“This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.”
It would be exhilarating if Israel’s Prime Minister spoke these words and meant them. But this is actually part of the stirring speech given by President George W. Bush at the National Cathedral on September 14, 2001, just three days after the vile Arab-Muslim terrorist attack of September 11 that killed thousands of innocent Americans. There were no calls for restraint, proportionality or a cease fire. Instead, President Bush appropriately reserved for himself and his nation the right to end the way “in a way and at an hour of our choosing.”
That is an elementary right, part of natural law. No one had to acknowledge America’s right of self-defense, and certainly not as a grand concession. But Israel’s right to defend itself, according to much of the world, is not absolute and subject to limitations, and our right to conclude this war “in a way and at an hour of our choosing” is non-existent.
What has changed through this recent conflict? Why did Israel agree to a cease fire? And why does this sane government constantly do the same thing and expect different results?
There are two ominous takeaways. One is the questionable loyalties of many Israeli Arab citizens, who rioted in the mixed cities, assaulted Jews, desecrated Jewish holy sites, and were treated as victims by the Israeli police who arrested Jews who defended themselves while letting the Arab marauders slip free. That they are nihilistic enough to betray the only country in the region where they can live freely is not such a surprise; hatred runs deep. A variety of well meaning organizations will surely try to paper over the violence (“blaming both sides” always works) and call it aberrational but this fissure in Israeli society will linger without resolution, awaiting the next explosion. It is bad enough to have such a fifth column in our midst, however small their number; it is even worse to lose faith in the police, which absented itself from the rioting, failed to quell it to any significant degree, and focused on inhibiting Jews from responding.
Part of the feckless response will be noted in the Supreme Court decision on the Sheikh Jarrah real estate dispute. The case seems open and shut – some residents are squatters and others have no legal title to the land and refuse to pay rent – and if the Court caves because of fear, intimidation and public pressure, then it is even clearer that there is a two-tiered system of justice in Israel, with Jews getting the short end of the stick.
The second consequence is predictable, and here past results are indicative of future performance. Hamas will derive lessons from this conflagration as it has from the previous ones. The lethality of its weapons continues to improve, as does their precision. Israel’s remarkable ingenuity blunts most of its impact, but there is tragic loss of life, limb, and treasure, and a complete disruption of normal life. Hezbollah will learn as well, and thus each subsequent conflict becomes, if not more deadly, then certainly more disruptive.
That interference in our lives is the primary goal of Hamas. It cannot achieve any political or military goal. My sympathies for the “innocent civilians” of Gaza are somewhat limited, considering that they voted Hamas, a genocidal terror group, into power in 2005. They didn’t vote for Hamas because of Hamas’ trade policies. They knew for whom they were voting. Bear in mind that one of the putative reasons for the latest round of Hamas violence is Hamas’ desire to improve its electoral position for the upcoming (but never quite arriving) Palestinian elections. That means that, according to their calculus, Hamas gains votes by subjecting its “innocent” citizens to Israeli reprisals. Hamas wins more support when it places its rockets and arms in residential buildings and neighborhoods, with the attendant consequences to “innocent” civilians when their buildings are blown up. Such civilians may not be as innocent as the media presents them to be.
Nor is the media itself. Can it really be that the Associated Press or Al Jazeera did not know that they shared an office building with the Hamas intelligence services? If so, it is the worst case of journalistic malpractice – or willful ignorance – since ace reporter Lois Lane could not figure out that her colleague Clark Kent was Superman.
Of course, it is worth remembering that Hamas only took power from the defeated Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas after a brief war in which they killed hundreds of each other and civilians. Fatah officials were literally thrown off the roofs of their office buildings, something less than an orderly transition of power. Hamas murders more Arabs than it does Jews. Its political echelon lives not in the squalor of Gaza but in the luxury of Qatar. Its leaders abscond with the money foolishly provided by the West if they are not using it to build munitions factories and underground tunnels. For all the billions sent their way in the last two decades, not a single “refugee” camp has been closed or renovated.
Why, then, does Israel tolerate Hamas? Why can’t the most vaunted and feared army in the Middle East vanquish this band of terrorists who, as their charter states, seek to “obliterate” Israel and Jews from the face of the earth? How many times must we play the same macabre game? One answer might be that Israel wants Hamas to suffer – but also to survive. Hamas remains because Israel wants it to remain.
Don’t get me wrong. Israel would rather have peace and prosperity, and welcomes good relations with all Arab nations. It certainly would prefer, ideally, that there not be genocidal maniacs to our southwest. But the existence of Hamas plays a practical role in Israeli calculations.
Consider: if Israel invaded Gaza for the purpose of conquest, there would be one of two results. There would be great bloodshed, followed by calls for an Israeli withdrawal to which Israel would invariably succumb. Conversely, Fatah would take over. And then?
There would be a renewed demand for some territorial linkage between Gaza and Samaria, and Israeli “gestures” (i.e., concessions) for the sake of peace. More importantly, this would provide new life to the two-state illusion, the fanciful idea that the land of Israel can be partitioned again into Jewish and Arab states and co-exist peacefully. For some reason – probably because the West needs to project one Arab group in this conflict as moderate – Abbas, Fatah and the PA are always perceived as possible diplomatic partners for Israel, notwithstanding that President Abbas is a dictator, rules with an iron fist, enriches himself and his family, has little popular support and hates Israel no less than does Hamas.
Hamas is the counterweight to this two-state delusion because Israel can point to the dangers of ceding land to any Arab entity, as Israel did with Gaza sixteen years ago with deleterious results. The specter of Hamas seizing power in any potential independent Arab entity has rendered the two-state illusion moribund even to the Israeli left and, frankly, frightens much of the Arab world as well. As long as Hamas exists, two states are impossible. If Israel wanted Hamas gone, Hamas would be gone.
Israel’s recent strategic thinking has been quantitative rather than qualitative. It seeks to degrade the enemies’ capabilities every few years but without actually crushing the enemy. Perhaps, then, this is Israel’s qualitative strategy – to keep Hamas as a player in the game because it serves as a useful foil and precludes Israel from acquiescing to a further partition. Such a strategy, cynical though it might be, is not unreasonable. The problem in kicking the can down the road is that the enemy’s capabilities continue to improve and that would make the next war even deadlier. It also leaves Israel vulnerable on the diplomatic front as various Western nations – including the United States – want solutions and not protracted conflict, even if solutions are impracticable and illusory. America’s support for the two state illusion is less than two decades old but politicians speak of it as if it has always been American policy.
Indeed, the rise of Jew hatred in the United States is also menacing. Jews especially should take note and seek to counter the explicit Jew hatred that now predominates in a leading wing of the Democrat Party. It is understandable if they can’t – “where is Schumer?” – but the silence of the Jews is still unacceptable and embarrassing. Can it be that American Jewish support for the Democrats exceeds American Jewish support for Israel?
If that is the case, then the continued deterioration of the American Jewish community is more dangerous than even Hamas –and even Israel’s tolerance of Hamas, which will rebuild quicker than last time, as we await, G-d forbid, the next round of hostilities.
The good news is that, as always, Jews in Israel rally around each other in difficult times, and furthering Ahavat Yisrael is its own reward.