Editorial: A message for Hamas

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.

Hamas shooting (photo credit: Associated Press)
Hamas shooting
(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 days.
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 horrific.
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 taxi driver.
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 injury.
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 in 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 mortars.
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 Mavi Marmara 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 pays.
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.
A clear 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.