January 20, 2009
By James Phillips
The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has turned Gaza into a
hellish battlefield as part of its long-term strategy to destroy
Israel. The militant Islamist group has essentially taken Gaza's
1.5 million inhabitants hostage by putting a higher priority on
killing Israelis than on protecting Palestinians. Hamas thugs
continue to hide among Palestinian civilians while they launch
rockets to kill Israeli civilians. Unless Hamas is decisively
defeated, civilians on both sides of the border will remain at
The United States must work for a resolution of the Gaza crisis
that reduces, if not eliminates, the ability of Hamas to threaten
civilians on both sides. A premature cease-fire that leaves Hamas
free to build up its rocket arsenal and exploit Palestinian
civilians as human shields will only sow the seeds of an even worse
crisis in the future. This was a major flaw in the last cease-fire,
which Hamas unilaterally abandoned on Dec. 19, after it had greatly
improved its military strength by smuggling Iranian-made rockets
through tunnels under the border with Egypt.
Ending the previous cease-fire would be considered a gross error
by responsible leaders who were interested in the safety and
welfare of their own people. But Hamas is a revolutionary movement
that is more interested in destroying Israel than in building a
Palestinian state. It is recognized as a terrorist organization by
the United States, Israel and European Union for its murders of
more than 500 civilians in Israel, including more than 20
Hamas proclaimed that "Gaza will be a graveyard" for the Israeli
army. It seeks to duplicate Hezbollah's strategy in its 2006 war
against Israel by building a network of underground bunkers and
elaborate fortifications in Gaza. Hamas hopes to lure the Israeli
army into a protracted and bloody war of attrition, fuel a media
propaganda campaign, discredit the rival Palestinian Authority,
undermine Arab governments seeking peace with Israel and advance
the interests of its chief patron, Iran.
Those who argue the Israeli military's response is
disproportionate to Hamas' rocket terrorism err on several levels.
They're equating the intentional crimes of a terrorist group that
purposely targets civilians with the defensive actions of a
democratic government seeking to protect its citizens -- a
government that's going to great lengths to avoid accidental
Israel's goal is to defeat Hamas, not to engage in a tit-for-tat
conflict with a suicide cult that's only too willing to sacrifice
the innocent lives of its Palestinian hostages.
To stop the fighting, foreign leaders have flocked to the U.N.
and Israel. But no negotiated cease-fire is possible as long as
both sides remain determined to fight -- Israel to reduce the
rocket threat and weaken Hamas, Hamas to transform a military
disaster into a political victory by cynically exploiting the
deaths of its Palestinian human shields.
The Bush administration has blocked passage of one-sided U.N.
Security Council resolutions for the current Gaza crisis. The Obama
administration should continue to block these resolutions because
they only encourage Hamas to prolong its hostage strategy.
Behind the scenes, the United States should work with its Arab
allies (particularly Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia) to pressure
Hamas into accepting a halt of its rocket terrorism in exchange for
a halt of Israeli military operations. But any cease-fire will be
short-lived unless it includes:
International efforts to halt the fighting in Gaza should focus
on restricting Hamas' ability to threaten Israel or hold
Palestinians hostage. A cease-fire that enables Hamas to rebuild
its military power and tighten its brutal grip on Gaza only leads
to more violence that Hamas, Iran and other Islamist extremist
groups will exploit.
To restore stability to the region and rescue the dying hopes
for eventual peace, the United States and other powers must help
defeat the Hamas strategy of hiding behind Gazans in its ruthless
campaign to kill Israelis.
James Phillips is
research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs in the Douglas and Sarah
Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the
Heritage Foundation's Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for
First Appeared on Fox News
The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has turned Gaza into a hellish battlefield as part of its long-term strategy to destroy Israel. The militant Islamist group has essentially taken Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants hostage by putting a higher priority on killing Israelis than on protecting Palestinians. Hamas thugs continue to hide among Palestinian civilians while they launch rockets to kill Israeli civilians. Unless Hamas is decisively defeated, civilians on both sides of the border will remain at mortal risk.
Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs
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