A mistake with long-term consequences

It is absolutely incredible that Israel sought a cease-fire with Hamas instead of finishing it off.

Talks between senior Hamas members and Egyptian officials in Cairo on a new cease-fire arrangement for the Gaza Strip continued late Sunday night amid an apparent disagreement over the length of the truce.

The Egyptians are demanding a truce of a number of years’ duration, while Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Ayman Taha, said the group would agree to a cease-fire of no more than between one year and 18 months. Another Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, said a long-term cease-fire “kills” the right to resistance by the Palestinians. — Ha’aretz

Hamas has always been open and direct about its intentions. They have never pretended that a cease-fire is anything other than a temporary pause to regain strength, never suggested that they would accept the presence of the Jewish state. Now they say that they believe they will be ready for the next round in about a year and so that’s how long the want the cease-fire to be.

One may ask “why do they care? — they can always break an agreement.” True, but they need to send a message to their constituency, a message that they are uncompromising in their ‘resistance’.

This message is not lost on the West, either, but apparently as time passes and the outrageous becomes usual, the unthinkable becomes thinkable and Hamas appears more and more a legitimate authority.

What I fear, and expect, is that the Mitchell mission — while it, too, will fail — will legitimize Hamas as the address for negotiations while doing so. And the same can be said for the ‘reconstruction’ of Gaza, which by the way will require a lot of cement and iron “rebar” that will end up in bunkers and tunnels.

Hamas will not go away on its own, Hamas cannot be ‘moderated’ and Hamas will always be hostile. There simply is no solution for Hamas short of removing it from power and disarming it. The IDF was well on the way to doing that, and doing it efficiently with minimal casualties among its soldiers and Gaza civilians, despite the huge outcry in the Israel-hating media.

The fact that this was not carried to completion will simply mean that the confrontation, with all the dangers and costs entailed will have to happen again. And again, and again until it is actually finished.  Someone mentioned the film “Groundhog Day” in this connection.

I am afraid that the premature termination of Operation Cast Lead will go down in history as another catastrophic mistake by Israel, along with the 1982 decision to allow Arafat to escape from Beirut alive, the Oslo accords and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

I think that many Israelis understand this and will punish the perpetrators harshly at the polls in the coming election. I hope so.

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