that it stands no chance, in view of the vast arsenal of ideas, initiatives, stratagems which used to and should fill our quiver, especially at a time when our defense is headed by the most daring and decorated commando officer in our history.


All it takes is imagination and determination. We should be prepared, for example, to hurt humanitarian needs of the Palestinians to achieve that goal, announcing to the world that Shalit too is a humanitarian problem which has sapped our national patience for three years, and since the Hamas is responsible for it, any suffering of the Palestinians could be stopped immediately if Shalit is repatriated. Those who only pressure Israel to respond to “humanitarian needs” while our soldier is kept isolated and cut off from the world, should be directed to pressure the responsible Hamas government to put an end to this tragedy. Means such as economic siege, military curfew or a total paralysis of Gaza until Shalit is returned, are doable and no less “moral” than holding Gilad and our entire land hostage to Hamas reprehensible tactics.


We could, for example, announce, after a proper warning, that no food, services, aid would cross into Gaza as long as Gilad is not back. Those who would exert pressures on us or threaten us should be advised that it would be much easier to press the Hamas to relent and thereby bring about the end of the suffering. It is hard to imagine how long the Hamas government could withstand the starvation of the population, but if IT does not care, why should WE? Collective punishment is unacceptable? True, but after three years of torturing 6 million Israelis  because of Gilad, we may also punish 1 million and a half Palestinians to get him back.

We could also impose a curfew on the entire Strip and search it systematically from house to house. That would take time and expense, but we have wasted three years waiting in vain.

We could also arrest all the leadership of Hamas and its government and coerce them to ply to our demand. That would take time and sacrifices, but would be insignificant compared to what we will spare ourselves, if we were to capitulate.


Just think about our regained deterrence, credibility and pride, if we could retrieve Gilad without yielding in the least to Hamas demands and blackmail.




Raphael Israeli teaches Islam at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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