How did we get here?
How did we reach this sad moment?
Hamas, a terrorist group that has clearly dictated in its founding declaration its will to annihilate Israel. Its ideology is radical, based on the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, and
among other affairs protects the idea of reinstalling the caliphate into power; the ancient and religious values of Islam. This rigid ideology, does not accept the existence of Israel in one square meter of Middle Eastern land. That said, it is plausible to conclude that Hamas does not want and will not accept any kind of peace conversation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
So long as the talks are progressing, something bad , very bad happens. It happened in 2006 when Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier was kidnapped. It also happened in late 2008, before Operation Cast Lead and it occurred now once again. Whenever Israel and the P.A. peace talks become deeper and advance towards an actual peace accord, it is in the ultimate interest of Hamas to provoke and encourage a confrontation.
This time was different however. Israel today is led by a complicated coalition government which has a different way of looking at the peace process as there are many internal differences between the ideologies of the political parties constructing the Israeli coalition. By having more than one voice inside the same cabinet, this shows a lack of interest by the Israeli side, and makes it almost technically impossible to continue peace negotiations. On the other hand, Abbas, while strategically trying to increase Fatah’s power, found a moment of weakness for Hamas where he could offer the group the following: Palestinian National Authority returns to rule Gaza, but Hamas will not have ministers in the government; or in other words, Hamas would abdicate its forced rule over Gaza to a combined rule, lead by Fatah.
Obviously Hamas, more isolated than ever before, without Egypt’s support since General SISI’s election, and the loss of Syria, said a big yes to the Abbas’s offer. Israel received that with reserves and strong doubts. On the one hand the government of the Palestinian Authority is negotiating with Israel while merging with Hamas which solely wishes to destroy Israel. On the other hand, a joint government with Hamas that talks with the Israelis could very slowly bring Hamas to a more pragmatic and less radical stance – otherwise a group that stands so firm in its position to destroy Israel would not join a government union who negotiates with its enemy.
Israel started then, to make great efforts to show the world the true face of Hamas and how a Palestinian government, supported by the U.S. and EU dishonorably shakes hands with a terrorist organization.Throughout those efforts, on June 12th, a Thursday, three Israeli teenagers were abducted.
The release of the phone call that one of them made to the police, is almost 100% clear that the kidnappers killed them by executing them in the car, minutes after having been captured. Even Abbas helped in this search and the Palestinian intelligence services gave information to help the Israeli security services to the arrest of over 400 members of Hamas.
Important to understand: Hamas has thousands of members and many of them are entire families, who operate as clans and have influence on the group leadership as they have thousands of followers. The ideology of clans varies, and some of those clans are even more radical than the political and official position of the group. The two suspects of the Israeli teens are, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amar Abu Aisha, who belong to the “Qawasmeh” clan; known for its power, its thousands of followers and its disobedience to the orders and policies of Hamas.
The answer to this question was clear: Hamas is responsible for its members, even disobedient ones. The country was in shock and millions mourned the tragic news. Meanwhile, a group of Jewish vigilantes fueled by the fury sweeping through the country resorted to the horrible tactics of Hamas itself, kidnapping and murdering a young 16 years old Arab. This cowardly, deplorable, unnecessary and unforgivable act, was seen by Arabs as as a collective revenge of the Jewish people; a notion far from the truth. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis condemned the Arab boy’s murder while many Israeli Jews went to visit the boy’s family in East Jerusalem. Even Prime Minister Netanyahu called the boy’s father, and conveyed to him that Israel would not permit the criminals to avoid justice. Within a few days all of them suspects were arrested.
The missiles started falling on Israel after the Israeli operation against Hamas in the West Bank and on Monday July 7th, the current Protective Edge operation was initiated after a 48 hour ultimatum, meaning that the escalation of this conflict is 100% responsibility of Hamas.
Again Israel finds itself in the same situation, as the last two operations in 2009 and 2012.
Israel took no strategic steps that could change the long-term future in Gaza during the last decade, and in order for this to be possible either one of the two following scenarios had to occur: Either Hamas had to abdicate its arms and recognize Israel or Israel would need to take out Hamas from power completely. To achieve this objective a ground invasion of Gaza would be the only solution. The benefits would be freeing the Palestinians of Gaza from living under a cruel Islamic dictatorship, freeing the P.A. from having to deal with this detrimental faction, and for Israel, the benefits would be obvious. The destruction of Hamas would only be achieved by entering Gaza, using military might, all-while a clear objective would have to be set by the IDF in order to take over Gaza; this operation would result in long and hard fighting. During this period, a number of problems will come, and as time passes, Israel would need to deal with big dilemmas and complicated affairs.
Israel has a strategic tendency to fight short wars, maximum 1 or 2 months, due to internal, external pressures and financial issues. An action to end the war with Hamas in Gaza would take months; perhaps even more than a year. Therefore Israel will have to decide, creatively, what action to take against Hamas and the other terrorist groups in Gaza.
One issue however needs to be clear; If a cease fire will be declared soon, Hamas will rise, and declare victory, setting the timer for the next round of terror sooner than later. Hamas has survived all operations taken against them in recent years despite the deep destruction and losses that the terrorist group incurred. This time, Israel must completely change the game and use the current situation to achieve a strategic gain, not just a tactical one. Believe it or not, it is in situations like these where Israel, being the strong side, has an incredible array of options to return to peace negotiations. Only an initiative that combines military, political and diplomatic action, will be beneficiary on the long term for all citizens of both sides.
Itzhak Rabin said: “We will treat terrorism as if there was no peace process, and we will treat the peace process as if there was no terrorism. “