Truce Will Not Change Hamas (Extract)

Extract of an article in Issue 7, July 21, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. The tahadiyeh or truce with Hamas provides Israel with some genuine gains. It promises quiet in Sderot and the surrounding area, without military or civilian casualties - in other words, without the price of war. Israel stays outside the Gaza Strip, is not saddled with direct responsibility for its inhabitants and shows international opinion the degree to which it prefers peace and quiet to war. All these benefits would have been lost had Israel chosen war to deal with the rocket fire on its civilians. Without the truce, the rocket fire probably could not have been stopped without reoccupying Gaza. For people unwilling to pay the price of a long military stay in the Strip, the truce is the only way to achieve quiet. Moreover, the terms of the deal allow Israel to go on fighting Hamas in the West Bank (although it might be squeezed on this in return for the fundamentalists keeping the peace in Gaza). So what's wrong with the tahadiyeh? For one, it smashes the wall of isolation that Israel has worked so hard to build around Hamas. It turns Hamas into a legitimate organization worldwide, since Israel can hardly insist that others ostracize a group that it treats as a bona fide negotiating partner. It also heightens the dangerous possibility of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Israel could again find itself confronted by a two-headed Palestinian leadership, but this time with Hamas as the senior partner. Indeed, Israel could well find itself negotiating a permanent peace deal with the fundamentalists, without their having renounced their declared goal of destroying it. In fact, Israel is sounding Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas's political death knell, because the truce agreement makes Hamas the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The notion that a peace deal with Abbas would reduce Hamas's sway is an illusion; the quiet will enable Hamas to consolidate its takeover of Gaza, and virtually guarantee its success in the next West Bank and Gaza elections. Hamas will also exploit the calm to smuggle arms, build fortifications, conduct training exercises and, in general, to strengthen its armed forces. As a result, the radicals will be much better prepared for war. Worse: On the strategic level, Israel will be seen by the region as a country afraid of war, unable to defend its civilians or to stand up for its interests. Once again, as with Hizballah in 2006, Israel will be seen to have been defeated by a resolute terrorist organization. Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yaakov Amidror, a former head of research in Military Intelligence, is vice president of the Lander Institute, a private college in Jerusalem. Extract of an article in Issue 7, July 21, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.