CURRENT CEASEFIRE ASIDE, WAR WITH GAZA IS A MATTER OF WHEN, NOT IF
National Post (National Edition)14 Nov 2018Vivian Bercovici
In the past 24 hours nearly 500 Hamas rockets have pummelled civilian targets in southern Israel, the most intense assault ever launched by the terrorist-run government in the Gaza Strip.
Tens of thousands of Israeli civilians huddle in bomb shelters, schools are closed and all outdoor agricultural work is prohibited; life, in effect, is on lockdown. For the first time since the war with Hamas in the summer of 2014, the border area is closed to all but residents and military personnel.
Until late Sunday night, when Israeli commandos retreated from Gaza under cover of heavy protective fire (following a botched IDF intelligence raid in the Strip), a faint hope persisted, that Egypt and the UN may succeed at brokering an entente, however fragile. Instead, Hamas seized on the Israeli military operation as a provocation justifying the relentless bombardment of Israeli civilians, wounding scores and killing one, a West Bank Palestinian man working in the Israeli port town of Ashkelon.
Barring a miracle, war with Gaza is a matter of when, not if. In Israel, we wait, wondering if the match has been lit, or will another quasi-ceasefire ensue?
Controlled by the Islamist terror organization, Hamas, the Gaza Strip is an extremist theocracy in which the 1.8 million residents have no civil or democratic rights or freedoms.
Hatred of Jews and an unequivocal commitment to the destruction of the “Zionist entity,” Israel, are core Hamas beliefs, which can abide no compromise.
Rejectionism is not a negotiating tactic. It is raw, unvarnished hatred of a sort that is, sadly, too common in the Middle East.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quite aptly distilled the situation regarding Hamas when speaking to reporters on Sunday in Paris: “No political solution exists for Gaza, just as there isn’t one with ISIS.”
Yet, an inexplicable Western inclination to pretend otherwise persists, functioning only to encourage Hamas to carry on as always. There is no incentive for Hamas leaders to moderate, whatsoever.
Huge amounts of Western and Qatari aid dollars intended to benefit civilians are diverted by Hamas to finance the constant enhancement of munitions-production capabilities and terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, most notably the state-ofthe-art terrorist tunnels burrowed for one purpose: to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers inside the ’48 borders.
For reasons that are a mix of naiveté and a misguided effort to pander to domestic voting blocs and various interests that seem highly motivated to demonize and delegitimize Israel, many Western governments have tended to equivocate in their public approach to addressing the Hamas-israel conflict, pretending that there is a comparable degree of moral culpability in the conduct of the parties.
There is none.
When Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, forcibly removing every Jewish person and leaving significant economic infrastructure intact, Hamas responded by literally smashing every last greenhouse and destroying any vestige of “Zionist” agricultural settlement. Their preference was violence, destruction, absolute rejection of Israel, and war.
For the Islamist, Israel is an intolerable intrusion in the Middle East to be destroyed. It is a holy, sacred duty to martyr oneself in furtherance of this goal.
Hamas supporters, including U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and many leftist NGOS, opine that the Israeli controls applied to goods entering the Gaza Strip somehow provoke and justify Hamas conduct. Israel, they argue, has turned the Gaza Strip into an “open-air prison.”
Yet, only Israel permits tons of humanitarian and other goods to pass into Gaza, daily. In contrast, the border crossing from Gaza into Egypt is almost permanently sealed, but there is a peculiar silence about that.
Even during the 2014 war when Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad barraged Israeli civilians with rocket fire for weeks, using pickup trucks to move and launch their arsenal, Israel continued to allow gasoline into the Gaza Strip. In effect, Israel provided the fuel to Hamas and its allies to operate military vehicles and continue to attack Israeli civilians; the definition of insanity if ever there was one.
This toxic cycle of conflict, death and entirely avoidable suffering will only be mitigated if the Western and Qatari financiers of Islamist extremism — through UNRWA and other organizations — use their financial support to leverage some degree of responsible conduct on the part of Hamas. The civilians in the Gaza Strip, and Israel, are held hostage to a twisted, destructive ideology that glorifies death and martyrdom over life and liberty.
This latest round of hostility, the most intense since 2014, threatens to spark the war that Israel does not want but Hamas seems to need. Hamas leadership and ideology simply cannot allow the merest glimmer of acceptance of the existence and legitimacy of Israel. It’s all set out clearly in the Hamas political charter which is real, clear and foundational. The notion that there is a scintilla of reasonableness embedded anywhere in the Hamas leadership is utterly baseless.
On Tuesday afternoon, some regional Arab media reported that Hamas had agreed to a ceasefire — urged by Egypt and the UN — which was set to begin at 15:30 local time. As so often happens, the hour passed and the rocket fire continued, unabated. No country would, could, or should tolerate such a horrific assault on its citizens. Nor will Israel.
Several hours later, further reports stated that all parties had, indeed, agreed to a ceasefire arrangement but specific terms were unavailable.
Perhaps tonight will be quiet, but the likelihood of all-out war remains high. As long as the world pretends that Hamas is something other than an Islamist terrorist group, committed to abusing its own people to further a reckless, hopeless agenda, there will be no peace.