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Another Israel-Hamas war is inevitable
By BARRY RUBIN
03/27/2011
The Region: Egyptian revolution, incompetent and mistaken US policy make conflict with Gaza certain.
 
I’m going to make a prediction here that, unfortunately, I’m sure is going to come true. Any good analyst should be able to see this, yet few will, until it happens within the next two years: The Egyptian revolution will make another Israel-Hamas war inevitable, with a lot more of an international mess.

And I’ll go a step further: An incompetent and mistaken US policy makes such a conflict even more certain.

Why?

First, Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is a revolutionary Islamist movement which genuinely views itself as directed by God, considers Jews to be subhuman, believes that a willingness to court suicide and welcome death will ensure victory and is certain that it is going to destroy Israel and then transform Palestinian society into an Islamic Garden of Eden. The well-being and even physical survival of the people it rules is of little importance to it.

Given this, there are only two ways to stop Hamas from waging war on Israel. The shorter-term solution is deterrence through strength. The defeat Hamas suffered in the 2008- 2009 war forced it to retrench and become cautious for a while.

The only longer-term solution is the overthrow of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, with the maximum possible destruction of the organization.

Events in Egypt, and US policy, have destroyed the shorter-term option, and made the longer-term one impossible.

With better weapons, Hamas will go to war. It’s only a matter of time.

Second, the Egyptian revolution removed a regime that defined the national interest as having an anti- Hamas policy. The Mubarak government did not maintain sanctions and an (albeit imperfect) blockade of weapons for Israel’s benefit.

It did so because it saw revolutionary Islamism as the main threat to the nation. This was not, as current US officials would have it, some cynically manipulated mirage to justify dictatorship.

In addition to the direct threat of Hamas subversion in cooperation with other Islamist groups, the Mubarak government saw Hamas as part of a broader, Iran-led strategic threat.

A new government, whether radical nationalist, Islamist or “liberal democratic,” will have the opposite view.

THE MUSLIM Brotherhood views Hamas as its closest ally and wants it to overthrow the Palestinian Authority as well as destroy Israel. The nationalists support Hamas as part of the larger Arab struggle against Israel. The “liberal democrats” do so because they know this is a very popular position with Egyptians, and therefore to oppose it would reduce their already tiny base of support.

And so Hamas knows it now has an ally rather than an enemy at its back.

Moreover, there is no incentive in Egypt – or among its nationalist and Islamist-sympathetic officers – to block arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is thus greatly strengthened and made more confident, and hence arrogant. It is more able to fire mortars and launch rockets and cross-border attacks, and far more eager to do so.

As for US policy, while supporting some sanctions on Hamas and refusing to engage with it, the US government has not supported overthrowing the Gaza regime, though any serious assessment of US interests shows this should be a priority – part of the war against Iranian hegemony in the region, revolutionary Islamism, terrorism and instability. Even more, doing so would aid the moribund peace process by keeping the Palestinian Authority in power.

But there is no appreciation for these points in Washington today.

What makes matters worse is the Obama administration’s demand – after about a half-dozen Islamist militants were killed on a ship after they attacked IDF soldiers – to minimize sanctions.

Thus, the Obama administration is not just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, it’s enlarging the hole below the water line.

This ensured that there would be a genocidal, revolutionary Islamist, subversion- spreading, anti-American, brutally repressive, anti-Christian, misogynist Iranian client on the Mediterranean.

What’s really alarming is that the description in the previous sentence is not in the least exaggerated.

We’re talking about a regime like the Taliban here.

Now, US support for a transformation of Egypt, with no idea where that will lead, has helped turn that nation into a Hamas ally. The Obama administration has also supplied one more reason why revolutionary Islamists feel the future belongs to them, America is finished in the region and why they should be even more aggressive.

What we are seeing now is Hamas getting new weapons and escalating its use of terrorism. In addition, we are not even seeing significant international action or even criticism of this behavior.

On the contrary, the more terrorism Hamas commits, the more Israel is criticized in the Western media.

Terrorism works; aggression goes unpunished. Why be surprised that Hamas becomes increasingly confident?

It’s only a matter of time until Hamas once again launches a larger-scale assault on Israel. At that point, Israel will have to respond with a major counterattack on the Gaza Strip.

Will Egypt remain neutral? Will its government stop the Muslim Brotherhood and its sympathizers, or rush arms, money and even armed Egyptian volunteers into the Gaza Strip? Will the West blame Israel for the violence? Will the US take any productive action?

This crisis is inevitable, though it might take a couple of years. Yet nobody outside Israel sees – or wants to see – what’s coming.

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal and Turkish Studies. www.rubinreports.blogspot.com
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