Reaffirming the Right of Israel to Exist in the Face of Hamas Attac...
By Mortimer Zuckerman Posted January 15, 2009
What the world cannot remember the Israelis cannot forget. The Israelis know the Jewish nation has been one defeat away from extinction for 70 years. They know that every partition plan in the region, from the dawn of Zionism to the present day, has failed because of the Arab failure to accept the State of Israel. They know that the Palestinian leadership is virtually hopeless, wherein the people who are moderate are not effective and the people who are effective are not moderate.
Today the impossible Yasser Arafat has been replaced by the impotent Mahmoud Abbas. It was Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who presided over the division of the Palestinians into Fatah and Hamas. Hamas doesn't want peace, and Fatah can't deliver it. Fatah is so weak that it cannot enforce the rule of law against terrorism or make compromises for fear of the radical Islamists. Indeed, without the support of the Israeli Defense Forces, even now it is under threat of being displaced by Hamas. Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a major Hamas leader, underlined Fatah's weakness when he said, "Fatah can't stop us from seizing control of those [West Bank] territories. It is only a matter of time."
Israel is so small it has no margin for error. A Hamas takeover of the West Bank would put Ben-Gurion Airport and major cities like Tel Aviv in the firing line, which would render Israel virtually uninhabitable. This is not guesswork. When Israel left the West Bank, it became a base for suicide bombers, ultimately forcing the Israelis to go back at great cost. They've since built a security fence, but a fence will not protect people from rockets. The rockets and mortars launched against Israel from Gaza have gained greater lethality, accuracy, and range, going from 20 kilometers before the truce to 40 after. And without the current operation, it is estimated that within two to three months new rockets supplied to Hamas by Iran and assembled in Gaza would have been able to hit Tel Aviv. One of them just reached the outskirts.
Acceptable response. Over 20 percent of the Israelis were vulnerable even before Tel Aviv came within range. No government could ignore these threats to its people. Yet Israel's belated response has been challenged as "disproportionate". This is ridiculous. In the first place, it was Hamas's intention that at least thousands of Israelis would die from its 7,000 rockets. Would it fit the doctrine of proportionality if Israel were to respond with 7,000 missiles against Gaza civilians? Or must it wait until the number of dead is piled high enough to justify a "proportioned" response. And what of the emotional trauma inflicted on the living? Men, women, and children have 15 seconds to reach a bunker, which they must do several times a day. They must live with the constant fear of death and maiming.
Would America sit back if, over three years, 7,000 rockets and missiles were launched at our citizens from Mexico or Canada? We would attack these missile sites and wipe them out. End of story. The "disproportionate" criticism is a cop-out. Hamas sought this battle. It was Hamas that broke the six-month truce organized by Egypt. Both Fatah and Egypt urged its continuance; the current violence would have been avoided, as Abbas stated, had Hamas not fired its missiles.
Tony Blair, now the special envoy of the Mideast quartet, concedes he understands the consequences now more than when he was prime minister of Britain: "I would hesitate to cede the West Bank to the Palestinians after the nightmare Israel has faced since the Gaza withdrawal." He recognizes that Hamas has sabotaged years of negotiation. "Land for peace," he warns, "is in itself not sufficient. Not less important is the character of the Palestinian state."
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has made it clear what kind of state his Palestine would be. Hamas seeks nothing less than an Islamic state as its covenant describes: "To raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine." To that end, Hamas has turned Gaza into a home for every brand of radical Islamist engaged in a holy war that sanctifies bloodshed, glorifies murder, and educates children to die as shahids —martyrs. There was to be no Israel alongside a Palestinian state. Over and over again Haniya has said that Hamas will never recognize Israel nor honor any of the existing agreements with the infidels. Its founder, Abdul Aziz Rantizi, is explicit: "We will not leave one Jew in Palestine."
To achieve the extermination of Israel, Hamas is ready to sacrifice its followers: "We are not," says Haniya, "seekers of office but seekers of martyrdom." The Palestinian people are like the prisoners in a hijacked plane: hostage to the death cult of radical Islamists. Hamas calculates that no state can tolerate its citizens being vulnerable day after day to the russian roulette of rocket fire that hits children, kindergartens, playgrounds, and hospitals. The attacks are designed to provoke Israel while its perpetrators hide behind their own civilians and keep women and children in their forces. They keep TV cameras at the ready to transmit every image of dead Palestinians, especially children. Except for dead Israelis, there is nothing Hamas leaders like better than dead Palestinians, given the global media's appetite for pictures—all to damage the image of Israel. Who else but Hamas leaders would put their headquarters in a hospital or move about in the street only when they are surrounded by children or carry them in their arms because they reckon this will protect them from the more scrupulous Israelis?
They are abetted in this cynical game by the United Nations World Relief Association headquartered in Gaza, headed by and staffed by Palestinians. U.N. schools in Gaza have long ago stopped being just schools where children are taught. They are places of refuge for Hamas terrorists—and points of provocation. There is video footage of terrorists firing mortar rounds from the U.N. school and then running so that others might pay the price for their deadly work. Haniya and other Hamas leaders openly boast about the effectiveness of their human shield tactics, yet it is Israel that gets blamed when some of them die.
Israeli aid. The hypocrisy of it all is manifest on the issue of humanitarian aid. Who else but Israel would suspend the war effort for three hours every couple of days to aid in the provision of humanitarian assistance? Could you imagine England doing something like that when it was being bombarded by Hitler's V-2 rockets during WWII? Israel delivers to Gaza about 2,500 tons a day of food and fuel and other vital supplies. Hamas repeatedly attacks this mercy operation. Last May I visited the border and saw firsthand the result of these attacks on Israelis whose sole purpose for being there was to place bales of humanitarian aid on big flat-bed trucks, drive them through the crossings, deposit them 150 yards on the other side, and return. A week earlier, suicide terrorists exploded bomb-laden cars adjacent to one of the crossings.
The unthinking street crowds in European capitals with their Hamas flags don't give Israel credit for these humanitarian efforts nor its strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties: Leaflets are dropped and warnings phoned, even though this will alert the terrorists to escape. The protesters give Hamas a free pass for murder.
How rare it is for the truth to penetrate the moral fog! The Czech foreign minister, Karel-Schwarzenberg, now the president of the European Union, asks a good question. Given that Hamas "deliberately puts its military targets in civilian centers," he asks, "why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel? I enjoy the luxury of being able to tell the truth."
President Bush has the clearest perception of what is at stake. At Israel's 60th anniversary he said: "Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong because the United States of America stands with you." Alas, this pledge was shamefully compromised by one member of that audience, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. When it came to a vote at the U.N., the United States abstained. But for some reason best known to her, she drafted and urged the U.N. into supporting a resolution that called for a cease-fire without the protections of prior agreements, or the cessation of rocket attacks, or the prevention of Hamas rearming itself. In short, she was behind a resolution guaranteeing a continuance of the terrorism.
Any cease-fire must include cast-iron guarantees. They must decisively end the smuggling of arms, largely through the tunnels from Egypt. They must ensure that the firing of rockets will stop—not just for now but for good. That means the guarantees must leave open not the remotest chance that Hamas can be rearmed. Otherwise, as the National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley put it, the cease-fire would be "a prescription for the resumption of hostilities at some point in the future."
Hamas, in short, must be made to fail and be seen to fail. Israel is not trying to take over Gaza; it is trying to protect itself from Gaza. It is trying to preserve the possibility of a Mideast peace process. If the international community will not permit Israel to respond to ceaseless terrorism launched from land from which Israel has withdrawn, it ends any hopes for a two-state solution. What incentive would Israel have to withdraw from the West Bank were it to become a launching pad for terrorism? Hamas will fight tooth and nail to retain this terrorist option. That is why it must be defanged.
The Middle East conflict must also be framed on a bigger canvas. It is not just about creating a Palestinian state. It is also about preventing the region's takeover by radical Islam, especially Iran, which has co-opted Hamas and Hezbollah. If Hamas is successful in manipulating world opinion to impose a premature cease-fire, it will proclaim victory and continue its murderous ways. Iran and the radical Islamists are out to destroy Western interests in the Middle East—and to replace Arab regimes with radical Islamic states, Iranian-style.
On a visit to Sderot, President-elect Barack Obama said, "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I am going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same." As president, he should continue speaking truth to terror.