hamas gunmen gaza 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
After 9/11, the Palestinian leadership was embarrassed by Palestinians cheering the massive terrorist attack against the United States. For some years after, both Fatah and Hamas were careful to distance themselves from al-Qaida, even though Osama bin Ladin at times would wrap himself in the Palestinians' cause. The Palestinians were understandably wary that what had been portrayed as a purely nationalist struggle for their own state might be construed as an adjunct to the jihadist struggle to subjugate the US and eradicate Israel.
Slowly, however, this Chinese wall was dismantled. Last year, for example, when the US managed to kill al-Qaida's master terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Reuters reported Hamas's reaction: "With hearts full of faith, Hamas commends brother-fighter Abu Musab... who was martyred at the hands of the savage crusade campaign which targets the Arab homeland, starting in Iraq."
This may have been the first time a Palestinian group openly connected itself with al-Qaida, and therefore with the wider jihadist cause.
Today, however, there is no attempt to hide the melding of the Palestinian war against Israel and the jihadist war against the West. Last summer Israel fought a war against Iran's proxy, Hizbullah, and Hizbullah is now widely known to be instigating terrorism against Israel from Gaza. The pictures this week of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal hugging Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are the ultimate symbol of this newly open jihadist alliance.
Though there are rivalries and even wars between radical regimes, all such regimes are at some level also allies, just as all democracies should be. Thus, Islamist Iran finds common cause with secularist Syria, not to mention non-Muslim radical regimes as far flung as North Korea and Venezuela.
The job of the West, more than five years after 9/11, is to work steadily toward a world in which there are no regimes that openly or covertly support terrorism. In this context, it is very disturbing that our government is reportedly poised to capitulate to blackmail from the terrorist regime that is most directly attacking us, that led by Hamas.
On July 2, one week after Gilad Schalit's capture by Hamas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his cabinet, "Everyone knows that capitulating to terrorism today means inviting the next act of terrorism. We will not do this." One week later Olmert banged his hand on the cabinet table and said, "Releasing Palestinian prisoners to Hamas would be the end of the moderates... It would send a signal to all the international players that Israel only knows how to talk after a kidnapping, and only with the extremists."
In the coming days, Israel reportedly will do just that - release hundreds of prisoners to both Abbas and Hamas, who presumably are to be joined in a unity government - in exchange for our soldier, whom we and the international community had demanded should be unconditionally released.
We, too, rejoice in the thought that Gilad Schalit, for whose safe return the entire nation has prayed, could soon be at home with his family. But was OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin wrong in July when he warned that every successful kidnapping breeds three or four more? Was Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizencot, now OC Northern Command, wrong when he said the goal should be to free Schalit in a manner that would prevent future kidnappings?
It seems that every time our government releases hundreds of prisoners for one or two of our own, the decision enjoys immediate sympathy. But in retrospect the same decision is regarded with deep regret and a consensus that it should never be repeated.
This would seem to be even more the case when the prisoner release will be entirely credited to Hamas, whose leader, Mashaal, just said in Teheran that Palestinians should start preparing for Israel to "disappear" from the world, and which our security establishment says is busy preparing to fight the next war.