In a radio interview Monday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the objectives of the Gaza operation have been achieved: Israel responded “wildly” to Hamas’ rocket fire and “good thing we did,” she said. Indeed, if a “wild response” was the main means utilized in operation Cast Lead, it is no wonder that so many Palestinian civilians and so few Hamas leaders were killed in the course of the campaign. Indeed, if a “wild response” was the appropriate means, it is no wonder that at the end of the operation Israel will find itself handing over the reigns of power in the Strip back to Hamas.
Yet if a “wild response” was the appropriate means, what exactly was our objective? Here is the common answer: To etch the lesson in the consciousness of Hamas leaders, so that in the future they will know that Israel is “crazy,” wild at heart, and will wipe out a residential home on the outskirts of Gaza in response to every Qassam rocket fired in its direction.
We shall put aside the moral issues for a moment and only focus on the question of benefit: Will this truly deter Hamas? I’m doubtful.
During World War II, the allies attempted to etch the consciousness of the Nazi leadership by massively bombing German cities, yet without success. The cities were wiped out, yet perceptions did not change. In order to defeat the Nazis, the allied armies were forced to reach Berlin.
Earlier this week, Time Magazine claimed that Israel cannot defeat Hamas. As usual, Time is wrong. Of course Israel can win. Hamas is not a mass Palestinian liberation movement: Rather, it is a small Islamofacist organization that forcefully took over a despaired region and turned it into an Islamic state nightmare.
Is there no effective way to defeat Hamas? Of course there is. For example, for every Qassam fired from Gaza, we can bomb Hamas’ headquarters in Damascus. For example, for every Qassam fired at Israel, we can assassinate a senior Hamas figure, either belonging to the military or “political” wing. Israel won the second Intifada not by bombing Palestinian towns and neighborhoods and refugee camps, but rather, by methodically and gradually assassinating terror leaders. Back then, we wanted to win.
Remove malignant tumorThis time around, we don’t want to win. The official Israel does not wish to eliminate Hamas’ regime in Gaza - despite the fact that the entire world, including the Arab world, granted us permission to do it. It even implored us to do it, as long as we avoid major Palestinian bloodshed. However, we are disappointing them: We caused great bloodshed, yet we do not intend to win. Perhaps because of the upcoming elections; who knows?
When Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated we expected an earthquake, yet nothing happened. And what was the Arab street’s reaction to the killing of other senior Hamas figures, including those killed during operation Cast Lead? No reaction. Arab citizens watched al-Jazeera and told themselves: “The Israelis are brutal, and Hamas is dumb” - before going back to their own affairs.
We can defeat Hamas and remove it from here. However, the Israeli leadership apparently believes that it’s a good thing to have Hamas rule the Strip. It is good to have a group that does not recognize our existence, and therefore we do not need to talk to it. Our leadership is making a historical error, which may be fateful. A malignant tumor must be removed on time.
The elimination of Hamas and its Gaza regime should have also been a blatant interest of Israel’s dovish Leftist camp, which aspires for a two-state solution. After all, as long as Hamas rules Palestine or parts of it, Israel has nobody to talk to and nothing to talk about. Hamas justifies the occupation and not the other way around.
However, the Israeli Left is also addicted to the false claim that Hamas reflects the true desires of the Palestinian people. The Left also firmly objects to surgical strikes against Hamas leaders. Instead, it recommends that we tame this poisonous snake and convince it to adopt our views.
If we do not defeat Hamas now, but rather, merely “respond wildly” and punish – unintentionally so, but nonetheless – Palestinian civilians, Israelis will be seen as wild creatures who do not belong among civilized nations, and Hamas will emerge victorious.