(photo credit: Associated Press)
Hamas’s leadership apparently believes it has an interest in escalating tension
with Israel. This would explain the new wave of Kassam rockets and mortar fire
directed at residential areas adjoining the Gaza Strip in recent
The US, the Europeans and others in the international community
must urgently make it clear to the heads of Hamas that they are wrong, that
bellicosity does not pay.
Mercifully, as of this writing, the latest
barrage to hit Israel has not caused any injuries. But the potential for tragedy
is considerable – as was demonstrated Wednesday morning when a mortar exploded
near a kindergarten in the western Negev just before children were slated to
arrive. The consequences of a blast just a few minutes later could have been
The new belligerence – whether orchestrated by Hamas or by one
of the half-dozen al-Qaeda-inspired organizations operating in Gaza given free
rein by Hamas – seems to be connected to the recently launched direct talks
between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
In July, one day after the
Arab League gave its blessing to direct talks, Gaza-based Islamists fired an
Iranianmade Grad missile at Ashkelon, causing shell shock to several residents
and damage to a building and cars. They followed up by lobbing an upgraded
Kassam rocket at Sderot, which completely destroyed a children’s hydrotherapy
rehabilitation center at Sapir College. Grad rockets were also fired at the Red
Sea and Aqaba ports by Hamas terrorists operating in Sinai, killing a Jordanian
Hamas and other Muslim extremists are all-too predictably
intent on wreaking havoc and undermining even this fragile new effort to achieve
peace and coexistence in the region.
ISRAEL’S OBLIGATION, like that of
any other democratic sovereign state, is to assure the security and well-being
of its citizens. Operation Cast Lead, the IDF’s 22-day military assault on Hamas
in the winter of 2008-2009, was the inevitable response to thousands of rockets
and mortars that had rained down on Israel – an onslaught that had intensified
and penetrated ever deeper into Israel after the 2005 withdrawal from the Strip.
The operation led to a long period of relative quiet.
In the latest
escalation, the IDF has so far limited itself to retaliatory air strikes against
specific targets, such as the underground tunnels used for arms smuggling or
known Hamas strongholds. But with a moral obligation to defend his citizens,
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be unable to exercise restraint for long,
especially if, heaven forbid, further fire from Gaza causes greater
The insistent fire is all the more frustrating considering
Israel’s wrenching demolition of the Gaza settlements and removal of the IDF
five years ago, which provided the Palestinian people with the unique
opportunity for self-rule.
In a disappointing, though not unexpected,
turn of events, Hamas, which promulgates The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
its official charter, wrested control over the Israeli-free territory in a
bloody coup against the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority and, instead of
working toward building an autonomous Palestinian state that could have won
international recognition, intensified the barrage of rockets and
Shortly after the June 2007 Hamas takeover, Israel blockaded
Gaza in a failed attempt to stop the inflow of arms and to dissuade Hamas from
pursuing terror. Operation Cast Lead was a last resort.
In response, the
international community condemned Israel for refusing to suffer quietly. Skewed
criticism culminated in the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report. In the wake of the
debacle, Israel, under further heavy international pressure, was
forced to loosen its blockade even after it became clear that there was no
humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
All this has taught Hamas that terrorism
BUT THE US, the Europeans and others in the international community
have an opportunity to learn from past mistakes.
Before Israel is forced
to resort to a military operation similar to Cast Lead, the international
community must pressure Hamas into desisting from terror and using its energies,
instead, to care for the welfare of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.
message must be communicated: It is Hamas’s destructive policies, such as the
current attempt to escalate the conflict with Israel, that are the source of
Gaza residents’ miseries, not Israel’s justified acts of self-defense.