The murder of four innocent Israeli citizens by Palestinian terrorists near Hebron, and the attack near Ramallah in which two more were wounded, have proven that PA President Mahmoud Abbas does not have the ability to rein in terror. Once again, we are getting ahead of ourselves by trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the Palestinian-Palestinian conflict has been properly addressed.

As the world focuses on Washington for yet another round of talks, we should ask ourselves if it would perhaps be more productive to take advantage of this meeting and work together with all the parties present in Washington to resolve a more immediate problem. Hamas, the terrorist organization which took responsibility for the recent deadly spate of terror, controls the Gaza Strip, where Iranian-supported terrorists are plotting to plunge the entire region back into the Dark Ages.

Under the indifferent gaze of the West, a brutal, Taliban-style Islamist regime is emerging in Gaza. Having forcefully taken control of the area following unilateral disengagement in 2005, Hamas has intensified its reign of terror, first and foremost against the innocent Palestinian people living there.

Following the disengagement, in which Israel voluntarily left every inch of the territory in the hands of Abbas’s PA, Hamas took control of Gaza in a bloody coup that has derailed any chance for peace in the region. Hamas’s continued, unequivocal refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist while actively calling for, and planning its destruction renders the possibility of compromise a completely unrealistic option.

WHEN WE left Gaza, it was assumed that those claiming they were trying to liberate the territory from our yoke would cease attacking the Jewish state and instead focus on building a free and prosperous home for the Palestinian people. Instead, with the help of their Iranian sponsors, missile attacks from the Hamas-controlled territory increased by 500 percent.

From different published reports it is well known that Hamas’s arsenal now stands at more than 5,000 rockets – including long-range missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

Even more worrisome are the reports that since Operation Cast Lead, Iran has invested millions in rebuilding Hamas’s ground forces, and is sending a steady stream of men to training camps in Syria and Lebanon, and even to Iran, to learn advanced military techniques from the Revolutionary Guard.

It is US President Barack Obama’s stated hope for us to reach an agreement with Abbas within one year. But even if we are able to achieve this unlikely goal, and even if he is able to rein in the terrorists throughout Judea and Samaria (a seemingly unlikely scenario based on last week’s attacks), Hamas would still be able to hold our major population centers hostage from Gaza with the threat of rocket attacks.

MOREOVER, WHILE international flotillas are sent to break the naval blockade on weapons smuggling into Gaza, the real siege continues as the Hamas government intensifies its holy war against its own people.

Stringent and oppressive Islamist doctrine is being forced upon the people of Gaza . Hundreds have been arrested for having the courage to speak out against the system, while those perceived as collaborators are routinely executed.

Leaving aside the question of whether it is possible for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to succeed in achieving a true and lasting peace with this partner, how do he and Obama intend to reach an agreement while the issue of Gaza is largely ignored? We must instead focus – together with our American and Egyptian allies and the international community – on tightening the restrictions placed on the Hamas regime. At the same time, we must consider all other options – with their inherent risks – that will lead to this terrorist organization’s downfall.

We cannot bury our heads in the sand any longer and deny that this terrorist theocracy exists along our southern border, repressing its own people while threatening the innocent citizens of Israel. Let’s solve the problem of Gaza first before getting ahead of ourselves and hastily signing half-baked agreements which cannot be realistically implemented.

The writer is deputy speaker of the Knesset and the chairman of World Likud.

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