Monday, February 02, 2009

Hamas Lives, the Long View, and Hoping President Obama Learns to Think Outside of the “Two-State” Box


In 1991, The U.S. thought it defeated Saddam Hussein and waited for the citizens of Iraq to rise against him. Sadly, Saddam was both clever and ruthless, and his regime did not collapse. At great cost, the U.S. went back into Iraq a decade later to remove the tyrant.

It appears that the current Israeli government has chosen not to crush Hamas, perhaps hoping that the residents of Gaza will rise up against Hamas and save Israel the trouble. This is fantasy, I fear, for Hamas is both clever and ruthless. If Israel does not destroy the Hamas that exists today, Hamas will learn from this war, and simply grow stronger.

I am profoundly repulsed by the means by which Hamas pursues its end. I am appalled by Hamas’ goal to destroy Israel. But I respect Hamas for the integrity of its mission.

Undeterred by the obvious, and looking to negotiate a compromise, Jimmy Carter, recently said: Hamas can be trusted. Mr. President, it is Hamas’ stated goal to destroy Israel. Yes, Hamas can be trusted. It can be trusted to destroy Israel if it isn’t destroyed first.

In the coming days, with Hamas’ “victory” behind it, and with great fanfare, Hamas may accede to a tactical lull. But Hamas will never agree to a permanent peace. By failing to destroy Hamas, Israel is playing a game of tactical Russian roulette with the lives of its citizens.

Lt.-Gen. Thomas McInerney, a 35-year veteran of the US Air Force said this about Israel’s reluctance to drive deeper into Gaza, "Your leadership is too sensitive about world opinion.”

This Israeli over-sensitivity is logical on its face, and is a condition of being a State that is not a truly independent actor.

Assuming that Hamas retains power in Gaza, it is highly likely that, having forgone the opportunity to destroy Hamas, Israel will have to pay a much higher price to destroy Hamas in the future. There is no middle ground with Hamas. There is no permanent compromise that can be worked out. There is no room for true negotiation.

The 2008-2009 Gaza war is barely over, if it is indeed over, and with President Obama now at the helm, there will be renewed pressure on Israel to work towards the so-called “two-state” solution with Fatah.

To this end, the United States and the international community are doing their best to prop up Fatah, and starve Hamas. Propping up the corrupt Fatah in the hope of making Arab Palestinian lives better, or even in the hope of Fatah reaching a true peace with Israel, has not worked in the past, and it will not work in the future. The Palestinian Arabs voted for Hamas for a reason. Yet Senator George Mitchell, President Obama’s new Middle East envoy, is under the impression that the dispute between Arabs/Muslims and Israelis is akin to the dispute in Northern Ireland. This is doubtful.

When the shear hate of Israel throughout the Muslim World is reduced exponentially to the hate level of the Irish for the British, I’ll be less skeptical. When Islam undergoes the reform that occurred centuries ago in Christianity and Judaism, I’ll be less skeptical. When Israel is accepted into the EU, I’ll be less skeptical.

In the meantime, it is past time that the world community revisits the assumption that the two-state solution is the way to solve this problem.

It is well established that the manner in which choices are framed has an impact on the decisions people ultimately make. When the Isreal/Jew-Arab/Muslim dispute is framed around the question: “What is the best way to reach a two state solution between Israel and Palestinians?” it directs people’s thinking in the wrong direction.

Kudos to Neil Cavuto of Fox Business News for asking the following question to a pro-Arab guest: “Should “Arab” nations give land to Palestinians to solve Middle-East crisis?” Mr. Cavuto also showed his audience and his guest, a map of the region—Israel marked in red, surrounded by vast Arab lands in a pale color. He followed up by asking his floundering guest, “How small do you want the red dot to be?”

The red dot needs to be larger for Israel to be a truly independent, viable, and livable State well into the future. And at the same time, the world can offer Palestinian Arabs a better life than the one that can be offered through the creation of feckless mini-state, one that sooner or later will be ruled by Hamas; one that sooner or later will destroy or be destroyed.

Let’s hope the next Prime Minister of Israel takes a longer view of matters than Prime Minister Olmert. And let’s hope that President Obama learns to think outside of the “two-state” box.

David Naggar