Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Gaza War: Destroying Hamas is the Least Worst Option


Hamas insists on destroying Israel. Israel does not wish to be destroyed. This, in a nutshell, is what made a war between Israel and Hamas inevitable.

As usual, when hostilities break out between Israel and a militarily weaker enemy, there are Arab street protests, calls for an immediate ceasefire, mounting international outrage against Israel, and calls for Israel to stop using “disproportionate force.”

In the coming days, we will learn whether Israel has the resolve to defeat Hamas once and for all, or whether Israel will back down because of international pressure, and let Hamas live to fight another day.

If Israel presses this fight, Israelis and supporters of Israel should feel morally assured that Israel’s use of force is not disproportionate in this case.

No civilized person disputes that war is tragic, and killing is tragic. Yet civilized people also know that it is the duty of a State to confront and end threats to the safety of its citizens. How much force is justified to end Hamas’ multi-year rocket attacks against Israeli civilians? The force necessary to permanently end the threat. Many more people may die in Gaza than in Israel from this war, but that does not make Israel’s force disproportionate. And, it is quite evident from Israeli tactics—tactics that include sending cell phone text message warnings to Gazan residents—that Israel is using all means to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

One can be simultaneously saddened by an action and know that that action is justified.

Sadly, Israel’s best option from among bad choices is to destroy Hamas. This is so even though perversely, a Hamas defeat may destroy Israel in the long run.

Hamas’ goal, shared by many in the Arab and Muslim world, is to wipe Israel off the face of the map by wearing Israeli society down slowly. The thousands of rocket attacks from Gaza are carried out to frighten, harass and terrorize. Rockets do kill Israelis from time to time, but Hamas has no illusion that these rockets will cause Israel to cease to exist overnight.

Hamas’ long-term goal is advanced when Israelis die. Hamas’ long-term goal is advanced when Palestinian “martyrs” die. With the vision of Hezbollah’s recent success, Hamas knows that it wins this war simply by surviving. Hamas expects that, sooner or later, Israel will be forced by diplomatic and economic pressure to back down and accept a ceasefire. And if Israel backs down, Hamas expects not only glory, but also, international acceptance and greater military strength.

Israel must destroy Hamas, even though destroying Hamas will mean that Fatah will once again rule Gaza. And that means that international pressure will re-intensify to immediately create a two-state solution west of the Jordan River. If this pressure is successful, Israel would be forced to accept borders that will make her resource poor, perpetually dependent as a client-state on Western favors, and also militarily vulnerable to attack from a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank, mere miles from Israel’s largest cities.

And what if Israel fails to destroy Hamas?

It is ironic that a Hamas victory—and by victory I mean Hamas’ survival—may actually serve Israel’s interests of becoming a truly viable state in the long run.

Consider the fallout from a Hamas victory. A Hamas victory would, sooner rather than later, likely spell the end of Fatah’s power in the West Bank. The international community would cease all pressure on Israel to accept a permanent two-state solution since it could not be expected to do so with an enemy sworn to Israel’s destruction.

A Hamas victory may also lead to the end of the Jordanian monarchy (unless Israel props up the monarchy). The Arabs who reside in the former League of Nations/British Mandate Palestine—Arabs who in the last few decades have come to call themselves Palestinians—are mindful of the fact that Jordan was a part of that Mandate.

If the land mass currently called Jordan comes to be controlled by Hamas, or a likeminded offshoot of the Islamic Brotherhood, it could come to be known internationally as a home of, and for, Palestinian Arabs. The international sense of Palestinian legitimacy to another homeland would dissipate, and Israel would be in a stronger position to assert its need on the international stage for larger and defensible borders. (In 1970, Israel had the opportunity to stand aside and allow Syria and the PLO to destroy Jordan’s monarchy, but Israel sided with the King of Jordan, and Jordan survived. That decision had short-term benefits to Israel, but was probably ill-advised.)

Nevertheless, allowing Hamas to survive as a functioning entity is not a good option for Israel. Hamas will simply refortify and continue to fight. A lesson must be taught to all who wish Israel destroyed.

In this war, Israel must choose between bad options. Israel must stand resolute and destroy Hamas. It must then undertake the challenge of educating the world to the fact that even with Fatah in charge of the West Bank and Gaza, the two-state solution within this limited geography is simply a mistake.

In refusing calls for a two-state solution, Israel must also be resolute. The two-state solution is bad for Israel, and it is bad for Palestinian Arabs. Even a peaceful mini-Palestinian Arab state will be feckless, and dependent on the world’s largess.

Being resolute matters. There can be no wavering. Here’s an example of why this is so.

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, President Bush takes full credit for the fact that the two-state solution is widely accepted as the proper solution to this dispute. He said it is an example of his strong foreign policy. He said that since others understood that “we can’t change [Bush], let’s join him and try to solve the problem…therefore the two-state solution led by a Palestinian Authority that recognized Israel has now come to be.”

The widely accepted two-state solution isn’t too old (recall my piece on 1988 Democratic Presidential Nominee Michael Dukakis’s platform statement) and yet anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the wisdom of President Bush’s ultimate solution is now labeled an extremist.

President Bush’s firm stand is an example of what happens when people come to accept a position as fixed, firm, and immutable.

Diplomatic solutions bend to fixed parameters.

But rather than taking firm positions, Israel has become the king of pink-line parameters—parameters that are firm one day, and change the next. This is unfortunate.

International diplomatic players will not bend to accommodate a potentially moving position. They will only bend to accommodate a fixed Israeli position.

With a newly fixed Israeli position, the questions asked, and the proposals for resolving the conflict will change.

The question asked will not be—how do we establish a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza while addressing Israel’s security needs? This question has no solvable answer. It is destructive to Israel and Palestinian Arabs alike. (Read my book for a detailed explanation of why this is so.)

Bear in mind that there is ample room in the vast, under-populated regions of the Middle-East for everyone to live peacefully and to prosper. To avoid future wars, it is time to focus the international community on the right questions.

The questions to ask are—what size does Israel, the sole Jewish majority state, need to be to permanently dissuade or fend off Arab/Muslim aggression? What size must Israel be in order to be a successful, thriving and truly independent State? How does the world community provide better opportunities for Palestinian Arab people to live full and productive lives?

The answer to these questions starts with the destruction of Hamas. It is the least worst option. Sadly, this entails the loss of innocent lives.