by Khaled Abu Toameh
Getting rid of the repressive Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip would be good for most Palestinians as well as Israelis.
But it should not be Israel's job alone to overthrow Hamas. Rather, it Is the Palestinians who need to wake up and realize that Hamas is actually causing them huge damage. They need to see that Hamas has brought them nothing but bloodshed, violence and poverty.
Following the recent spate of terror attacks from the Gaza Strip, some Israelis called on the Israel Defense Forces to do its utmost to remove Hamas from power.
Undoubtedly, the IDF has enough power and determination to go into the Gaza Strip and wipe out Hamas. But the price for such a military offensive would be high for Israel: it would claim the lives of many soldiers and civilians and draw international condemnations.
Israel could also find itself once again sinking in the quagmire of the Gaza Strip. The removal of the Hamas regime from power would mean that someone would have to fill the vacuum – in this case, Israel seems to be the only party capable of doing so.
No other party is ready at this stage to take over the Gaza Strip – not even the weak and discredited Fatah faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel has the right to continue defending itself against rockets, missiles and other terror attacks. The best way to do this is by directly targeting the masterminds and the terrorists themselves.
At the same time, Israel should send a strong warning to the Hamas government that is even stronger than a warning against allowing terror attacks to continue from the Gaza Strip. Israel should make it clear that Hamas leaders will not have immunity.
Hamas cannot eat the cake and have it too. If Hamas claims to be in full control over the Gaza Strip, then Hamas should be held fully responsible for any attacks emanating from that area.
If the Hamas government turns a blind eye or even encourages the attacks, then its leaders should also be held accountable. Targeting senior Hamas officials and members of other armed groups would increase the pressure on the Islamist movement and force it to go to the Egyptians and beg for a cease-fire, as was the case last week, when the Egyptians both Hamas and the Israelis to reach a ceasefire. The Egyptians invited the Palestinian groups to Cairo and put pressure on them to stop the attacks. The Egyptians also urged Israel to refrain from a massive ground attsack on Gaza.
Israeli military strikes will undoubtedly weaken Hamas and send most of its top leaders into hiding, but they surely wIll not bring down the Hamas regime.
Removing Hamas from power should be the mission of Palestinians, especially those who voted for the movement in the parliamentary election in 2006. Unless the Palestinians launch their own "Arab spring" and take to the streets to protest against Hamas, there is not much that the IDF could do other than direct "painful blows" and strong messages to Hamas leaders.
Stepping up the pressure on Hamas could embolden some Palestinians to seize the opportunity to try to overthrow the movement. But Israeli intervention could also play into Hamas's hands and rally more Palestinians behind it.
For now, Palestinians do not seem to be moving against Hamas either because many of them continue to support the movement's extremist ideology, or because they do not see a better alternative.
Abbas's Fatah is still not seen by many Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, as a better alternative to Hamas. And there is always the possibility that whoever succeeds Hamas would not be less radical, particularly given the fact that several Islamist groups have popped up in the Gaza Strip in recent years.
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