What the Spartans Understood

Quiet will be met with fire, but Israel will push forward.

Israel will do what is necessary to ensure calm, not because it can, but because it must.

The Spartan poet Tyrtaeus once quipped about a character that might, “learn to love death’s ink-black shadow as much as you love the light of dawn.” While Hamas, it seems, embraces such a mantra, the world has yet to come to terms with this. The Spartans, however, realized and accepted that such urges are present in human nature. It was conceivable, and perhaps even an advantage in wartime to foster the pursuit of death. Secretaries Kerry and Ban Ki Moon want to believe the current conflict in the Strip is merely the vestige of ongoing land disputes and a blockade. To them, to Westerners, this is logical. There must be a correlation between Israeli aggression and the attitude of Hamas. Why else would they fight on even as their cities decay and their people suffer?

And so, the calls this week by former President Jimmy Carter for the U.S and U.N. to recognize Hamas as a legitimate political entity are indicative of a group of politicians who fail to understand human nature. With some legitimacy, he argues, the international community will be better able to persuade Hamas of the attractions of diplomatic solutions. But not everyone equally values the same opportunities of material betterment and financial security. If we have learned one thing from Hamas, it is that wellbeing and quality of life for the Gazan people is not their primary goal. If it were they would have turned their prime piece of coastal real estate into something more closely resembling a resort and not a bunker. But that just does not make sense to Carter, there must be some tangible, material reason that Hamas acts the way they do.

Yet the reality that millions of pounds of concrete were used to build tunnels and not schools is not confusing. Let us not rest our heads in the West on the mantel of moral relativism, which tends to obfuscate the true meaning of such actions. As Hamas controlled Gaza receives hundreds of millions of dollars annually from Qatar and Turkey, concrete and electricity from Israel, and millions of dollars worth of food and medical aid from the U.N., it seems that Hamas is satisfied with these donations, even if at the moment they are experiencing financial difficulties. Under the current conditions, Gaza has no need to be independent and does not have the willpower to be part of a sovereign state. And Hamas’s continued existence, after all, is dependent upon their desire to eradicate the state of Israel. But maybe we can persuade them, change their minds; everyone must have a price.

And as rockets continue to rain down on Israel it is now patently clear that the goal of any Israeli long-term agreement must be the demilitarization of Gaza. The U.S. would be wise to do all it can to ensure such an outcome. The failure of the U.S. to do so will have lasting repercussions for a region that scarcely has room for more instability. Gaza bound weapons convoys traveling in Sudan and the Sinai have been neutralized this past year by the Israeli Armed forces. Shipments of advanced SAM missile systems were intercepted en route to Lebanon from Syria. Israel is expending all of its available resources to hinder, track, and control the massive illegal movements of arms throughout North Africa and Central Asia. The overflow in semi advanced weaponry flowing from Libya and permeating the veins of the Middle East has been alarming and a source of additional strain on Israeli intelligence and military forces. Leading from behind can make it difficult to monitor large caches of unprotected weaponry. There are even reports that Hamas is in discussions to buy weaponry from North Korea. This is not speculation. This is what the Middle East looks like today.

Those at the negotiating table should remember that Al-Qaeda means “the base” in Arabic. It would be in the best interests of the U.S. to demonstrate, unequivocally and forcefully, that such bases, as evidenced by the elaborate terror infrastructure in the Strip, will not be tolerated, supported, or enabled in any way. But most certainly, they must explain that under no circumstances will groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria, ISIS, or Hamas be given any form of legitimacy. And it would not take someone with high diplomatic acumen to conclude that the removal of Hamas from the Government in Gaza must necessarily accompany any attempt at demilitarization. This is the logical conclusion of an ideology that beyond doubt seeks death over life, and dominance over coexistence. One need look no further than the Hamas founding charter to know what is important to them.

It may be time for Secretary Kerry and the State Department to consider the poisonous implications of pursuing diplomatic accords with Hamas. Each and every time a Hamas “delegation” is invited to Cairo, or Qatar to negotiate with the Israelis, they are, as Carter would have it, legitimized. Lending legitimacy to those who build tunnels under kindergartens and dining halls, who kidnap and murder innocent minors, and who target civilian population centers, is chilling.

The Strip in its current form represents what cannot be allowed to happen across the Middle East. Havens of terror must be denied the chance to possess serious military capabilities, and more importantly, diplomatic ones. Terrorists who demand that all of their conditions be met before any cessation of hostilities cannot be appeased. That is how terror works. As the Spartans understood, it thrives on the fear of others, and a manic irrationality dominates its diplomacy.

Quiet for quiet, cement for schools, government for governing. Then let’s have a conversation. Until then, the U.S. and her allies must tread lightly; the eyes of the world are watching to see if terror and irrationality will be allowed to triumph over reason and democracy.