Saturday, December 22

The Call of Hamas for a Cease-Fire in Gaza

Hamas has created a situation of total turmoil in Gaza. The situation is desperate for the Palestinians living there with all the international economic boycotts and isolation; the cycle of suffering is increasing. The Hamas leadership still encourages the firing of Qassam rockets into Sderot and the surrounding areas causing tremendous damage and shock to the economically deprived citizens of Sderot. Many residents of Sderot have limited economic means and many are unemployed and have nowhere to go. What are Hamas and its Islamic Jihad allies hoping to achieve? Do they believe that Israel will surrender to them in the hope that it will cease to exist?

Hardly a day passes without a volley or two of Qassams being fired into Sderot creating havoc and fear as well as casualties. Israel has pulled out from Gaza and Hamas and company filled the vacuum created. They are on the road to violence and instability. Why? The strength of Hamas in Gaza is dependent on its ability to stir up violence and hate rhetoric for Israel. There is no plan to stabilize Gaza and create a responsible government in order to attend to the needs of a desperate Palestinian population that is poverty-stricken and unemployed. As we are all aware, Palestine is now divided into two entities – Fatahland (the West Bank) and Hamastan (Gaza). The chances of these two entities uniting under a moderate Palestinian Authority with President Mahmoud Abbas at its head is close to zero. This is what makes the aftermath of Annapolis so hopeless for the Palestinians to create a semblance of unity so that Palestine can negotiate with Israel in order to arrive at an agreement.

Now the sanction belt is tightening around Gaza which is close to being under siege. Israel is pounding the Hamas terrorist leaders responsible for the Qassam rocket fire into Sderot and the surrounding environment. They have killed many of them but the rocket firing continues and so does the stress of the inhabitants of Sderot with no end in sight.

Hamas is not showing any signs of recognizing Israel’s right to exist under any circumstances. Their manifesto remains unchanged towards Israel and they are now seeking a way to sign a cease-fire without any move towards reconciliation with Israel’s existence. However, it is obvious that they are feeling the pressure because of Israel’s retaliatory actions, and the Hamas PM, Ismail Haniyeh, now shows signs of softening up and making overtures towards a hudna or cease-fire.

Israel will not accept Haniyeh’s offer because it views this as an attempt by Hamas for a respite in order to re-arm for another round of terrorism against Israel. While the basic concepts of Hamas in its attitude towards Israel’s existence does not change and Hamas terror continues, there is no point in even moving towards negotiating as there is nothing to discuss. It looks as if Israel is on the verge of a huge military operation against Hamas and its terrorist allies. While the terrorist threat against Israel’s citizens in Sderot and its environment remains and continues, it is very difficult if not impossible to negotiate.

The other alternative is to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas in order to avert a wide scale military operation in Gaza with all its implications. A military operation will cause great suffering to many innocent Palestinians and further destruction of the poor institutions of Gaza. These negotiations could be carried out under mediation of the UN who must agree to send in observers to monitor the situation to prevent either side from attacking each other. However, the hate-rhetoric coming out of the Hamas leadership in Gaza is not conducive to any form of negotiation. The only legitimate reason for any form of negotiations is to prevent the cycle of violence and the intense suffering that it causes for both sides. If there are negotiations, Israel will have to remain on its guard for any future Hamas attack once they decide to terminate the temporary hudna, if by some miracle it is achieved. Note that there has been no desire to discuss a permanent peace settlement on the part of Hamas. This in itself is suspect of Hamas’s intentions.

A military operation, if carried out in the near future, would also result in heavy casualties on both sides and Gaza, once more, would fall under Israeli jurisdiction which is not desirable under any circumstances. As the situation remains now there is a “Catch 22” situation with neither side gaining any advantage. Even if Israel does conduct a wide scale military operation into Gaza, within days they would have to withdraw because there would be mounting world pressure against Israel.

Of course, under these circumstances, the only hope for a solution would be for Hamas to cease its terrorist activities against Israel, by climbing down from the tree of intransigence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and show a desire to negotiate with Israel. There should also be a willingness on the part of Hamas to release the captured soldier, Gilad Shalit. There is really no alternative to avoid further destruction and violence.

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