Jay Bookman. “Israel cannot ‘free’ Gaza of Hamas with war.” AJC. January 08, 2009 – whether Israel had the right to respond militarily is a very different question than whether it was wise to do so in such all-out fashion, moving from a quite effective air campaign to outright ground invasion.
As powerful as it is, Israel’s military cannot impose peace. Any victory it achieves will be temporary; any cessation in missile launches will be fleeting. The idea that the Israeli military can “free” Gaza from the grip of Hamas over the long term is implausible.
“It’s time to end Israel’s Gaza war”. The Star. January 7, 2008 – While Israel has no option but to defend itself against rocket attacks that have reached halfway to Tel Aviv and the main airport, Olmert must know that if his deterrent message hasn’t gotten through to Hamas’s benighted leadership by now, it never will. The military has killed Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan and 130 other militants. It has shattered the Hamas infrastructure, driven militants underground, destroyed weapons and disrupted rockets.
But short of reoccupying Gaza, Olmert can hope to prevent a resumption of the rocket attacks only by striking a truce with Hamas, which is too deeply rooted to be “defeated,” politically at least. Indeed, Israelis anticipate a ceasefire or truce. Yesterday a scramble was on at the UN and across the region to shape the generally-agreed contours: an end to Hamas attacks, assurances that Hamas won’t rearm, credible monitoring, and a lifting of Israel’s economic siege.
“The hundred years’ war”. The Economist. Jan 8th 2009 – Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, has been saying all week that, although Israel’s immediate aim is to stop the rocket fire and not to topple Hamas, there can be no peace, and no free Palestine, while Hamas remains in control. She is right that with Hamas in power in Gaza the Islamists can continue to wreck any agreement Israel negotiates with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. Mr Abbas, along with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, may quietly relish Hamas being taken down a peg. Egypt is furious at Hamas’s recent refusal to renew talks with Fatah about restoring a Palestinian unity government.
There is a limit, however. Taking Hamas down a peg is one thing. But even in the event of Israel “winning” in Gaza, a hundred years of war suggest that the Palestinians cannot be silenced by brute force. Hamas will survive, and with it that strain in Arab thinking which says that a Jewish state does not belong in the Middle East. To counter that view, Israel must show not only that it is too strong to be swept away but also that it is willing to give up the land—the West Bank, not just Gaza—where the promised Palestinian state must stand. Unless it starts doing that convincingly, at a minimum by freezing new settlement, it is Palestine’s zealots who will flourish and its peacemakers who will fall back into silence. All of Israel’s friends, including Barack Obama, should be telling it this.