Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's not only about the rockets

For the past 30 days the world has focused its attention on events in Gaza, as Israel has responded to an endless wave of rocket, mortar and missile attacks initiated by the terrorist group Hamas. As Israel has sought to neutralize this threat by targeting terrorists, Hamas has consistently aimed its weapons at civilians with the explicit goal of killing as many non-combatants as possible.

It's a stark contrast and one which I, and many others, have pointed out time and again. But the threat posed by Hamas is not limited to indirect fire (mortars and rockets) nor is it a new danger which suddenly appeared at the start of July 2014. While I am hopeful that a ceasefire will hold sometime soon, there are significant reasons to worry that even if the rockets stop that Hamas will not give up its strategic objectives and simply shift tactics, something which they have demonstrated capacity to do in the past.

Since it's founding in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the stated goal of Hamas has been the destruction of the State of Israel. For years, Hamas has done everything it can to not only launch direct, violent assaults on Israeli civilians, but to derail any diplomatic or political movement toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

With Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the construction of the security fence, the number of suicide bombings dropped as Hamas and other terror groups were forced to shift their approach on the ground. Over the past few years residents of the Israeli town of Sderot and other communities close to Gaza have lived in constant terror from rockets fired out of the strip. And occasionally, as was the case in 2009, 2012 and now 2014, these rocket attacks have expanded and intensified to the point where Israeli leaders felt a need to respond in a direct and sustained way.

This summer, during Operation Defensive Edge, the next iteration of Hamas tactical terror was revealed to the world, as the IDF began to uncover an elaborate network of tunnels beginning in Gaza and ending inside Israel. These tunnels, which were constructed with supplies originally intended for schools, hospitals and housing, were built to facilitate the murder and kidnapping of Israeli citizens. This fact alone should provide sufficient indication that while ending the rocket fire is very important, such a success  would only be a tactical victory, since Hamas is clearly devoted to developing multiple methods to spread mayhem and murder.

I would like nothing more than for a real ceasefire to be declared, and for Hamas and the subordinate terror groups it controls (Islamic Jihad, etc.) to actually cease and desist from attacking Israel.  This would be a significant thing, and likely represent a crucial first step in viable peace talks.

Unfortunately, I am not optimistic that the current ceasefire will be extended tomorrow night - and it's not only about the rockets - there may be additional tunnels, and this week we also saw attacks by terrorists using guns, knives and even a tractor inside Israel. The proponents of Palestinian nationalist terror have no intention of  stopping, regardless of what the UN, the US and of course Israel, desire.

If Hamas stops firing rockets and the children of Gaza and Israel can sleep more soundly tonight as a result, I am happy. But until Hamas is disarmed and dismantled, no one can guarantee that a few days, a few weeks, a few months from now, the conflict will not flare up again. It may be missiles from Gaza or a shooting attack in Jerusalem or a bombing in Tel Aviv, but one way or another Hamas will make its malevolent presence felt again - sadly, of that I have no doubt.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.

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