David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, wrote an article in the Jerusalem
Post (Dec. 30,2008) about the latest conflict between the Jewish state and Hamas.
It is very thorough and leads the reader to an understandable conclusion.
Here is the piece by David Harris:
In the Trenches: Why Israel had no choice
Israel's military operation against Hamas targets in Gaza should have come as no surprise. The handwriting was on the wall. No more than any other country, Israel could not tolerate a terrorist regime on its border that was launching repeated rocket and mortar attacks - 200 in the last week alone - against Israeli towns and villages.
Some context is needed. Israel, which entered Gaza in 1967 after a successful war of self-defense, left the region unilaterally in 2005. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faced down strong domestic opposition, indeed active resistance, to remove Israeli troops and civilians. He announced that Israel had no claims on Gaza and wished to see it become part of a peaceful Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.
This was the first chance in Gaza's history for its residents to govern their own affairs - something too many of Israel's detractors conveniently forget. Immediately prior to Israel's presence, Gaza had been under Egyptian military rule for two decades, during which there was never, not for a moment, discussion of independence.
But things rapidly spiraled downward after Israel left. Local elections in 2006 led to a coalition of Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders, followed by a bloody Hamas coup d'état the following year. The PA was ignominiously expelled from Gaza, seeking refuge in the West Bank.
The choice of Hamas to govern led to international isolation. Hamas is defined as a terrorist group by both the United States and European Union. The international community set forth three basic conditions to engage Hamas - recognition of Israel's right to exist, an end to violence, and willingness to abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements
To date, predictably, Hamas has not fulfilled any of the conditions. After all, its charter calls repeatedly for the elimination of Israel and, citing the infamous Protocols of the Elders of the Zion, spews hatred of Jews wherever they might live.
Thus, since gaining control of Gaza, Hamas has focused not on building Palestinian society, but rather on seeking to destroy Israeli society. With substantial help from Iran and a labyrinthine smuggling network across the Gaza-Egypt border, Hamas has turned Gaza into a veritable armed camp and munitions factory.
The result has been that Israeli towns near the border have been targeted, in recent years, by literally thousands of rocket and mortar attacks. As the range of the rockets has grown, so, too, has the arc of vulnerable Israeli population centers.
In truth, Israel's policy options have been limited. Negotiating with Hamas is impossible, unless Israel is prepared to discuss the terms of its own capitulation. Seeking a ceasefire or lull, as occurred earlier this year, buys quiet, yes, but isn't cost-free. Hamas used the break to enhance its weapons capabilities, train its fighters, and reinforce its command-and-control infrastructure, modeled on Hizbullah's example in Lebanon.
Hamas has counted on its ability to attack Israel at will, while relying on Israeli restraint. The terrorist group calculated that Israel no longer had the will to fight and risk military casualties in teeming Gaza. It also doubtless assumed that Israel would be held back by fear of negative publicity, since Hamas has, as standard operating procedure, skillfully exploited the media to focus on Palestinian civilian casualties, real or contrived, that inevitably lead to diplomatic and editorial condemnation.
This time, Hamas erred. It misread Israel. It opted to believe its own propaganda about an Israel fearful of striking, trembling at the prospect of a sustained barrage of Hamas missiles aimed at southern Israel, or worried about an exit strategy once it entered Gaza.
Until Saturday, Israel showed remarkable restraint, which Hamas read as weakness. But Israel has an obligation to defend its borders and its citizens. Clearly, as has been on display, it has the military and intelligence capability to do so. And, no less, despite upcoming elections, it has the collective political will. All these elements have been impressively demonstrated in the current military operation.
As soon as Israel struck, some in the international community predictably returned to formulaic stances.
Most Arab leaders, not to mention the "Arab street," condemned Israel, but what else is new?
Egyptian and Palestinian Authority leaders, the exceptions, noted that Hamas brought this upon itself. In truth, there are others as well who couldn't be more pleased that Israel is dealing a blow to Hamas and its Iranian paymaster.
The European Union referred to Israel's "disproportionate" use of force, but what exactly is "proportionate" in a situation where Hamas-led Gaza, part of the jihadist network, seeks a permanent state of conflict with democratic Israel?
The UN leadership called for an immediate end to the violence, as if that will in and of itself magically persuade Hamas to rethink its reason for being.
And that rather bizarre coalition of extreme left-wingers and radical Islamists - who, at the end of the day, have about as much in common as North Korea and North Dakota - resurfaced on the streets of London and other cities to burn American and Israeli flags.
Let's be clear. It is in Israel's vital interests to have a peaceful and prosperous Gaza on its border. This point needs to be hammered home again and again. Instead, it is faced with Hamastan, a terrorist enclave. What Israel is doing now is exactly what any other nation would do under similar circumstances. In fact, Israel has probably held back longer than many other nations, including the United States, would have done, and, judging from modern history, is exercising more care to avoid civilian casualties than many other armies, though that's particularly tough when the enemy callously uses civilians as human shields.
Some argue that there is no military solution to Gaza. Quite true. In the long term, Gaza's residents need to decide if they want a potentially bright future without Hamas or an assuredly bleak future with it. But in the short term, Israel must convey the clear and unmistakable message that it will defend itself. And that, to its credit, is exactly what it is doing right now.
THANKS FOR READING: BOB KHOLOS