Masked Hamas men hold a press conference 370 (R).
(photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
It is tempting to call for the toppling of Hamas’s rule in Gaza. In the long
run, the only way to stop the barrage of rocket and mortar fire directed at
Israeli civilians may indeed be to remove Hamas from power altogether.
was the case in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, any sort of cease-fire –
even one that comes after a critical blow to Hamas’s infrastructure – will be
Hamas is an anti-Semitic, anti-Western terrorist organization
bent on Israel’s destruction. Driven as it is by religious fundamentalism, its
decision-making process is not necessarily driven by rational
In the name of a distorted form of Islam, Hamas’s radical
leadership apparently has no qualms about causing endless suffering to Gaza’s
civilian population. On a daily basis, Hamas and other terrorist organizations
have fomented hatred in Gaza and called for an uncompromising genocide of “the
Hundreds of thousands of children (44 percent of Gaza’s
1.6 million population is under 14) are raised on despising everything that
Israel stands for – from the sanctity of life and freedom of the press to
equality of all human beings, regardless of their race, religion, gender and
Besides the Palestinian Authority’s intransigence on
issues such as the Palestinian “right of return” and settlement blocs, Hamas’s
rule over 40% of the Palestinian population is the largest obstacle to any peace
agreement with Israel.
Under the current circumstances, the only way to
end the conflict with Gaza is not – as a recent New York Times
suggested – to “negotiate with the Hamas.” On the contrary, ousting Hamas may be
much more helpful.
Unfortunately, though, such an option is not
As proven by America’s experience in Iraq, even with enormous
resources and military power, regime change is an incredibly complex and
To oust Hamas, Israel would be forced to
re-occupy the Gaza Strip – at least temporarily. Such a move would spark broad
international opposition. And few Israelis want to see their sons and daughters
patrolling the streets of Gaza.
Even if Israel succeeded in toppling
Hamas, what would come in its place? In theory, Israel could work to reinstate
the Fatah-dominated PLO in Gaza.
However, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has
been supporting Hamas against Israel in this conflict. Abbas is also stubbornly
insisting on pushing ahead with his UN bid for statehood.
between Israel and the PA are at a new low.
The two sides have not
managed to sit down at a negotiating table; how could they hope to coordinate on
ousting Hamas? Even if Israel succeeds in installing Fatah in place of Hamas,
the regime would be delegitimized in the eyes of Gazans from the outset because
it was created by Israel.
Besides, although Hamas staged a brutal coup in
2007 to forcibly remove Fatah from power, its rule in Gaza is a reflection of
the 2006 Palestinian election results, which it handily won.
We have to
live with the reality that the PLO, which rejected suicide bombings and at least
officially committed to a two-state solution, lost the elections, while Hamas,
which saw these aspects of PLO’s political platform as betrayals, garnered the
majority of Palestinians votes.
Hamas might have lost its popularity
among Gazans since then because it has failed to root out corruption in Gaza as
it promised. But to this day, Hamas and the more extremist Islamist
organizations such as the Iran-aligned Islamic Jihad and various Salafist groups
still represent the opinions of the majority of Gaza’s residents.
Gaza the exception to the rule in the region. It is the norm. The sort of
ideology promoted by Hamas is shared by other Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated
regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey. And the Muslim Brotherhood is on
the rise in additional countries such as Jordan and, perhaps, Syria as
Toppling Hamas cannot be a realistic aim of Operation Pillar of
Defense, as several cabinet ministers have noted.
Rather, Israel’s goal
is to restore deterrence, significantly reduce arms-smuggling into Gaza and
achieve a cease-fire that postpones as long as possible the inevitable next
round of violence.
Perhaps the longer Hamas remains in power and succeeds
in building up institutions in Gaza, the more it will have to lose from the next
IDF operation against Palestinian terrorism.