Who would have thought it! Hamas, using the agreement to pause fighting in order to facilitate the delivery of aid to Gaza and arrange for the exchange of hostages for convicted Palestinians, playing games to assert its control over the brief period of a lull in the conflict? It was so obvious, to those of us of a cynical turn of mind, to anticipate Hamas would take every opportunity to exploit an agreement between itself and Israel to boost its propaganda war. Not only is there a great disparity between the number of hostages scheduled to be released compared to Palestinians held in Israeli jails, but only a trickle of those abducted by Hamas will be released as a “sweetener”, to extract further concessions from Israel. This duplicitous approach to negotiations is precisely why the many efforts Israel has made to come to an accommodation with the Palestinians have failed, strengthening the belief it would be foolish to trust these people as genuinely wanting peace and suicidal to agree to a Palestinian state on Israel’s borders that at anytime could be taken over by extremists. So, having raised the question before, where does that leave the pipe dream of a Palestinian state? Blown away by the wind! The only realistic solution is for the Palestinians to live in neighbouring Arab countries where culturally and ethically they share common bonds.
Netanyahu is under great pressure to agree to unfavourable terms with Hamas, as John Bolton, a former US national security adviser, has recently pointed out, in order to appease an increasingly anxious and vocal Israeli public that want the hostages home. The winner in this carefully orchestrated propaganda war is Hamas whose reputation will be enhanced for every Palestinian convicted criminal who is released by Israel. Attempts to extend the “humanitarian pause”, as suggested by the Qataris, would be a serious strategic mistake; Israel cannot allow the gains it has made in undermining Hamas’ power to wage war to be neutralised. The job of degrading this terrorist organisation’s capacity for military action has to be continued, and, inevitably, this will lead to Israel facing more international opprobrium. It is imperative the USA and other friendly nations do not forsake Israel; if she falls the West and democracy will have been damaged and may never recover its influence to shape world affairs; indeed, some would argue the focus for international influence is now China, not a nation sympathetic to western liberal values.
What are the dangers of the Hamas-Israel war becoming a regional conflict? It depends on how long the conflict lasts and what Hezbollah will do, apart from firing missiles that are, currently, a source of irritation. Iran is reticent to become directly involved in hostilities because of the threat of a war with the USA. The Arab nations would much prefer the fighting to stop and look to the West to exert pressure on Israel to scale down its military operations. The West is caught in a bind, mainly because of the presence of sizeable Moslem populations in Europe and North America; it feels obliged to tread carefully for fear of alienating Moslem voters. If there is to be a diplomatic solution to the conflict it must not reduce Israel’s capacity to self-determination; to weaken the State’s authority will be to invite further acts of terror.
The military campaign may be won by Israel, but that is half of the victory. So far Hamas and its supporters, millions around the world, some, no doubt, “well meaning” people who want a cessation to the violence, but others of a more malign disposition, is winning the propaganda war. Israel has to employ all its considerable talent to off-set this offensive by revealing to the world, at every opportunity, the character of the enemy; and, just as important, to use its friends around the world to challenge the inherent bias of many media outlets, thus discrediting those that are blatantly prejudiced.