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|January 1-7, 2009
Back to Letters
Gaza and the 5,000 complications
By Paul Danish
A story in Monday’s Wall Street Journal quotes “current and former Western diplomats” as saying that President-elect Obama’s pledge “to mediate the Arab-Israeli conflict aggressively from ‘day one’” could be “significantly complicated” by Israel’s current military action in the Gaza Strip.
Actually, the opposite is true. Israel’s military action in Gaza, if successful, will significantly simplify Obama’s pursuit of a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In fact, without it there will be no solution.
The thing that “significantly complicates” President-elect Obama’s aggressive pursuit of mediation (aggressive mediation?) is the 5,000 rockets Hamas’ excitable boys have fired into Israel over the past three and a half years. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians, or between Israel and any other hostile Arab state, is a non-starter if they continue to be fired.
No sane Israeli government — no sane Israeli — would enter into a peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority, or Syria, or the collective Arab world (the last is the crux of Saudi Arabia’s peace plan) so long as Hamas exists and continues to wage war against Israel. Period.
A peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians — if one is ever signed — will be a peace treaty between two nation-states: Israel and an emergent Palestinian one. But unless the putative Palestinian state has sovereignty over the Gaza Strip and can prevent the Palestinian Islamists living there from waging war on Israel, the putative peace treaty would be words without meaning and a prescription for war without end. And “current and former Western diplomats” know it. So do current and former Eastern diplomats.
Israel will not voluntarily sign a peace treaty with a Palestinian nation-state that doesn’t rule in all of its own land and is incapable or unwilling (or both) of preventing its Islamist citizens from continuing to wage war against Israel. That sort of “peace” is the sort of peace Chamberlain negotiated at Munich. “Current and former Western diplomats” know that too. And Israelis know they know it.
By the same token, Israel will not sign a peace treaty with Syria if Hamas continues to receive arms and gold from the Syrian government (and from Syria’s Iranian patron) and run its operations out of Damascus. If Israel signed such a treaty it would be agreeing to allow a non-governmental organization — Hamas — to wage war on it in return for peace with the governmental organization that sponsors, arms, shelters and enables it.
Nor can Israel sign a peace treaty with the Arab world generally, as the Saudis would like, so long as Hamas continues to exist.
Why? Because there can be no real peace between the Arab world and Israel until there is peace between Israel and the Palestinians. That is a latter-day pillar of Arab wisdom. And there can be no peace between Israel and the Palestinians so long as Hamas can conduct its own private war. That is a self-evident truth.
And that is where things will stand right now between Israel and the Palestinians. The so-called “peace process” consists of Israel negotiating a treaty with the Palestinian Authority headed by Machmoud Abbas, while ignoring two “complications”:
1) Abbas doesn’t rule in Gaza. Hamas does.
2) Hamas doesn’t do peace with Israel. Peace with Israel is against its religion.
Indeed, the existence of Israel is against its religion.
As a matter of theology, Hamas believes Israel must be destroyed. Let’s not let that thought get away: Hamas believes Israel must be destroyed as a matter of theology. It believes that actively pursuing the destruction of Israel is an act of faith and an expression of piety. That’s the inconvenient truth complicating the peace process.
It hasn’t received a lot of attention, but for the past year the Israeli government has been negotiating with the Palestinian Authority, the Syrians, and (probably) with the Saudis, and, almost beyond belief, there are signs that those negotiations are getting somewhere. If they are, then the continued existence of Hamas is a luxury that neither the Israelis nor their Arab negotiating partners can afford.
Getting rid of Hamas isn’t a sufficient condition for Arab-Israeli peace, but it is a necessary one. The Arabs can’t get rid of Hamas. But Israel can. The fact that it is doing it now suggests that it really is getting close to some peace agreements with the Palestinians and Syrians. What’s so complicated about that?
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