No matter how well the IDF does in this war, the ultimate outcome will depend on the end-game. Chances are it will not be ended by every last Hamas operative being killed or captured, so we know there will be some kind of settlement, some kind of agreement between Israel and…somebody. What would an acceptable settlement look like?
Ending the Gaza War: Choices, not Solutions
By Barry Rubin
Last December, Hamas unilaterally ended its ceasefire with Israel and escalated the kind of cross-border attacks continually attempted even during the ceasefire. With massive public support, Israel struck back against a neighboring regime which daily attacked its citizens and called for its extermination.
For decades, Israel’s history shows a general pattern: its neighbors attack, Israel responds, Israel wins the war, and the world rushes to ensure that its victory is limited or nullified. If, as sometimes happens, the diplomatic process really improves the situation and provides progress for peace that, of course, is beneficial.
Yet Israel’s experience has shown that international promises made in return for its material concessions are often broken. Most recently, in 2006 the international community pledged to keep Hizballah out of south Lebanon and curb its arms supply, failed totally, yet took no action in response to this defeat. Israel is understandably skeptical.
In addition, Israelis know that Hamas is totally dedicated to their personal and collective destruction. The group will not moderate, cannot be bought off, and will not respect any agreement it makes. As a result, the usual kinds of diplomatic tools — concessions, confidence-building, agreements, moderation resulting from having governmental responsibilities, will not work. Any solution short of Hamas’ fall from power will bring more fighting in future.
What should happen is that the international community cooperates in the removal of the Hamas regime. It is an illegal government, brought to power by an unprovoked war against the Palestinian Authority (PA) which was the internationally recognized regime in the Gaza Strip. Hamas may have won the elections but it then seized total power, suspended representative government, and destroyed the opposition.
Moreover, Hamas is a radical terrorist group which openly uses antisemitic rhetoric and actively seeks to wipe Israel off the map. It oppresses the Palestinian population and leads them into endless war. It teaches young Palestinians that their career goal should not be as a teacher, engineer, or doctor but as a suicide bomber.
From a strategic standpoint, Hamas is a member of the Iran-Syria alliance which seeks to overthrow every Arab regime in the Middle East and replace it with an anti-Western, war-oriented, radical Islamist dictatorship. Hamas’ survival is a big threat to both Western interests and to those of Arab nationalist regimes. Keeping Hamas in power is equivalent to an energetic Western diplomatic effort to have kept the Taliban regime in power in Afghanistan, despite its role in the September 11 attacks.
If, however, the world is not going to support Hamas’ fall from office, Israel cannot bring about this result by itself. At the same time, the world will be making a big mistake if it pushes for a ceasefire at any price, thus encouraging future violence and terrorism, not only regarding Gaza but also in the region generally.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit http://www.gloriacenter.org.