Talking to Hamas

Today, there appears to be a “kindler”, “gentler” but error based approach on how to deal with Hamas in Gaza. A few influential Israelis seem to think that “talking to Hamas” should be the order of the day instead of subduing them financially as well as thru a decisive military campaign.

Since 1967, Israel has striven to return the situation in the Strip to a status quo it could tolerate. While periodic “mowing the law” prevents fire from the Gaza Strip, sooner or later the shooting from Gaza resumes, and even if it was on a small scale and without causing many casualties for Israel, it is still an ongoing problem. Life is not normal if at any time a rocket or a mortar shell might fall on one’s home, working place, during walking or driving outside and so on.

However, this 2018 about-face to “talk” to Hamas instead of warring against it to crush it is not new. It is merely a regurgitation of an approach 11 years previous that demonstrably failed.

Specifically, back in 2007, no sooner had ex-prez Jimmy Carter met in Damascus with Khaled Mashaal to declare Hamas’ readiness to accept the Jewish state as a “neighbor next door”,  than the radical Islamist group demonstrated its vision of peaceful coexistence by making the most ambitious attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers and detonate two car bombs at a border crossing used for the introduction of vital foodstuffs and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip (Karsh, 2008).

The notion that Hamas’ co-option into a political process aimed at stifling its overriding goal of destroying Israel would make it more hopeful and less despairing was always framed as a contradiction in terms.

Yet, former U.S. officials, led by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, like some in Israel 11 years later, had previously called for “a genuine dialogue” with Hamas in the hope that Hamas could somehow be lured away from its genocidal agenda. Even Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told National Public Radio in 2007 that some way must be found to talk to Hamas.

Other Israelis joined the chorus calling for talks with Hamas. “Before we are dragged into Gaza, we must exhaust the other possibility,” wrote journalist Ari Shavit. “We should offer Hamas a deal: an Islamic republic in Gaza in exchange for full demilitarization. A full and fulfilling life for a Muslim community of brothers, in exchange for giving up violence and arms altogether.”

Events of 2008-9, 2012 and 2014 in the Gaza Strip showed just how much dialogue with Hamas was worth, and why that same errant approach is flawed today.

Hamas is demonstrably not interested in “talks”. Nothing in its history from 2005 to the present has ever indicated they intend to waver from their publicly stated charter which promises that “Israel will exist until Islam will obliterate it.”

In the next war, Hamas, like Hezballah, must lose decisively and be seen to have lost. Decisively.

I have written on social media and on my blog that “talking” to Hamas will provide it a bastardised legitimacy. Back in 2008 Karsh put it much more eloquently:

Legitimizing a jihadi group of this sort would undoubtedly undermine the broader struggle against Islamism, and deepen the doubts of many people in the Middle East and South Asia about the determination of the West to neutralize the current threat they all face at present.

Hamas is plainly not an organization whose ideology can be integrated into any political process without undermining democracy and poisoning the norms of civil society. Hamas is not interested in peace with Israel; indeed, Mashaal has plainly stated that any tahdiye, or state of calm, is really “a tactic in conducting the struggle.”4 Unfortunately for Israelis and Palestinians alike, that is not something the wishful thinking of well-meaning pundits and even former U.S. presidents can change.

The portrayal of Palestinians as innocent victims in distress has been the key to Palestinian propaganda’s popular success. Through the mass-production of heartrending imagery centered on children, women medics, staged “news,” manipulative rhetoric, and rigid censorship, Palestinian propaganda has successfully used the media to recast Palestinians as entirely blameless victims.

Clearly, this has also worked on certain elements within and without Israel’s military think tanks. There is no doubt that the humanitarian situation in Gaza today under Hamas is diabolical. However, violence against Israel has nothing to do with the socioeconomic despair of Arabs living next to a prosperous Jewish nation. No, it is, rather, total rejection by Hamas in Gaza of Israel’s right to exist that fuels the ongoing conflict.

It is clear that this fuel-load needs to be removed.

Under international law, customary and humanitarian, non-state actors are bound by customary IHL norms when they become a party to an armed conflict.  Hamas, however, continues to operate on the principle of the doctrine of a limited-liability war. Under this theory, an aggressor may reject a compromise settlement and gamble on war to win everything in the comfortable knowledge that, even if he fails, he may insist on reinstating the status quo ante. And co-opted, formerly altruistic NGOs like UNRWA enable and extend this deception.

“Talking with Hamas” is not a solution no matter the laudable humanitarian intent because the negotiations fallacy is especially evident in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The solution is clear, even in our “gentler” and “more caring” times: For most of human history, military victories end wars. This is not the forum to explicate this further. Thus, in order for there to be peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours, Israel must win and the “Palestinians” (and, eventually, Hizballah) must lose. Decisively. Modern Israel’s short history is littered with military offensives which support this thesis.

Till now, it has generally been the policy of Israel’s main military backe, America, to prevent Israel from achieving a decisive military victory over its adversaries. Most recently, one needs no reminder of how the Obama administration pressured Israel to limit its objectives in its 2014 war with Hamas….

Such limitations of Israel encourages its enemies to take risks because Israel’s adversaries need not fret over irrevocable loss because they know the international community will do as much as it can to reverse those losses.

With the auspicious winds of change currently blowing through Israeli-Arab relations, now is the time to put an end to the violent Sunni Muslim organisation that is Hamas. While not intended as a zero-sum game for ordinary rank and file Gazans, Israel can only win the fight against Hamas if Hamas loses, and is seen to lose.  Decisively. This would additionally put an end to the current Gazan Arab delusion of a one-state solution, free of Jews.

Then, and only then, can/should Israel “talk to Hamas”.

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