Cease-fire a failure, as expected

As everyone knows, the so-called ‘cease-fire’ agreement with Hamas has been broken numerous times since its inception on June 19.  In every case, Hamas has denied responsibility, with Islamic Jihad and Fatah (our moderate friends) being the usual suspects. Hamas has called the violators ‘criminals’. That hasn’t seemed to stop them.

Israel has responded by closing and reopening crossings. When they are closed, Hamas screams bloody murder about how Gaza residents are being strangled, something that is eminently untrue. Meanwhile, Israelis living in the Western Negev area remain quite literally under the gun.

Hamas has occupied itself by improving its military capability.

…Hamas is feverishly training as well as acquiring relevant weapons systems – of a type far superior in quality to those previously associated with the organization.

The weapons systems on which Hamas is thought to be currently training in the Gaza Strip include a wire-guided anti-tank missile, probably the AT-3 Sagger, and additional anti-tank guided missiles: the AT-4 Spigot, the tripod-fired AT-5 Spandrel and the shoulder-fired AT-14 Spriggan – all useful against armor. All these systems have ranges of several kilometers.

In addition, Hamas is thought to have brought into Gaza large numbers of RPG-29 Vampir handheld anti-tank grenade launchers with a range of 500 meters, which are capable of penetrating reactive armor and are considered far superior to the RPG 7 systems used by the movement in the past.

Hamas is also developing improvised explosive devices, i.e. bombs. The organization possesses an Iranian-developed, locally-produced system known as the Shawaz explosively-formed penetrator that it says can penetrate 20 cm. of steel [such devices have wreaked havoc in Iraq — ed.]. Hamas also claims to possess air defense missiles, though no information could be obtained on their nature or the veracity of the claim. Imports from Iran and Syria and local production are all playing a role in the movement’s development of its arsenal.

In addition to arming Gaza to the teeth, Hamas is recruiting fresh fighters. Once again, the model is Hizbullah, and the intention appears to be to develop a force part-way between a regular army and a guerrilla force, of the type developed under Iranian tutelage by the Shi’ite Lebanese group. Extensive recruitment has been taking place in the past month. New fighters have been accepted to both the Izzadin Kassam Brigades – Hamas’s long-standing military wing, and to the Executive Force – the newer group created since Hamas’s election victory in January 2006. — Jonathan Speyer, “Fortress Gaza

At the same time, ‘progress’ is being made in the direction of unifying the Palestinian Authority, bringing Fatah and Hamas together. In an editorial today, the Jerusalem Post writes,

It may yet take months, but there is every likelihood that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will ultimately reconcile his Fatah movement with Hamas, an interim government of “technocrats” will be formed, and new Palestinian elections will be held.

Abbas was in Damascus on Sunday and Monday to discuss those prospects of reconciliation with President Bashar Assad, who is pushing for Palestinian unity. Arab leaders, though jostling for relative influence, want to see Palestinian factions form a united front…

While Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria keeps Hamas’s military wing in check, Hamas’s leaders prepare for the day when they will take control of the PA. Despite intensive well-funded Western efforts channeled through Abbas supporters to strengthen Palestinian civil society, a vast network of Hamas-affiliated social welfare organizations, supported by donations from throughout the Muslim world, boosts the popularity of an already admired organization. The IDF is expanding its efforts to close Hamas’s West Bank institutions and confiscate their property – really a job the PA should have done.

It is hard to believe that anyone – not US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, not EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and certainly not Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – has any illusions about what would happen to Abbas and Fatah were the IDF to withdraw from the West Bank.

As Abbas’s prospects dim – a Ramallah judicial body unilaterally “extended” his term beyond January 2009 – Fatah needs the legitimacy unity would bring. And for Hamas, unity is the road to controlling the West Bank.

A Palestinian Authority government that included Hamas would be the end of Israel’s attempt to isolate Hamas internationally. And there is no doubt that such an unstable entity would quickly tilt in the direction of Hamas. Even the direct support of the US has not been enough to improve Fatah’s position, and the huge quantity of weapons being supplied to them now will ultimately be in the hands of a Hamas-dominated PA.

This blog, as well as many more authoritative commentators, opposed the truce for these reasons. We argued that there was no preventing an eventual confrontation with Hamas, which has shown no intention to moderate its radical position calling for the destruction of Israel.

We argued that Israel could have and should have mounted a large enough incursion into Gaza to cut off the weapons smuggling across the Egyptian border, and to destroy Hamas’ war-making capability, and its leadership.

Those of you who are reading this and thinking “bloody right-wing warmonger” should use their remaining brain cells to consider whether that action would have led to a greater or smaller number of dead Israelis and Arabs than the coming conflict between Israel and a Hamas which controls the West Bank as well as Gaza.

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