The State of Israel is confused and speaking in two voices in respect to the question of how to deal with Hamas.
Some believe that a wide-scale military operation aimed at toppling the Hamas regime is needed. Yet they do not think about the price of such operation in terms of both Israeli and Palestinian lives, as well as the diplomatic and immoral errors inherent in such operation: namely, the current government in Israel may end up turning IDF casualties into the silver platter for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The risk inherent in handing over Gaza to the control of the Palestinian Authority is greater than the risk posed by Hamas.
Meanwhile, some of those who backed the Gaza disengagement actually believe that we should increase our involvement in the Strip and support the absurd policy of humanitarian gestures to enemy subjects of all people, even if this puts the lives of Israeli troops and civilians at risk, as was proven by the recent border crossing attacks, and even if this policy boosts the Hamas government’s survivability. In practice, by supplying the Gaza population with its vital needs, Israel absolves the government there from responsibility for its subjects and frees it to deal with its main interest: Growing stronger ahead of a war, employing the same method used by Hizbullah in the years where the official Israel allowed it to build its strength ahead of the second war in Lebanon.
What then can we do vis-à-vis Hamas? The answer is that we should neither boost it nor topple it. We should work in a way that weakens it, without toppling it.
We can and should talk with Hamas, because its members speak the truth: They are a declared and open enemy and explicitly say that their intention is to exterminate the State of Israel; they do not hide their intentions by resorting to deceit. They are open enough to say that the lull in question would enable them to grow stronger ahead of the upcoming war. On the other hand, the objective of Mahmoud Abbas and his people is identical, they have turned their misery into an art form, and Israel’s leaders rush to boost them, fundraise on their behalf, and pave their way.
Hamas members are men of action who are responsible for our neighbors’ lives, and there is no escaping the need to discuss the technical aspects of this proximity with them. These types of discussions entail low diplomatic cost. When it comes to Abbas and his people, we are talking about a wolf in sheep’s skin, an enemy whose objectives are identical to Hamas’, but the pleasant talk they disseminate around them turns into a honey trap; Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni have fallen into this trap and are willing to pay diplomatic prices that are lethal for Israel.
Talk with Hamas
We should talk with Hamas, but we should do so in Arabic and not in some “enlightened” language that is both naïve and dangerous. For example, the ongoing talks, denied by Israel, being engaged in by the Hamas enemy and our Egyptian “friend” and submitted to Israel as an edict that must be honored.
On the Israeli side, those who viewed UN Resolution 1701 that ended the second war in Lebanon but sentenced Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev to rot in Hizbullah’s prison indefinitely as an achievement are about to repeat the failure vis-à-vis Hamas, boast a dubious achievement of temporary and dangerous calm, and leave the release of Gilad Shalit up for discussion in the distant future. His release should be a condition for any negotiations, rather than a legacy handed over from one government to the next, as happened in the Ron Arad case.
The Gaza Strip is indeed not a state, but it is an entity ruled by a hostile government. From it, and with full government support, Israeli civilian and military infrastructure sites in the northwestern Negev are being targeted daily. Innocent civilians are being killed and wounded, many suffer shock and anxiety, and normal life is completely disrupted, even when “no casualties or damages were reported.” Even when the government evades the need to recognize this reality as war, this is reality.
There is no doubting that the Gaza Strip is home to many people who do not take part in war activities, but they are enemy subjects nonetheless. They are also the ones who brought Hamas to power via democratic elections. That is, this is the government they elected. Even today we see no signs of protest against this government, and it appears that the public as a whole supports Hamas.
Zionism’s objective is to make us a free people in our country. A normal state facing war does not supply food and other humanitarian aid to the enemy, not to mention fuel, electricity, and other means that serve its war machine. Is that how Britain acted towards Nazi Germany, where the ruling party also won democratic elections? Didn’t Britain choose the security and welfare of its own citizens over that of enemy citizens? Throughout human history, siege on the enemy and the prevention of supplies from it, including civilians under its control, has been a common means of defeating the enemy.
Therefore, we must reinforce and tighten the Gaza Strip siege in order to break the enemy’s strength, instead of risking Israeli civilians and soldiers in fueling the enemy. As a humanitarian gesture, above and beyond what is called for, we may provide medical equipment and fuel for the generators of Gaza hospitals in specific cases. In any case, we should make it clear to Hamas in particular and to self-righteous individuals across the globe that the responsibility for averting a humanitarian disaster in the Strip is on the shoulders of the government elected by its residents.
If it wishes to, this government could mitigate the siege by handing over Qassams in exchange for food. On the other hand, we must not continue the absurd situation of Qassams fired in Sderot in exchange for food to Gaza. In other words: The humanitarian gestures will only be granted in exchange for handing over of enemy weapons to the IDF and an end to arms “smuggling,” which is in fact free supply of weapons from the Egyptian side.
And on a final note: It is possible that a tighter siege of all things would prevent a bloody war in the Gaza Strip. Perhaps this will open the eyes of the blind people in Jerusalem.
Dr. Ron Breiman was the chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel in the years 2001-2005