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The Stakes Print E-mail

By Jay Bushinsky
January 7, 2009

The stakes are very high in the Gaza Strip crisis, not only for Israel and the Hamas regime, but also for the United States.  For Israel it is a matter of long-term physical survival -- the ability to assure its citizens -- present and future -- that they can live their lives here with the same degree of security as is enjoyed by their counterparts in all the other democratic countries.

This means that they cannot be subjected to Hamas' missile, rocket and mortar attacks day and night.  For Hamas it is a matter of political survival.  If it cannot justify the hundreds of lives lost by innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip -- all of them sacrificed on the euphemistic altar of "steadfast" resistance to Israel's military might -- it will not be able to perpetuate its regime. 

This would be a major setback to Islamic extremism and to the Islamic Republic of Iran which fosters it.  For the U.S. it is a matter of salvaging the diplomatic process in which the outgoing Bush Administration invested enormous effort, its principal objective being the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip living alongside Israel in peace.

Hamas, which rejects Israel's right to exist, cannot be a party to that arrangement. 

The collapse of the de facto truce which kept the level of hostilities at a relatively low level and the immediate increase in incoming projectiles that followed left the Israeli government no alternative other than military force capable of reducing the fire or stopping it altogether. 

Hamas is largely if not totally to blame for this consequence.

Its arrogant leadership acted as if it had the last word and as if its quasi-military capabilities could compel Israel to accept its terms.  The main ones were that there be no interference in the smuggling from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula of arms and ammunition through nearly a thousand tunnels, the buildup of a virtual army of masked gunmen training constantly for an eventual showdown with Israel and total defiance of the Palestinian Authority's right to control the Gaza Strip as an integral part of its (the PA's) projected state.

Hamas' self-styled Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, as well his governmental colleagues aggravated the inherently-tense situation by vowing to "liberate" all of pre-1948 Palestine from the "Zionists."  In other words, the eventual defeat and destruction of Israel, which comprises more than 60 per cent of the territory in dispute were elevated to the status of national and religious imperatives.

The U.S. effectively gave Israel the green light to overcome the existential threat posed by Hamas not only by expressing understanding for "Operation Cast Iron," but also by preventing the UN Security Council from blowing the whistle on the Israeli military onslaught.

To do otherwise would have been tantamount to ceding the entire Middle East to the Islamic extremist minority that seeks to dominate it.  It would have been tantamount to signing a death warrant for Egypt's pro-Western government by catapulting the underground Muslim Brotherhood -- Hamas' parent organization and its ideological inspiration – to power in Cairo. 

This would unleash allied movements scheming to seize power from Morocco to Iraq and would reduce American influence in the region to a minimum.

Military and consequent political success for Hamas also would undermine the pro-American Kingdoms of Jordan and Saudi Arabia as well as the Arab emirates of the Persian Gulf thereby hampering U.S. access to the region's main oil reserves.

And in view of the fact that the U.S. considers Hamas a terrorist movement that sponsors suicide bombings designed to kill innocent civilians at random and advocates assassination of Israeli and other political figures who stand in its way, Israel's decision to humiliate and if possible crush Hamas had implicit American support.

This is a psychologically-jarring battle.  It features Hamas spokesmen who only a few days ago spoke as if their cadres were invincible transforming themselves and their public into the helpless victims of Zionist aggression.  It replaces the ominous masked gunmen and the giddy adolescents burning Israeli and American flags into terrified civilians fleeing the rockets and bombs of Israel's air force.  And above all, it persists in launching its prodigious array of missiles even when military defeat seems certain.

It is a "dafka" mentality -- reflecting the untranslatable Aramaic word that is the rough equivalent of brazen or inexplicable behavior -- that in end they (Hamas) will emerge from the ruins and rubble as the victors (if only because they still exist!).  
 

 

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