“There is no one in the world that understands why Hamas is continuing to fire rockets at Israel…the firing defies reason and logic, and it doesn’t stand a chance.” — Shimon Peres, quoted in the Jerusalem Post
Peres is incorrect. Anyone who understands Palestinian psychology understands exactly why Hamas continues to fire rockets at Israel. Barry Rubin has explained it in numerous articles (for example, here and here), but possibly Peres doesn’t read Prof. Rubin. Here is a quick summary:
- Economic improvements or even getting a Palestinian state are not important. What is important is progress toward regaining Palestinian honor by driving the Jews out of the Middle East.
- As a corollary to the above, Palestinians that advocate compromise with Israel are considered traitors to the cause. The more radical you are, the more admired.
- ‘Moderation’ in Western terms is the same as ‘giving up’ for Palestinians. And one must never give up: after all, it took a hundred years to kick the Crusaders out of Palestine.
- For Hamas, all of the above is demanded not only by honor, but by Islam as well.
Yes, Hamas could stop firing rockets and then Israel would have to stop bombing it. Indeed, if Hamas would restrain itself and its associated factions from terrorism, Israel would open the crossings and life would be much better for everyone in Gaza (not to mention Israelis within rocket range).
To go even further, if Hamas would simply pronounce the formula of recognition for Israel, acceptance of prior agreements and renunciation of terrorism it could obtain a controlling role in the Palestinian Authority and receive huge amounts of money from the West. But to do so, or even pretend to do so, would be unthinkable, and Hamas would lose the support that it has gained by being pure and uncompromising.
This is actually something that I like about Hamas. Their honesty works to their disadvantage. Yasser Arafat made great gains for his movement — he weakened Israel, obtained money and arms, developed several private armies and terrorist gangs, and took control of territory that had been in the hands of Israel simply by lying.
Arafat took advantage of — I have to say this — ignorant people like Shimon Peres who believed that Arafat wanted a Palestinian state living at peace with Israel, who could not imagine that he would be irrational enough to prefer privation and war to prosperity and peace. Despite the fact that there were plenty of Arabic speakers around to translate and plenty of physical evidence that he was financing terrorism, they insisted on believing his soothing remarks made in English. But his people understood his calls for jihad quite well. Hamas is apparently incapable of this kind of dissimulation.
The lesson of this, which may be lost on Peres but I hope is clear to Israel’s decision-makers, is that Hamas must be eliminated. It is not possible to ‘moderate’ Hamas because it will not compromise its goal, which is the destruction of Israel. Any truces or deals made with Hamas will be tactical, temporary pauses in the struggle which they will not give up.
Simply put, it’s us or them. Now is the time to make sure that it will be us who survives.