Who is stronger, Israel or Hamas?

Hamas, under pressure from Israeli air attacks, has recently started talking about a cease-fire and even the release of Gilad Schalit, who has been in their captivity now for 18 months.

Of course, they will only release him in return for hundreds of terrorist operatives held in Israeli jails. Apparently they will not be satisfied only with those who are being held for trying to murder Israelis, but want freedom for successful murderers as well.

Israel is considering the criteria to be used in selecting candidates for release. Some officials were adamant about not releasing those with blood on their hands:

[Foreign affairs and defense committee] members stepping out of the meeting quoted [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni as saying the government was reevaluating what the classifications for prisoners were and how Israel should negotiate with the Palestinians.

“By being so flexible and pragmatic, the government is helping increase terrorism and foils the international fight against it,” Israel Radio quoted FADC member and Likud MK Yuval Steinitz as saying.

“According to the government’s new formulae, a killer is no longer a killer, and the terrorist Palestinian Authority is a peace partner”…

But others were less harsh:

Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan said that “Israel should stop dealing with definitions and rigid standards.” [like the definition of ‘murder’?]

…Vilan said that “in Israel too there are fighters who killed terrorists and can be considered as those with ‘blood on their hands.’ We call them terrorists but they [the Palestinians] call them freedom fighters.”

One might well ask Vilan, “who cares what they call them?”

The fact that a member of the Knesset could make such a statement speaks to the demoralization that has affected some circles in Israel. But the situation is not so black that the discussion needs to be about how much appeasement can be tolerated before it becomes surrender.

The appeasement strategy cannot work anyway, because Arab demands will always escalate, remaining just out of reach until the red lines are crossed — until what had previously been unthinkable, like releasing murderers, becomes acceptable. And then they press even more.

As a tactic to get Gilad Schalit released, it may succeed. But then they can simply grab another Israeli and start the whole process over again.

We should keep in mind that this entire process has begun because Hamas is hurting. Israel is killing Hamas’ own soldiers and their Islamic Jihad lackeys at an unprecedented rate. They want this to stop, and if Israel is dumb enough to also release prisoners, so much the better.

Rather than trying to negotiate a cease-fire, the approach should be to step up the targeted killings and pinpoint incursions with the goal of creating fear for their lives in the hearts of the Hamas (and other terrorist) leadership. And then explain to them that it will only get worse until the rocketing of Sderot stops and Gilad Schalit goes home.

Israel needs to know that it is stronger than Hamas and to act on this basis, not the reverse.

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