Monday, June 4, 2018

Is toppling Hamas necessary? - Maj. Gen. (ret.) Gershon Hacohen

by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Gershon Hacohen

We must give serious consideration to whether ending Hamas rule in Gaza and handing the Strip over to the PA truly serves Israel's interests.

The criticism over the early conclusion of the last ‎round of hostilities in the Gaza Strip, "before a ‎decisive result was achieved," is not new and is ‎similar to the disappointment of a crowd ‎watching a boxing match that failed to end with a ‎knockout. ‎

In light of this disappointment, one must ask ‎whether there is now even a need ‎to quash Hamas' rule because, unlike in the boxing ring, ‎the results of a military campaign must be judged in ‎a wide, strategic context.‎

Hamas leaders may have been eager to conclude the ‎fighting, but unlike in Israel, their eagerness had ‎nothing to do with a desire to resume their public's ‎normal routine. Gaza has not seen a productive daily ‎routine in years and Hamas has done nothing to help ‎its rehabilitation. ‎

This illustrates the core difference between ‎Israel's interests and those driving Hamas: As far ‎as Israel is concerned, the ability to resume the ‎public's daily routine nationwide – and especially ‎in the border-adjacent communities – represents ‎victory. Hamas and Iran, for their part, seek to ‎destabilize life in Israel by any means necessary ‎and care very little about how that might affect the ‎Palestinians in Gaza.‎

Those urging the government to topple Hamas' regime share a desire to see the IDF deal the ‎terrorist group a final blow, and warn that any ‎cease-fire will be temporary – as if anything lasts ‎forever.‎

The issues plaguing Gaza are highly complex and ‎complex issues cannot be solved by temporary ‎solutions. Renowned American diplomat Henry ‎Kissinger once said, "Each success only buys an ‎admission ticket to a more difficult problem." So ‎let's say we follow those who urge Israel to seize ‎control of Gaza, topple the Hamas regime, and hand the ‎Strip back to the Palestinian Authority to rule. Is ‎that really in Israel's best interest?‎

Answering this question requires addressing three ‎questions: First, is making a decisive move ‎desirable for Israel under the existing strategic ‎circumstances? Second, what are the chances of such ‎a move yielding the desired result of a stable ‎Palestinian government in Gaza? And third, does it ‎truly serve Israel's interest to potentially spill ‎the blood of its own soldiers to reinstate Fatah's ‎rule in Gaza? ‎

In October 2001, for example, the Americans ‎succeeded in dismantling Taliban forces in ‎Afghanistan within three weeks. Since then, despite ‎huge investments, the area has remained largely ‎destabilized. The American-led war on the Islamic ‎State group in Mosul took nine months – who's to say ‎a similar battle in Gaza would be any shorter?‎

Perhaps we should focus on a more burning question – ‎deciding between the proponents of the two-state ‎solution who advocate returning to the 1967 lines ‎and dividing Jerusalem, and those who argue that the ‎two-state solution poses a strategic threat – before ‎we focus on whether or not Israel should defeat ‎Hamas in Gaza. ‎

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Gershon Hacohen


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