Jonathan S. Tobin
Israelis have just endured yet another weekend of terror and the reactions, both there and elsewhere, have been predictable. Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched more than 600 rockets into Israel that cost the lives of four Israelis and wounded 10 more.
It’s just one more chapter in the long war being waged by the Palestinians on Israel’s existence. Were they willing to make peace with Israel, there would be no rockets, no terror attacks and no need for Israel to strike back against the rocket-launchers and their paymasters.
Abroad, the reaction to the assault has evoked many of the usual expressions of moral equivalence from the Jewish state’s critics. Many countries have followed the lead of the Trump administration in opposing Hamas’s blatantly illegal actions in deliberately targeting Israeli civilians. But while U.S. President Donald Trump has unambiguously denounced the Gaza terrorists—and expressed total support for Israel and its right to defend itself—others, such as French President Emmanuel Macron and the European Union, have qualified that stand, calling it part of a “cycle of violence” in which both parties were by definition at fault and also mentioning their desire for Israeli “restraint.”
Cheerleaders for the Palestinians were less even-handed.
Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) took to Twitter to bash Israel. Both treated the rocket attacks as Israelis getting what deserved in return for their treatment of Palestinians.
That Omar and Tlaib are lying about Gaza being occupied and the suffering of the Palestinians there being Israel’s fault, rather than that of their Hamas rulers, gives the lie to their attempt to claim that Hamas is fighting for their freedom. But what else can you expect from supporters of a BDS movement that—like Hamas and Islamic Jihad—seeks the destruction of Israel?
On the Jewish left, the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow groups also didn’t place any blame on Hamas. Less strident liberal Jewish critics of Israel did condemn Hamas, but stuck to the line about a cycle of violence that ignores that all of this would be unnecessary but for Palestinian intransigence.
In Israel, critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are once again wondering why he allows Hamas to periodically terrorize much of the population of Israel without doing anything to put an end to the problem.
It’s hard to argue with their complaints.
The status quo is intolerable for Israelis. Any time Hamas or Iran (which may be pulling the strings of Islamic Jihad) wants to disrupt Israeli life, they can do so. Israel did hit back with attacks on those shooting the rockets, on Hamas facilities and with targeted strikes on specific Hamas figures, like the operative responsible for funneling money to Gaza from Tehran. Perhaps those moves chastened the Hamas leadership into agreeing to a ceasefire. But if Palestinian terrorists wish to disrupt Israel’s Memorial and Independence Day holidays or the holding of the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv next week by raining down death and destruction on Israeli towns and cities, they can do so.
What’s deterring Netanyahu from putting an end to Hamas’s rule over Gaza?
The answers are obvious. The costs in Israeli and Palestinian blood that would be shed in order to rid the area of Hamas would be terrible. No prime minister—and certainly not one as cautious when it comes to using the military as Netanyahu—wants to send Israeli boys to their deaths in the streets and tunnels of Gaza where Hamas has fortified itself. And he is just as unwilling to be forced to order actions that will result in the deaths of countless Palestinians, who will be staked out as human shields to protect Hamas operatives and leaders.
Just as important in making this decision is that Israel has no desire to rule Gaza, which it would be forced to do if it rid the strip of the terrorist scourge. Nor is the Israeli government eager to go to war in order to try and hand Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, whose attempts to squeeze Hamas financially is part of the reason the terrorists use these flare-ups to distract Gazans from their economic woes.
That’s why the status quo in Gaza persists.
Yet the point most commentators, both Israeli and non-Israeli, miss about this issue is that it isn’t really Israel’s responsibility to save Gaza from Islamist tyranny. It should be up to the Palestinians themselves to do so, and that’s exactly what those who purport to care about them and the cause of peace ought to be encouraging.
As long as Hamas is a powerful force in Palestinian life and can use Gaza as a base, any hope for peace is impossible. That’s not just because it means control of the Palestinian population is divided between the Islamists and the Fatah-run P.A. It’s because Hamas acts as a permanent check on any possible tendency among the Palestinian leadership to discard their century-old ideology of hatred for Jews and Zionism. While there’s no evidence that P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas would make peace even if he wanted to, neither he nor an eventual successor will ever try while Hamas poses a threat to their power and their lives.
That’s why it’s incumbent on the people of Gaza, their fellow Palestinians and those who claim to wish them well to do everything in their power to aid an effort to overthrow Hamas from within, rather than asking Israel to endure a costly military campaign in order to do it for them.
Rather than chide Israel for defending itself or Netanyahu from refraining from a bloodbath in order to take Gaza, it’s time for everyone to speak up to demand that the Gazans and other Palestinians overthrow their Islamist tyrants. Given Hamas’s strength and support, that won’t be easy. But until it does happen, all talk of peace—from Americans, the Europeans, Israelis or the Palestinians—is just so much hot air.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.