Now that a 72-hour ceasefire is in place (actually, it was only for a few hours), both sides can take a momentary pause. Hamas will no doubt reload (it already has), but Israel has an opportunity to rethink. Using the next three days wisely might end up with an entirely different calculus in achieving peace with the Palestinians.
Original thinking is not the strong suit of Hamas. Their patterns of behavior are pretty predictable. Blasting rockets, discharging bullets and exploding bombs is the national anthem of the Gazan government. Who can possibly think amid all that noise? If it doesn’t go boom, the leaders of Gaza lose all their bearings.
In all likelihood, three days from now (actually, almost immediately), Hamas and Islamic Jihad will come right out of the gate with all Kamikaze envy, firing wildly, cursing Iron Dome and holding up their dead as twisted justification for their broken ceasefires and wayward rockets. The Gazans are the first suicide nation since Japan succumbed, rather than surrendered, to the secret weapon that ended World War II. The civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however, never garnered the same sympathy as the dead from Operation Protective Edge.
Hamas will go down fighting because they know of nothing else. But can Israel, with its flare for ingenuity and innovation, work a similar magic in remaking the map of the Middle East?
Since the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers, two things have become painfully and irreconcilably clear: Israel should have done more to bolster PA President Mahmoud Abbas as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people; and yet, at the same time, the lesson learned over the past several months is that Abbas has little credibility or influence on the Arab streets that run through Gaza.
Many have said all along that Abbas was the true partner in peace that Israeli governments claimed didn’t exist. He wasn’t the perfect prom date, for sure. His past was blemished, but he was an able partner in the region’s grapevine dance of diplomacy. By strengthening Abbas’ hand, Israel could have also improved his footwork.
Rather than marginalizing Abbas, it would have been better treating him as a statesman and reinvigorating the national aspirations of the West Bank. Had Israel done so, Fatah’s unity government with Hamas might have been scuttled. Appearances always matter. An elevated Abbas could have shown the Palestinians that the president who wears a suit gets an invitation to the Knesset. The terrorists wearing keffiyeh scarves and toting weapons, however, well, those guys are global pariahs and tour guides to hell.
When compared with the corrupt and depraved leaders of Gaza, Abbas looks as harmless and trustworthy as the Swedish pop group, ABBA. After all, the PA president has demonstrated that he can manage the affairs of the West Bank without resorting to violence—even, for the most part, all throughout Operations Brother’s Keeper and Protective Edge.
Israel’s government may now have reason to wonder whether had they treated Abbas differently these past several years, could they have marginalized Hamas out of existence and won over the Gazans, making this entire war unnecessary?
The other revelation from this past month is less sanguine. Abbas was completely impotent in locating the kidnapped teenagers—albeit from the hands of Hamas, but in his own neighborhood. And he was even less successful in prying away the fingers of Hamas from their cherished rocket launchers. Clearly he cannot reform Hamas or arguably deliver a sizable segment of the Gazan population to any meaningful peace agreement.
What we have now is three parcels of land but only two governments capable, possibly, of co-existing together in mutual recognition, respect and legitimacy. Somehow, Gaza will have to be cut loose—at least until Hamas is destroyed and the Gazans find something worthy in what those in the West Bank have built in readying themselves for statehood. After all, who knows whether Hamas might not still win if elections were held in Gaza tomorrow.
It’s a two-state solution—but with Gaza still a work in progress. Israel should show the Palestinians of the West Bank that good things come to those who don’t construct terror tunnels and instead await the building of a nation. In the meantime Israel will have to do whatever it must to demilitarize Hamas. It is too late hoping that terrorists holding firm to genocidal charters are going to one day renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Gaza is not ready for statehood and Hamas are surely no statesmen—no matter what Secretary John Kerry may think. Three states can’t fit into two. And it still takes two to tango in this tangled Middle East. The diplomatic dance card is full. Hamas must be escorted off the floor with whatever means necessary. And for the time being, the Gazans will have to sit this dance out.