ISRAEL/HAMAS: THE WASHINGTON POST GETS IT

There is a terrific editorial about the Israel-hamas conflict in today\’s Washington Post. 

I usually would post key excerpts and a link…but since I cannot find even one word to leave out, here it is in its entirety:

TheU.S. should push for the disarming of Hamas in Gaza-Israel cease-fire

THEDISTINGUISHING feature of the latest war between Israel and Hamas is”offensivetunnels,” as the Israeli army calls them. As of earlyWednesday, 28had been uncovered in Gaza, and nearlyhalf extend into Israel, according to Israeli officials. Thetunnels are the reason that the government of Benjamin Netanyahudecided last weekend to launch a ground invasion of Gaza, and theyexplain why that operation has strong support from Israelis in spiteof the relatively heavy casualties it has inflicted. Mostsignificantly, the tunnels show why it has been difficult to reach acease-fire and why any accord must forge a new political and securityorder in Gaza.

Hamas\’soffensive tunnels should not be confused with the burrows it has dugunder Gaza\’s border with Egypt to smuggle money, consumer goods andmilitary equipment. The newly discovered structures have only oneconceivable purpose: to launch attacks inside Israel. Threetimes in recent days, Hamas fighters emerged from the tunnels inthe vicinity of Israeli civilian communities, which they clearlyaimed to attack. The ­concrete-lined structures are stocked withmaterials, such as handcuffs and tranquilizers, that could be used onhostages. Other tunnels in northern Gaza are designed for the storageand firing of missiles at Israeli cities.

Theresources devoted by Hamas to this project are staggering,particularly in view of Gaza\’s extreme poverty. By one Israeliaccount, thetypical tunnel cost $1 million to build over the course ofseveral years, using tons of concrete desperately needed for civilianhousing. By design, many of the tunnels have entrances in the heavilypopulated Shijaiyah district, where the Israeli offensive has beenconcentrated. One was found underneath al-Wafa hospital, where Hamasalso located a command post and stored weapons, according to Israeliofficials.

Thedepravity of Hamas\’s strategy seems lost on much of the outsideworld, which – following the terrorists\’ script – blames Israelfor the civilian casualties it inflicts while attempting to destroythe tunnels. While children die in strikes against the militaryinfrastructure that Hamas\’s leaders deliberately placed in andamong homes, those leaders remain safe in their own tunnels. Therethey continue to reject cease-fire proposals, instead outlining along list of unacceptable demands.

Oneof those demands is for a full reopening of Gaza\’s land and seaborders. While this would allow relief and economic development forthe territory\’s population, it would also allow Hamas to importmore missiles and concrete for new tunnels. Secretary of State JohnF. Kerry, the Egyptian government and other would-be brokers areright to seek a cease-fire, but they should reject Hamas\’s agenda.Instead, any political accord should come after a cease-fire and benegotiated with the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas. Itshould link opening of the borders and other economic concessions tothe return to Gaza of the security forces of the PalestinianAuthority, the disarmament of Hamas and elections for a newgovernment.

Insetting such conditions, international mediators will likely have thequiet support of most of Gaza\’s population. Pollsshow that they are fed up with Hamas\’s rule and with its use ofwomen and children as cannon fodder in unwinnable wars with Israel.The next government of Gaza should be one that invests in schools,health clinics and houses, not in tunnels.

Other than my expectation that it probably will not be any more productive to negotiate with abbas than with hamas (which I would strongly hope to be wrong about), I can\’t find a thing to disagree with.

Regarding a potential ending of the blockade, it is a conveniently forgotten fact that when Israel handed Gaza over to Palestinian Arabs, lock, stock and barrel, there was no blockade at all.  It was hoped that Israel and Gaza would engage in peaceful, mutually beneficial co-existence.  The blockade was imposed only after Gaza, instead, turned into little more than a staging area for attacks on sovereign Israeli territory.

I fervently wish for the day that the blockade will become unnecessary – even as I understand that, as things now stand, that day is not in the forseeable future.

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