The Islamist terror group Hamas cannot conquer Israel; in fact, it can’t even run the Gaza Strip. Unable to provide anything useful for the Palestinians, it engages in endless and pointless confrontations with Israel.
The local population, cowed by terror, is unable to get rid of these gangsters that rule them.
Israel, though not under existential threat, faces up to 10,000 rockets, hundreds of which have already been fired at it.
Many in Israel and elsewhere have expressed a kind of despair, a “what can you do” attitude. This was reflected in most media, which point to the seemingly endless nature of the conflict, and the lack of leverage now that the USA seems disengaged, and post-Morsi Egypt without any leverage on the Islamists.
Even a temporary cease-fire, let alone a peace agreement, seems impossible.
But I think this is not entirely the case, and I want to make a few comments on a number of ways out — ways to put an end to Hamas’s rocket terrorism.
1. The IDF. The common wisdom says that there is no military solution to terrorism. But this is untrue. Throughout history, terrorist movements have been crushed by superior military force many times. Israel has learned from experience that all steps forward in a peace process are conditional upon its own military strength. Sadat came to Jerusalem and signed the Camp David accord only after the Israeli military inflicted crushing defeats on the Egyptian army in 1967 and again in 1973. Arafat and the PLO finally embraced a two-state solution and recognized Israel in 1988, in a prelude to Oslo, only after the first Palestinian intifada fizzled out. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of military force in ending conflict; it’s an important ingredient in persuading one side (or both) to lay down arms and start talking.
2. The USA. While Secretary of State John Kerry may have left the Middle East without having made any progress on restarting an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, it’s not true that the Obama administration doesn’t care. They do care, as the region seems to be spiralling out of control, and they understand that the US has a strategic interest not only in a strong Israel, but in Hamas’s defeat. And while the USA may have little or no leverage with the Islamists, it has lots of leverage in the region – including Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.
3. The Palestinian Authority. This is the key. Mahmoud Abbas has called on Israel to show restraint. What he needs to do is call on Hamas to show restraint. Abbas needs to make it absolutely clear to Hamas that if it wants to be part of the unity government, the condition for that is stopping the rocket terror. (One can argue that Abbas has essentially said this in the past, declaring the newly-formed unity government will respect the Oslo accords and is committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Israel based on a two-state solution.) Abbas is not making this clear, and those who have influence on him (and this includes Israel and the USA) must press him to press his Hamas partners.
4. Iran. The mullahs in Tehran have in recent weeks become the darlings of the West. No longer seen as a nuclear-armed Third Reich aiming to obliterate Israel, the Iranians are now seen as partners in nuclear disarmament and, more important, in stabilizing Iraq in face of the Sunni Islamist threat. In Iraq, Iran, the USA, Israel, and the Kurds are all on the same side in battling the terrorist group now known as Islamic State. The USA and others can use this de facto alliance, and Iran’s desire to appear to be committed to de-escalation in the region, to get Tehran to place a phone call to Gaza and tell their Hamas clients to back down.
5. The Palestinian people. The people of Gaza were terrorized into accepting Hamas rule, and have been silent even as their Hamas rulers have brought down utter destruction upon them. From time to time, when things are relatively quiet, there are signs of unrest, such as the occasional strike by workers. We know from history that sometimes, wars end when a people decides to get rid of the rulers who caused the wars, as happened across Europe in 1918. I’m not expecting a Gazan uprising any time soon, but the conditions for a “Palestinian Spring” exist in widespread disillusionment with the corrupt warlords of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
6. World public opinion. Being outside the region, one often feels powerless to do anything. But actually, the world does have leverage — if not directly on the gangsters running the Islamist groups in Gaza, at least on the Palestinian Authority (which is completely dependent on international support and goodwill) and on Iran, which arms and pays for the terrorist gangs in Gaza. The USA, and to an even larger degree, the countries of the European Union, have real leverage here. They can pressure Abbas and the Iranians to tell Hamas to back down, and should do so.
Stopping Hamas’s rocket blitz against Israel will not be easy.
But a combination of precision military strikes and diplomatic pressure targetting the Palestinian Authority and Iran will work.
In the long run, the Palestinian people themselves will need to stand up and say to the criminal gang that calls itself Hamas — enough is enough.
That day may be a long way off, but it will happen, and when the Palestinians have had enough, there will be peace.