The Israeli political left says that an agreement and compromise with the Palestinian Authority will destroy Hamas. In my opinion, it’s quite the opposite: Destroying the Hamas regime is a condition for a compromise agreement with the Palestinians.
It’s not a sufficient condition – there are many other conditions and moves (for example, freezing settlement construction instead of releasing Hamas terrorists) – but it is a necessary condition.
Israel can make Hamas collapse, but Israel doesn’t want it to collapse and has even declared so in advance. From this we can conclude that the existence of a “weakened” Hamas serves all kinds of interests, matches all kinds of outlooks, both personal and ideological, makes the political compromise unachievable and intensifies the suspiciousness and dissention.
Millions of Israelis are rightfully asking themselves: If all the Palestinians are like Hamas, how can we agree to withdraw from even one more kilometer? And the conclusion is: Let’s settle, let’s annex and let’s forget about the dreams.
Some believe Hamas is suffering from a youth revolt syndrome and is acting like an adolescent hooligan. The more it grows up, the more it will calm down, become domesticated, become tamed and make rational decisions. Rational, meaning decisions Israel would like it to make.
I see it as a false hope stemming from a deep misunderstanding of the reasons for Hamas’ existence as a fanatic Islamist military organization.
It’s not that Hamas is operating aimlessly. Its aim is to make the lives of both the Israelis and the Palestinians miserable and to increase the hatred between them up to the point of no return.
The big wave of terror attacks carried out by Hamas began shortly after the Oslo Accords, about 20 years ago, and was quite successful as far as the organization was concerned. Hundreds of Israelis were killed, the public lived in fear, radicalization spread and grew stronger, Israel’s prime minister was murdered and the realization of the agreement ran aground.
Since that wave of terror, our governments have sent the IDF on several operations aimed at weakening Hamas rather than, God forbid, eradicating it.
After every operation we hear that Hamas has been weakened, so much that it can now fire rockets at all parts of Israel and dig a network of tunnels which make the border fences look like a joke. It’s better not to think about what its current “weakening” will lead to.
Hamas’ big day – and Israel’s big missed opportunity – arrived when it took over the Gaza Strip. The takeover put Israel in danger and gave us a recognized international right to intervene and prevent the border area from turning into a terror compound.
But the Israeli government openly avoided that. It even avoided helping the Palestinian Authority, Gaza’s legitimate landlord. Why should we care that the Palestinians are fighting each other? It doesn’t concern us.
According to that same perception which has not changed since then, Israel doesn’t have to worry about who controls Gaza, but only about the type of weapons in Gaza. As if weapons fire on their own.
Accepting Hamas’ takeover of Gaza was a first-class strategic mistake. It got us entangled in every possible trouble, starting with Gaza turning into a rocket arsenal to the decision to impose an economic and environmental siege on the Strip, a siege which affected a poor and helpless population and is perceived in the world as a horrible crime. Even worse than the rockets. Hamas used the siege to justify its acts of war, including the latest one.
The Israeli government eventually began letting go of the siege, secretly, gradually, at an extent which wasn’t enough to create an economic perspective for Gaza’s residents. According to a public opinion poll conducted recently, Hamas has become much less popular than Fatah in Gaza. This is the motive and the explanation for its recent actions.
If we make progress towards a diplomatic agreement, clearing Gaza of Hamas will also clear the long road to peace.