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A Bad Situation Becomes Intolerable Print E-mail

By Jay Bushinsky 
March 17, 2008

JERUSALEM -- The Bush Administration, Israel's government and the Palestinian Authority are up against a stone wall in their common quest for peace.  That wall is the Islamic extremist Hamas regime that controls the Gaza Strip.

If they continue to turn a blind eye to its existence chances of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute will be nil.  Under Hamas, the Strip has been transformed into a mini-clone of Iran, its leadership just as unreasonable as the ayatollahs of Teheran and just as adamant in the belief that there is no place for Israel in the Middle East.

Hamas' founder, the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, explained this in an interview he granted me shortly before his death in an Israeli air strike, May 22, 2004.  He said Palestine, from which Israel was carved in 1948, is an 'Islamic legacy' and therefore must be under Muslim rule in its entirety.  It did not matter to him what the Muslim rulers' nationality might be -- Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian or whatever -- as long as they were Muslim.

Asked how this might affect the Jews who constitute Israel's overwhelming majority,
his answer was that some of them may be able to stay, but only if they accepted Muslim rule. No wonder, then, that most Israelis accept ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
term for the Gaza Strip: Hamas-stan (as in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, etc.).
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas lost control of Gaza nine months ago
when Hamas, having defeated his Fatah party in the last Palestinian election, took it by
force because he refused to do its bidding.  Therefore, whatever deal his negotiators made with Israeli Foreign Minister Zippy Livni would be spurned by Hamas.  It would not even set the stage for a three-state solution because Hamas would hold out for Sheikh Yassin's one-state solution, i.e. an Islamic state of Palestine.

Unfortunately, however, the immediate problem is not Hamas' ideology, but its
quasi-military and terrorist operations.  Its gun crews and those belonging to even more
radical outfits under its jurisdiction have subjected the southern Israeli city of Sderot
to intermittent missile attacks for the past seven years.  In the past six months the gunners not only increased the number of outgoing projectiles to more than 50 per day, but also extended their range to more than 15 miles.  They have put a quarter of a million Israelis under the constant threat of attack based on the mortal principle of Russian roulette: any given round of fire might be fatal.  Hamas' home-made Qassam missiles have killed and maimed men, women and children, forced hundreds if not thousands to abandon their homes and caused economic ruin.

Israel's government, under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, has refused to use the
tactical power at its disposal to put an end to this nightmare.  Instead of unleashing its
armed forces to reconquer part or all of the Gaza Strip and ordering its General Security
Service to intern Hamas leaders and followers, it has authorized Defense Minister Ehud
Barak to wage limited warfare -- pinpoint air strikes or short-term military incursions.
It refuses to admit that the withdrawal of Israeli settlers and soldiers from the Strip
three years ago was exploited by Hamas as a political victory and an opportunity to import vast quantities of weaponry for use against Israel.

The fact that Hamas intends to expand its suzerainty to the West Bank, where the
bulk of the Palestinian population of this country lives, is reflected in its insistence
that the cease fire, truce or cessation of hostilities which Egypt has been trying to
institute must obligate Israel to halt its anti-terrorist operations in toto.

That means that Israeli troops guided by General Security Service ("Shabak") agents would stop pursuing Hamas' allies or supporters in the West Bank.  Grim evidence that Hamas already has a sizable infrastructure in President Abbas' home court could be seen in the riots that broke out after Israel's three-day raid into the northern Gaza Strip reportedly killed 100 Palestinians.

A massive ground operation into Gaza is constantly being deferred by Olmert and his
cabinet, mainly because of the military casualties it would entail.  This is understandable.
But the incoming commander of the Israeli air force has said that without an extensive
army presence on the ground it will be impossible to stop the use of Qassams and Soviet-type Grad missiles from demoralizing Israel and dashing hopes of reconciliation, co-existence and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

It is a no-win situation for both sides and a catalyst for economic hardship and humanitarian tragedy for rank and file Gazans who yearn for the pre-Hamas days when they could cross into Israel to work and earn enough money to support their families.  Their wrong-headed votes for Hamas made an inherently bad situation worse than ever. 

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