Attack ends Israel’s hope that Hamas can embrace stability | ET REALITY


Since its founding, Hamas has declared that Israel has no right to exist, that there are no Israeli civilians, and that every Israeli citizen is a soldier of the state and therefore a legitimate target.

Still, if Western nations considered Hamas a terrorist organization, they also thought it was concerned with governing the Palestinians crowded into Gaza. Hamas provided social services. It was even thought to be a restriction for what were considered even more radical groups.

In Israel, successive governments reached quiet deals with Hamas, hoping to maintain some stability in the Gaza Strip, which the group controls, especially after the Israelis unilaterally withdrew from the territory in 2005.

But the attack launched by Hamas this weekend, with more than 800 Israelis killed so far and more than 150 taken as hostages and human shields in Gaza, has now stripped away any remaining illusions about the group or its intentions. The Hamas attack on Israel itself is notable for its terror, as it targeted not only uniformed soldiers but also civilians, including women and children.

Senior Israeli officials now say that Hamas must be crushed, both to restore stability in Gaza and to reestablish Israel’s credibility as an indestructible part of the Middle East.

“We must admit that the conception was wrong, we cannot hide behind it,” said Tamir Hayman, a retired major general and managing director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

There is much the same disillusionment in the West, especially among Europeans who have provided significant aid to Gaza, some of which has always been diverted by Hamas. The horrors of the weekend now cast Hamas in a new light, which will likely have a major effect on future events.

The European Union, like the United States, has labeled Hamas a terrorist organization and officially boycotts it, but many Europeans see the group as freedom fighters fighting against an Israel that is slowly making a Palestinian state impossible.

For many in the West, especially young people and those on the left, “Gaza is a one-word argument to justify Israel’s brutality toward a blockaded enclave living in squalid conditions,” said Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Politics. Brookings Institution Middle East.

For them, Hamas was “fundamentally a nationalist resistance movement in the context of Gaza.” That vision was shattered “for some, if not all, on Saturday,” he said.

In Europe there have been uniform official condemnations of the attacks and support for Israel. But tellingly, there was confusion in Brussels on Monday, when an EU official, Oliver Varhelyi, announced that 691 million euros, or about $730 million, in aid to the Palestinians would be reviewed, an announcement that quickly softened to say that humanitarian aid will continue.

In Israel, the military had few illusions about Hamas, considering it one of the most extremist Palestinian armed groups and recognizing that it would never accept any form of recognition from Israel, unlike Fatah, the heart of the Palestinian Authority, Hayman said. In an interview.

The Authority, created after the Oslo accords of the 1990s, controls the West Bank, and Israel has sought to strengthen it while working with the Authority to weaken Hamas in the West Bank.

However, for Israeli leaders, Hamas was also useful. Hayman said it was someone to control Gaza who could help maintain stability, which is why Israel had refrained from a large-scale attack on Gaza, Hayman said. “This conception has failed.”

Yaakov Amidror, a retired major general who served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser in a previous government, agreed.

“I made a big mistake by believing that a terrorist organization can change its DNA,” he said. “I thought that Hamas, because of its responsibility and because it is not only a terrorist organization, but also an organization with ideas about the future, a small branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, is more responsible, and I learned the hard way that it is not Thus, a terrorist organization is a terrorist organization.”

Amidror, now a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, said bluntly: “We don’t want to make the same mistake again.” Hamas, he said, “must be killed and destroyed.”

Hayman also foresees a strong and prolonged Israeli response. “The current context is in the aftermath of brutal and uncompromising terrorist activity of a kind Israel has never seen, worse than the atrocities of ISIS, with the killing of people, the torture of women and the kidnapping of children and the elderly,” he said. . “This is a kind of madness we never imagined.”

The Israeli military has launched a series of retaliatory attacks against Gaza since Saturday morning. More than 680 Palestinians in Gaza have already been killed in Israeli strikes, Gaza officials say.

Israel did not see “the strategic significance of Hamas’s rhetoric,” said Shlomo Avineri, a former Israeli official and political scientist. “It was dismissed as rhetoric, without considering how vulnerable Israel is, with all the kibbutzim close to Gaza.”

When Hamas said that “every civilian is a soldier, it was not rhetoric but rather it identified the vulnerability of Israeli communities inside Israel,” he said. Instead, he said, the military focused on individual terrorism in the West Bank and the government on its controversial judicial reform efforts.

For many Palestinians, Hamas was a military organization that used the only means it had to resist a vastly superior Israeli army and the Israeli occupation, including terrorist acts, suicide bombings and rocket attacks.

For Israelis, Hamas’s brutality was made clear by the suicide bombing campaign of the 1990s and early 2000s, and “Gaza is a one-word argument for the danger of unilateral withdrawal and trust in the government.” Palestinian,” Sachs said.

Much will now depend on how the international community reacts to the inevitable civilian deaths in Gaza, a highly populated area where Hamas has had time to prepare its defenses.

Much will also depend on whether Hezbollah joins the fight from Lebanon, as it did in 2006. After Israel’s cautious effort to harm Hezbollah then, few expect there will be much restraint from either side this time. Given that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reportedly regrets his 2006 attack on Israel but is also equipped by Iran with much more sophisticated rockets, mutual deterrence may still succeed.

But if Amidror is right, Israel will continue its war against Hamas regardless of Western opinion and criticism. “This is the last time we can allow Hamas to be strong enough to attack Israel,” he said.

If Israel manages to destroy Hamas, he said, “it will show that when there is a real test, Israel is ready to pay the price, ready to fight and ready to make a difference. I think we will be more appreciated by everyone in the Middle East, not just the Saudis. If Israel’s reaction is not strong enough, we could lose some support in the Middle East.”

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