Hamas’s violent message

Rockets attempt to snuff out chance of peace.

August 1, 2010 22:01
3 minute read.
POLICEMEN REMOVE the remains of a Gazan rocket that hit Ashkelon on Friday.

Katyusha 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas received the Arab League’s blessing to resume direct negotiations with Israel. On Friday, Hamas launched an Iranian Grad rocket from Gaza that struck southern Ashkelon, causing shell shock to several residents and damage to a building and cars. On Saturday, Hamas lobbed an upgraded Kassam rocket at Sderot, destroying a children’s hydrotherapy rehabilitation center at Sapir College.

Mortars were also fired.

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The attacks are evidently Hamas’s reaction to new hopes, no matter how slim, for peace and stability between Palestinians and Israelis. Thankfully, there were no casualties.

But if, heaven forbid, Hamas had achieved its murderous goal of killing Israeli civilians, Israel would have been morally obligated to defend its citizens. A retaliatory attack to maintain deterrence would have been launched against Hamas terrorists.

Due to the unconventional nature of warfare in Gaza, where Hamas operatives regularly dress in civilian clothing and use non-combatants as humans shields, innocent bystanders might well have been killed unintentionally. And Abbas, already reluctant to enter direct talks, would have found an easy way out of negotiations with Israel.

The attacks on Ashkelon and Sderot underline the complexities of seeking peace with the Palestinian people split between Gaza and the West Bank. The US and Europe might manage to muscle Abbas into peace talks with Israel. Israel might continue to make far-reaching concessions, such as the 10-month building freeze in place in the West Bank.

But with Hamas running the show in Gaza, the chances of success in any peace endeavor may well be slimmer than they used to be. This has been the situation since June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s PA in a violent coup.

Conventional reasoning postulated that in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF's 22-day offensive in the winter of 2008-2009, a temporary, tactical ceasefire – a tahadiya – was in Hamas’s interest. The terrorist group needed quiet time to replenish its arms caches and rebuild its stock of mortars and rockets.

Apparently, Hamas, with adamant Iranian backing, now feels it is ready for another round of confrontation with Israel. Despite the destruction wreaked on the Hamas’s rocket production facilities during Cast Lead, and despite the blockade – which has been relaxed under international pressure in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident – Hamas has managed to manufacture rockets as well as smuggle in thousands more through underground tunnels.

IT IS blatantly clear that the Hamas leadership and its Iranian patron do not want stability. They do not want the PA and Israel to revive hopes among Palestinians that a readiness for reconciliation and a renewed commitment to negotiations might pay off. Rather, they are advancing the position that the only path to Palestinian self-determination is through armed struggle.

According to a survey conducted in June by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, a significant percentage of Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank agree with Hamas’s approach. Some 43.8% surveyed supported, or strongly supported armed attacks on Israeli civilians inside Israel.

However, there is still a non-violent majority. The survey found that 53.9% were opposed or strongly opposed to attacks on Israelis.

A poll conducted in April by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center reached a similar conclusion, finding that 43.7% of Palestinians supported the option of peaceful negotiations, while 29.8% supported armed struggle and 21.9% supported peaceful resistance.

Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad must provide the Palestinian people with a sane alternative to Hamas’s creed of violence and hatred. Currently, neither man is making a coherent, urgent, insistent case for a Palestinian state living in peaceful coexistence and mutual respect alongside Israel in a two-state solution.

Under the PA, incitement against Israel and a rejection of the Jewish people’s historic, religious and cultural ties to the land of Israel are still rampant.

Hamas’s renewal of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in the South is an attempt to snuff out any faint new chance of progress toward a peaceful settlement to the conflict, and instead to advance the option of armed struggle. Abbas and Fayyad must determinedly offer a peaceful alternative.

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