“For Hamas... and I suspect for many Palestinians in the West Bank – the only solution is Israel’s elimination.
For many Israelis, the only solution is to continue to occupy all captured territories until the Palestinians commit to peace and recognition.”– George Friedman, Stratfor
Sooner or later, a fragile cease-fire will be negotiated, and a lull in hostilities will take hold. For how long, no one knows. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon clearly do not want to re-occupy Gaza or control a population raised on allegiance to terrorism and hatred of Jews. A military operation to eradicate Hamas and all affiliated terrorist groups would take many months, if not years, to achieve. The toll on IDF soldiers and Palestinian civilians will be beyond what the US, the world, or Israel can bear. This is not good news for Israeli communities in the south. Add to this the danger of the potential chaos and anarchy that may ensue in the vacuum that would be created with the fall of Hamas.
If the Palestinian Authority is unwilling to govern Gaza because it fears accusations of complicity with the Zionist enemy, who will step in? Forgotten is that the collapse of peace talks in May preceded the June kidnappings and Operation Protective Edge. The primary American negotiator, Martin Indyk, a reliable critic of Israel, blamed Israel for the failure of the talks. Indyk blamed Israel despite the fact that it was PA President Mahmoud Abbas who broke his promise not to go to the UN for recognition.
Abbas knew that neither Indyk nor US Secretary of State John Kerry would blame him for the failure of talks. Nor did the formation of the unity government of Fatah and Hamas factor into the US’s decision of whom to blame – even though the PA was supposed to have one government and one army.
(Hamas is 100% independent from the PA.) This brings us to the upcoming collision between the US and Israel. Kerry and US President Barack Obama will claim that this Hamas-initiated war is actually an opportunity for a breakthrough for peace. Despite President Abbas still demanding the right of return for refugees, and vowing never to accept a Jewish state, he is seen as a trustworthy negotiating partner by the US administration. (Kerry apparently still believes that his destiny is a Nobel Prize for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the more overwhelming concerns of global Islamist jihad growing throughout the Middle East, threatening American national security interests.) American pressure probably will be in the form of a quid pro quo. We will try to stop the PA from charging Israel with war crimes before the International Criminal Court, the US will say, but you, Israel, must agree to negotiate based on the 1967 “borders,” and allow the PA to include Hamas in a technocratic government. There will be language and rationalizations that Hamas accepts previously signed PA treaties, but anyone other than the naïve, malevolent or ignorant will dismiss this as folly.
Next, America will pressure Israel to open trade and sea routes in the name of humanitarianism and insist the PA be present at the crossings.
With global jihad on the march throughout the Middle East, Hamas will rightly claim victory if it is not completely demilitarized, and its commerce and trade are reinstated. The billions in foreign aid that will pour into Gaza will erase any memory of the pain Israel inflicted as deterrence against future missile and tunnel attacks.
The US will likely clash with Israel over what constitutes effective demilitarization. Israel’s past experience with international forces and false promises in this regard justifies any skepticism on its part. UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was supposed to keep southern Lebanon missile-free after the Second Lebanon War in 2006. UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) allowed nearly 100,000 Hezbollah missiles to enter Lebanon over an eight-year period (2006- 2014), and intercepted none.
Similarly, UN Resolution 1860 called for the prevention of “illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition” to Gaza after Operation Cast Lead in 2008.
Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014 clearly demonstrate the ineffectiveness of international guarantees for demilitarizing Islamist terrorists.
A bipartisan American Congress has been much wiser and realistic about whom to call America’s friend in the region, and it is not the administration’s choice of Qatar and Turkey, Hamas’ main supporters.
The author is founder and director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political and Information Network.