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Critical Meeting Between Fatah and Hamas Tomorrow re: Unification Government

June 14, 2011 2 comments

According to previous reports, Hamas has rejected Fatah‘s nomination of Salam Fayyad as the Prime Minister of the unified government.  His selection would almost certainly be viewed favorably by both Israel and the United States.  Whether Hamas can be convinced otherwise may be decided tomorrow.

According to the Palestinian News Network:

Dr Mahmoud al Zahar, member of the political office of Hamas, told newspapers on Monday that the Hamas-Fatah meeting in Cairo on Tuesday will tackle all unsolved issues.

It will be interesting to hear the results.

A Response To A Recent Comment

June 3, 2011 Comments off

I received a very good comment on one of my most recent posts that deserves an extended response. 

The comment is as follows:

The mistake of the Bush administration was to subscribe to LBJ’s theory that “better to piss from inside the tent……………”, thinking that once Hamas had to pick up the garbage and deliver the mail, they would become more responsible, yet it turns out it just afforded them the opportunity to switch from the mafia to a thugacracy , steal much more which gives them more power to push their #1 agenda: radical Islam and Jihad. Abbas is little better and has shown time and again he is a Holocaust denier and duplicitous. If Israel has a partner in peace even remotely close to Anwar Sadat, this conflict would be settled within 6 months.

You act as if Israel has not lost thousands in their wars of defense and only desires domination. It reminds me of the German-Jewish family standing on the platform before being transported to the camps believing they can’t possibly be such monsters……. ” but, We are German.” This is a time for staying strong as much as we all long for peace.

My reply:

Actually, the history of Hamas post the 2006 election (which as you correctly imply was encouraged by the Bush Administration) is mixed.  Although much attention, including decidedly biased accusations against Israel, continues to focus on Operation Cast Lead, collective memory seems to forget that there was a six month ceasefire agreement signed in June, 2008 which held quite well through November, 2008 (Hamas reduced the number of rockets from about 300 in May to about 20 per month (per NYT report  December 19, 2008) when the rocket fire began again.  The reasons that the cease-fire broke down  was an incursion by IDF troops into Gaza on November 4 to eliminate the threat of a tunnel being dug to the Israeli side of the border presumably to allow for the kidnapping of additional IDF soldiers.  According to the IDF, Hamas responded with 61 rockets on November 5 aimed at Israeli civilian populations, but essentially curtailed the bombardment at noon.  Obviously, each side defended its actions based upon each of their interpretation of the facts.  This essentially was the beginning of the end of the cease-fire, and led to Operation Cast Lead.

 My point here is not in any way to defend Hamas’ use of rocket fire indiscriminately aimed at civilians, nor to question Israel’s right to defend itself militarily (it certainly has that right), but instead it is to address two very important strategic questions: a) whether Hamas can be trusted to comply with any agreements, and b) to consider the strategic effectiveness of Operation Cast Lead.

 The facts seem to indicate that Hamas can be somewhat trusted to comply with agreements.  The cease-fire was enforced pretty well by Hamas leadership.  Although the Hamas charter is an abhorrent document that cannot be ignored, and it is clear that there are people both inside Hamas and in other organizations like the Al Aqsa Brigade and the Islamic Brotherhood who clearly continue to seek the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Zionists anywhere in the world, the evidence provided by the cease-fire is that there are more moderate and pragmatic elements within Hamas who were strong enough to control the more radical elements.  In addition to this circumstantial evidence, I have heard the same from people who have met directly with Khalid Mashaal and other Hamas leaders.  My argument is that both Israel and the United States are better off supporting the moderate elementsRejecting these moderate elements only strengthens the hands of the radical elements.  That is seemingly not in Israel’s long-term best interests.

This is actually supported by evaluating the current situation post-Cast Lead.  Reports indicate that there are now twice as many rockets (with both enhanced range and guidance systems) in Gaza as there were before Operation Cast Lead.  Would it have been better or worse without Operation Cast Lead?  No one can say.  But I think that one can say that the strategic threat from Gaza is much worse today than it was in July-October, 2008 during the cease-fire.  As Secretary of State Clinton said during her speech at the 2010 AIPAC Policy Conference, technological developments are not necessarily on the side of the Israelis.  Iron Dome is an amazing technological success.  But I don’t think it is a strategic success.  Why?  Each Iron Dome missile reportedly costs close to $35-50,000.  Each of the 40,000 Hamas’ rockets (and presumably a similar number of Hezbollah’ rockets on the Lebanon border) cost hundreds of dollars each, let alone artillery and morter shell.    So, even without a nuclear weapon, Iran’s de facto control of these organizations poses a very real existential threat to Israel’s population today.  I have heard all of the arguments against “linkage” and I agree that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the cause of Islamic jihadism, however that it does not automatically follow that the converse is not true.  That is, I think that the creation of a Palestinian state could be the biggest blow to Iran’s aim for increased hegemony in the region .  (But that is an entirely separate topic).

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