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Monday, July 28, 2014

GAZA: DISARMAMENT; THE UNDERLYING REQUIREMENT


Cease fires come and go.  They are short term solutions to the limited objectives of ending destruction and death.  While this is an important issue, the longer term solution to the conflict between Israel and the political/terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza, cannot be ignored.  Indeed, extended cease fire agreements will in all probability actually extend the conflict by allowing Hamas to reorganize and rearm, while enjoying the glow of victimhood spread by many in the international community and media, over the disproportionate levels of  destruction and casualties which the Palestinian residents of Gaza have endured.  Of course the sympathizers in Europe and the Middle East choose to ignore the fact that Hamas, who governs Gaza, has imposed the violence on its own citizens by continuing its pointless attacks on the state of Israel and its civilian population through terrorist attacks and barrages of thousands of rockets.
These attacks are nothing new.  Israel voluntarily ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005.  In 2007 Hamas won political control , militarily ousted the Palestinian Authority’s governing party Fatah, and escalated  a sustained assault on Israel territory with rockets and terrorist attacks. In 2008 Israel responded with a ground invasion of Gaza in an attempt to neutralize Hama’s military capability.  The invasion ended with a cease fire agreement, the problem did not.
In 2012, another Israeli operation was carried out in response to Hamas attacks. After eight days a ceasefire was declared. Hamas rearmed.

Now in 2014, international pressure is being applied to Israel to once again agree to a cease fire which the proponents say, could lead to renewed negotiations for a broader peace settlement.  Some in the Israeli government argue correctly that such a cease fire without the demilitarization of Hamas would simply produce the same outcome as the earlier cease fire agreements which was the rearming of Hamas and the rebuilding of its infrastructure, including cross border tunnels,  in preparation for a new round of rocket and terrorist attacks. 
 
In essence, cease fires are attempts to treat the symptoms of the immediate problem of armed conflict and resultant civilian casualties but as recent history shows, the underlying obstacle to peace negotiations remains in place.  That is the existence of a militant and militarily capable force which rejects the whole concept of a peace settlement based on a two state solution.
Here are relevant excerpts from the founding Charter of Hamas (a.k.a the Islamic Resistance.)

“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that “the land of Palestine” has been an Islamic Waqf “(an Islamic endowment of property to be held in trust and used for a charitable or religious purpose.) throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it.” “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them)”;

 “Peace initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad: "

 “ There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”

 
Thus, as is widely recognized, Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and is committed to Israel’s destruction.  Neither does Hamas recognize the legitimacy of international diplomacy as a process to reach the only final settlement possible and the one accepted by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank which is a two state solution. 

 Cease fires as “time outs” in never ending episodes of armed attacks on the state of Israel by Hamas and its equally intransigent and hostile client, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its military wing, the al-Quds Brigade will lead no where.

 The existence of Hamas as the controlling political authority in Gaza with its 1.8 million residents, has undermined long term peace negotiations for years.  Israel found it impossible to accept commitments from a Palestinian government that was divided into two opposing entities, one committed to Israel’s destruction.  On April 23, 2014 the Fatah  led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank territory signed an agreement with the Hamas government in Gaza to form a unity government.  Israel then terminated peace negotiations led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, saying that agreements with a government which included a terrorist entity would not be possible.  Nonetheless, on June 2, 2014 the Palestinian Authority did form a unity government which included five ministers from Gaza. 

 The U.S. and the European Union both stated that they would continue to work with the new Palestinian Authority government, a position harshly condemned by the government of Israel.   Both the positions of the U.S. and EU  were based on the acceptance of assurances by Palestinian Authority President Abbas that that the deal did not contradict their commitment to peace with Israel on the basis of a two-state solution and[that the unity government would recognize Israel, be non-violent, and be bound to previous PLO agreements.

 srael ridiculed the U.S acceptance of these “assurances” as naïve.  Events which soon followed support the Israeli position.  In mid-June three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinians from Gaza.  The Israeli response was swift and resulted in the deaths of several Palestinians. Hamas’ military wing commenced a rocket barrage and later declared that “all Israelis were legitimate targets”.

 To underscore the meaninglessness of President Abbas’s assurances regarding the continuing goal of a two state solution by the new “unity government”, on July 27, 2014 the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaad appeared on NBC’s Face the Nation and said that he would not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Separately, a spokesman for Hama’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, rejected the idea of a cease fire.


 

 Thus it is becoming clear that the Israeli prior conditions on a solution to the Gaza crisis and long term peace negotiations is a basic truth;  Hamas and its affiliated terrorist organizations, must be disarmed and Hamas’ political organization must accept the Israeli state as a permanent entity as has the larger Palestinian Authority under President Abbas. This position received significant support on July 22 when the twenty-eight foreign ministers of the European Union called for the “disarmament of Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip. The statement, which was issued at the end of the monthly meeting of the Council of the European Union, included a strong condemnation of Hamas for its rocket fire and for using the civilian population as human shields.”

 Unfortunately, and unlike the EU foreign ministers,  Obama fails to see the importance  of this simple fact to both the on going crisis in Gaza and the restarting of comprehensive peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.  His stated position  on July, 28, 2014 was that the “disarming of Gaza terrorist groups would only take place within the context of a formal overall Israeli-Palestinian agreement.” 

But unless Hamas and the other terrorist groups residing in Gaza are disarmed, Israel will continue to be attacked, will continue to respond, civilians on both sides will continue to be killed  and there will be no negotiations for a “formal overall” agreement.

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